To Build or Not To Build – That’s the question!
AI and automation have become the business linchpins to drive successful conversations online. So much so that, a recent survey found that chatbots rank in the top three most preferred ways to contact companies for a question or complaint. So, if the first touchpoint between your company and your prospects is a chatbot, that interaction will define whether they turn into customers or not.
Furthermore, users expect companies to respond to queries 24/7. Automating the customer service process with chatbots can make that happen. However, a great deal of work goes on in the background to provide the customers with a seamless user experience via chatbots.
Some architectural questions like deciding to purchase a modular chat solution or choosing to build an in-house chatbot right from scratch are critical to the success or failure of the chatbot. This blog post elucidates 6 important factors that leaders must analyze before buying or building their customer service chatbot.
6 Baseline Factors You Must Evaluate When Deciding to Build or Buy
1. Chatbot Ability
While chatbots seem simple in principle, in practice, they are complex. On the surface, it’s only about classifying the input and then generating a response to it. But a lot goes into the making of a chatbot. For instance, the framework to be used, dialogue management, deployment interface, and whatnot. The first step in answering the decisive question of building or buying a bot is deciphering what you need your bot to do.
Build: If you decide to build your bot, the world is your oyster. Custom-made chatbots enable you to narrow down on important features and forego the unnecessary elements. The dimensions are plenty, namely- user expectations, bot intelligence, cost requirements, etc., which can be adjusted in accordance to your business-specific needs.
Buy: On the flip side, bots purchased from vendors or built on the platform are limited in their area of functions. Within this framework, you can either switch to another platform or simply make-do with the existing chatbot without the feature you need.
2. Value Proposition and the Purpose for Chatbot Implementation
Chatbots seem like a sub-component of a larger product, but they can take the development bandwidth as that of an entirely new product. This means you can zero-in on whether to build or buy chat functionality only after prioritizing the main problems that you wish to solve for your customers.
Build: Start by deciphering the purpose of a chatbot in your organization. For instance, if you wish to provide a whole new platform for customers to communicate along similar lines like WhatsApp, Telegram, etc., only then you can justify the costs and efforts of developing a custom bot.
Buy: If your primary purpose is to enhance the user experience, increase efficiency, provide relevant answers, and streamline other business systems, then a modular chat platform is more appropriate. With highly affordable chatbot solutions at your disposal, it’s more convenient to buy rather than spend valuable resources on building the bot.
‘Bots and chat make it easier for people to buy the way they want to, when they want to –and that should be the goal of any business.’ – David Cancel, Drift CEO
3. The Estimated Cost to Build or Buy
Multiple variables affect the cost of developing or buying a chatbot such as – industry vertical, required capabilities, need for integration, and the number of users it is supposed to interact with.
Build: The cost of developing a bespoke bot varies widely based on your needs and preferences. The apparent hindrances include the time required to build and the quality of developers. What’s more, the onus to oversee ongoing maintenance and keep the bot up-to-date will fall upon you.
Buy: If you decide to buy a bot, it will involve paying a monthly/yearly subscription to the chatbot building platform. This API-based solution involves other ancillary costs which must be considered to make a final decision. However, all said and done, buying a pre-trained solution would still be more cost-effective as opposed to building a customized chatbot.
In the words of Davenport from Forbes, “Buying is a cheaper solution than spending millions of dollars hiring data scientists.”
4. Time to Market and Time to Value
Warren Buffet said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
The ever-evolving economic conditions often bring new investments under scrutiny. They are expected to yield returns as quickly as possible. Thus, the bot must offset its cost as soon as it is introduced to the market, proving its ROI. As a result, buying a pre-built chatbot sounds more rational than building an in-house bot from scratch.
Build: To develop an in-house bot, there must be a definitive plan to incorporate NLP, platforms, integrations, technical aspects, analytics, etc. Doing so would require more lead time. Not to forget, there will be maintenance and optimization afterward, which would increase the overall planning time and complexity.
Buy: Given the number of applications available that start delivering value right off the bat to users these days, they expect a rapid chatbot deployment. This progress is only possible if you opt for a pre-built chatbot solution. These come with language libraries and packaged AI/ML to enable swift implementations and good results. Buying the AI-based application also gives you a competitive edge with the quick continuous integration and deployment that further allows for short feedback cycles and lower time to market.
5. Security & Compliance
Securing and safeguarding customer information should be at the forefront of every organization’s ethos. Hence, your chatbots should have the most secure and robust systems that protect customer data from vulnerabilities and threats. The chatbot solution must be end-to-end encrypted with proper user authentication in place.
Build: When it comes to chatbot platforms, setting up and meeting security requirements in-house is highly labor-intensive and costly. Since you’ll be developing the bot from the ground up, it’s possible to expose loopholes that can further lead to a breach. On the contrary, a chat software vendor’s safety services will be dedicated solely to maintaining the bot’s security, thus guaranteeing more vigilance as compared to an internal team.
Buy: You can take the leap of faith and trust a third-party vendor but ensure they maintain complete transparency about the security protocols that they use. Choose vendors who treat data security as a core business practice and follow industry-accepted compliance standards to safeguard customer data.
6. Long-Term Scalability
Given the ever-changing business realities, it can be difficult to predict the number of users your chatbot might have to converse with. The need of the hour is a chatbot that automatically scales up or down in response to the usage rate.
Build: A homegrown chatbot approach can seem like an obvious choice but the initial planning and scope of the project can pose problems later. Core components of the application might not support quick growth in the number of users which will affect your business agility. Furthermore, this option of developing a bot from scratch is only feasible for organizations that have enough resources and time to spare.
Buy: Alternatively, you can buy a chatbot from a platform provider that supports auto-scaling. It will be the responsibility of the vendor to constantly monitor each component and ensure high availability. Purchasing a scalable chatbot platform empowers you to easily adjust in accordance with the usage results. Additionally, it allows you to optimize your bot’s infrastructure.
Chatbots have revolutionized the way we communicate with brands. Businesses today need chatbots that are cost-effective, easily deployable, scalable, and flexible. Evaluating the abovestated factors will make the decision cut and dry, post which you will be able to identify whether buying a chatbot would align with your needs or set the scope for developing it from scratch.
Need Help to Navigate the Confusing and Crowded Chatbot Marketplace?
If you’re looking for a chatbot solution that is fully in-line with your security compliance standards and can be tailored to your needs, then look no further than SearchUnify’s Intelligent Chatbot. They leverage cognitive technology to deliver value from the get-go.