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Pedro • Oct 16, 2019

Chatbot choices, get results at the best price

From our own experience working with clients and testing them out

What is a chatbot?

Simply put a chatbot is an AI software that can simulate a conversation, a chat with a user. They are mainly divided into groups:

  • Menu/multiple-choice chatbots – The most basic type of chatbot available. Think of it like those automated phone numbers where you hear the choices and then press a number to continue. These chatbots immediately present you with choices and a premade script to help you get answers.
  • simple/keyword recognition chatbot – They rely on a playbook written by the developer and follow those commands to give the user a reply. Because of this, if not done right it can result in a generic “sorry, I did not understand” message if the question doesn’t use a prewritten keyword.
  • Smart/contextual chatbots – These are the most advanced type of chatbot’s and they use machine learning and artificial intelligence to remember, learn and grow their reply database. Unlike simple chatbots, these can improve their responses over time based on the questions being made.

Chatbot benefits

The reason chatbots are so popular these days is that they allow companies to save time, money, improve UX and increase sales, but let’s break this down into the main benefits.

  1. 24hour availability is one of the biggest reasons to consider a chatbot.
  2. Instant responses to FAQs and common support queries.
  3. Improved customer satisfaction.
  4. Understanding customers and reviewing issues and queries.
  5. Complaints resolved quickly.
  6. Cost savings by answering the most common queries.
  7. Increased interaction and sales.

Chatbot use cases

Chatbots are not created equal, the differences in both features and price are in fact so large that it’s hard to explain to clients why some are basically free while others can cost upwards of €1000 per month.

The truth is although they share the same designation they are made to solve different problems.

A menu/multiple-choice type chatbot is ideal for a company that is getting too many FAQs type queries, but it will fall short in any other scenario.

A simple/keyword recognition chatbot will be able to respond and recognize advanced queries much better, but need more development time to create a set of answer’s, and probably slip if the user makes too many related questions or questions with keywords that match different playbooks.

Lastly the smart/contextual chatbot, the most evolved and sophisticated but at the same time the most expensive of these options. They can help give the chatbot a more helpful and human feel even if at a steep cost. Ideal but depending on the company’s size the investment might not give the expected return.

Chatbot vs virtual assistant

This a long-existing discussion, is a chatbot something like those Alexa’s and Siri’s I hear about?

Chatbots were considered less intelligent than virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, the key points were that they were incapable of natural language processing, of remembering the context and or performing a wider range of functions.

This gap between the two is now so narrow that there is almost nothing to separate the two.

What is chatbot marketing?

It’s basically conversational commerce, a response to the growing number of consumers that want personalized interaction with brands. Today’s customers don’t want to waste time on an automated phone or email and wait for a reply. To face this growing need of fast communication chatbot’s were developed to engage and interact with the customers.

They are a great marketing tool if they are used well. They can be set to engage a user with an offer depending on certain conditions, pages being viewed or provide assistance if the user is idle on checkout.

Why chatbots fail

  • Bad setup – The most common type of chatbot is the simple/keyword recognition, and that means they are rule or playbook based and that determines how well the chatbot can answer the different questions. It’s common for these chatbots to be installed with almost no setup or list of rules and then instead of helping the user they became irritating and repetitive. Smart/contextual chatbot’s also required an initial setup but they “evolve” from the initial ruleset. Of course, they rarely suffer from bad setup because a company that is paying more than €500 a month for a smart/contextual chatbot will most likely hire someone to properly set it up and manage.
  • Bad choice of chatbot type – Depending on the communication and conversational needs the choice of chatbot might influence how successful it is. A company facing a lot of common simple questions might find a menu based chatbot to be a better fit than a simple/keyword-based one.
  • Too ambitious – Much more common than what we expected. Often companies see chatbots as a solve everything, sales increasing miracle that requires no work. This is, of course, a result of how chatbot companies market their services making it seem like a buy it and forget it type of deal. These companies will often try to make chatbots engage in very complex customer problems, complaints or questions that are better suited for a live chat. This results in sales dropping and in blaming the chatbot for it. So don’t try to use a chatbot to solve all the problems for every client you have.
  • Lack of chatbot personality and transparency – Users don’t like to feel deceived so try to be clear about the use of chatbots by creating a chatbot personality that will maximize engagement and retention. It will be a different persona depending on your company brand guidelines but working on creating a chatbot experience that is consistent and expectable with some personality is vital.

Which chatbot is best?

We have our own shortlist of chatbots that we have tested and that we usually go through with our clients. It’s a mix of different options with different values and goals and if you know something that is better but not on our list let us know.

Collect chat

  • Free plan – 50 responses limit
  • Paid plan from $24

+ an interesting proposition for a chat

+ zero human involvement

A great example of a menu/multiple choice chatbot, it can help your company deal with repetitive requests or direct user’s to the correct page or webform.

We like the simplicity of setup and the clear and fair pricing options, so if this simple to set up and good looking chatbot widget has all the features you need you are good to go.

Drift

  • Free plan – 100 contacts
  • Paid plan from $50/month (for individuals), $400/month (teams)

+ Personal assistant type of experience, book meetings, qualify leads

Drift is one of the big names in the chatbot field and they certainly seem to spend some money on their marketing efforts. They have a cool young vibe and they are extremely responsive. The chatbot experience is highly customizable and if done right it can certainly help your business if you can afford the price tag.

It’s also, like other tools in this list much more than just a bot and it easily integrates with your CRM, analytics or messaging platforms.

Intercom

  • No free plan
  • Paid plan from $99 (custom bot option)

+ scalability to include a wider range of services than probably any other offering

Intercom’s pricing and plan offering are really overwhelming if you are a beginner. The different plans range from custom bots to product tour interactions and help center articles, it will take some time to find the right choice and it may leave you thinking whether you are choosing correctly. Let me recommend using their chatbot to find your way around that very complicated product list.

Zendesk

  • Free plan avaiable
  • Paid plan from $89 (zendesk suite)

+ scalability and experience in the support and customer engaging business

Zendesk is a great option specially if you need to handle support request as it integrates nicely with other offers in their suite like live chat, call centers and knowledge base interactions.

Their suite can be a life saviour if you need to handle customer support by having your customers figure out their answers first before going up another level to a live chat or a call cente, it is truly integrated customer support just like their website claims.

Botsify

  • No free plan
  • Paid plan from $50/month

+ Integrates with Facebook and others

+ lead generation forms builder

+ design customized templates in a few clicks using a drag-and-drop interface

Botsify is a simple to use and install chatbot with human takeover functions, the chatbot will sometimes suggest that takeover if it finds the user is having trouble getting answers.

If you need a chatbot that integrates with wordpress with ease or even your own facebook chat this is the one to go for.

ChatBot

  • No free plan
  • Paid plan from $50/month

+ Simple to setup, dragging and dropping responses and actions to compose various bot’s answers and decide its behaviour.

+ Integrates with Facebook and others

This is one of my favorites, it offers integrations with pretty much anything you can throw at it including of course facebook messenger, slack or even skype and it does that in style with a great looking dashboard and website.

The setup uses what they call stories to organize the bots response in different scenarios witch is pretty intuitive and we find it’s easy to understand even for a beginner.

Landbot.io

  • Free plan avaiable
  • Payed plan from €30/month

+ Conversational type of experience

+ Engaging and fun

This one could actually be the one we talk more about, both with clients and internally. It’s a menu/multiple-choice type of chatbot, with a super simple way to both manage it and interact with it.

This is one of the simplest (in a good way) stress-free chatbots for a website because it takes a form type of approach to chatbots. It’s like you are turning your usual contact or lead generating form into a conversation.

This actually started to change our approach to forms in both our and our client’s projects.

Not really chatbot’s but worth a look

HelpCrunch

  • No free plan
  • from €15/month

+ Live chat option

+ good pricing options

We used HelpCrunch for many months and found it to work well for our needs. Using triggers you can have the bot start a pre-scripted interaction with a user that is at a specific page or from a specific country, etc, you get the idea.

It’s a live chat and we recommended it to our clients as a starting point to interact with customers. If you have no need for an actual chatbot but only for a way to communicate and find facebook’s solution unprofessional, this might be for you.

Another upside is of course the pricing, it’s among the cheapest options out there for live chat.

If you have an in-house web developer or you are one

Space10 conversational form

  • It’s free to use, if you know how of course
Space10 conversational form

This is a way turn your regular web forms into a messenger type of experience. You can use multiple select options and input fields to have your user’s fill out your form without that form UX people run away from.

It just feels like an actual conversation rather than a boring old contact/lead generation form. We think it’s a super idea from Space10 and we hope they continue to develop it.