Let’s talk money.
Because you probably read it everywhere — Chatbots are great for lead generation. Chatbots are very cost-effective.
And you’re convinced of their usefulness.
But are you really sold?
Not until you get the answer to the most prominent question you have as a decision-maker — “How much money do I need to spend?”
Well, the answer is — it depends.
The point is, if you want a chatbot solution, you can even get it for free today. But it won’t be right for you if it doesn’t have the features or solutions that your company seeks. Or if the solution isn’t aligned with your vision. Or if it doesn’t address your use case.
So naturally, a lot of factors should be considered when you talk about chatbot costing.
It’s necessary for you to have a holistic outlook of –
- What are the chatbot pricing plans you should know about?
- What are the crucial factors you should consider?
- Are chatbots worth the investment?
Let’s talk about these topics in detail.
What are the types of Chatbot Pricing Models?
The chatbot market has evolved over the years. It has birthed new chatbot pricing models based on the features and other add-ons that a business might need in their chatbot. Fortunately, you’ll find numerous options and you can pick one based on your business needs and sizes. These pricing plans are:
1. Free Chatbot
A lot of vendors offer chatbot software for free. This is perfect if you’re a new business with a limited team and budget, and looking to get acquainted with the technology. A free chatbot will help you evaluate the tool, understand how to leverage its basic features, build the conversation flow, and optimize the bot. Remember that a free plan differs from a free trial which is offered just for a limited time frame.
Only after you reach a point of awareness can you move forward and decide whether you want to purchase the product or continue using it for free. A free plan, for example, that of WotNot’s, includes features such as the bot-builder, analytics dashboard, and limited integrations.
Some top free chatbot providers in the market include:
Since this is a free plan, there’ll be a limit on the number of conversations you can have, the number of agent accounts you can have, custom integrations you can have, and so on. But it works best for a pilot project where you can check how the software works for you.
2. Subscription chatbots
A free plan can only offer so much. Subscription chatbot pricing delivers more features that are useful for you to ramp up automated conversations on all your platforms. The type of subscription pricing includes:
Many chatbot providers offer affordable pricing plans that start at $15 and can go up to $99 per month. This would be ideal if you are a small business with a limited team or fewer than 100 employees. You’ll also have comparatively more features at your disposal. Some examples of affordable pricing include:
As your business grows, you need to keep up with the demands and influx of growing customers through automation. Your chatbot will need features that allow you to provide automated conversations at scale along with advanced integrations.
Mid-market pricing works best when you have a team of around 500 employees and are looking to streamline complex customer transactions and conversations. Some chatbot platforms you can consider are:
3. Enterprise chatbots
Enterprise chatbots include all the features and additional customizations that an enterprise seeks in their tools. This type of pricing usually applies to large enterprises having over 500 employees.
The pricing depends on the extent of customization required by the enterprise. The vendors and enterprises get in touch via a live demo and come to a pricing conclusion based on the custom requirements of the enterprise.
Enterprise plans typically include features of all the pricing plans and a few advanced ones. In addition to that, you can choose to customize your chatbot based on your business requirements.
Some top players in the market and the advanced features they offer in their enterprise plans include:
What are the costs involved in purchasing a chatbot?
Chatbot vendors often include extra costs that range from licensing fees to third-party usage costs. For example, with enterprise pricing, you’re paying a lot more than just features and integrations.
Let’s look at these costs for you to have a comprehensive understanding of the pricing plans:
1. License Costs
Any time an enterprise incorporates a new tool, ensuring privacy is a top concern. And while chatbot brings immense value to businesses, business owners have legitimate concerns about the security, storage of the data collected through chatbots, its protection, and accessibility.
According to a study by Accenture, 45% of businesses are hesitant about implementing chatbots because of uncertain exposure to new privacy, security, legal, and regulatory aspects.
As a result, chatbot vendors often include license costs. These costs are those that provide legally binding guidelines for the use, distribution, and installing the chatbot software on the client’s server. By paying for the license costs, the client mitigates the risks associated with data privacy and prevents hacking and phishing attacks.
2. Installation Costs
With a license, costs come installation costs. This is the one-time fee that you would need to pay the vendor for an on-premise installation. Think of installation costs as the costs associated with installing an app on your phone or desktop.
By paying installation costs, you are waiving off the costs you’ll otherwise incur in hiring in-house developers to get a fully customized chatbot up and running on your platforms.
3. Chatbot Software Platform Costs
This is the basic subscription fee that you pay for using the chatbot platform. This would depend on the platform you choose and the inclusions in each pricing plan.
Most chatbot platforms follow the freemium pricing method, where users have access to free plans and acquire premium features by paying for them.
For instance, WotNot’s pricing structure is divided into:
- Free plan
- Startup plan
- Business plan
- Enterprise plan
4. Conversation Design Costs
Since chatbot is a marketing tool, it’s essential to understand the nuances of chatbot conversations, chatbot marketing techniques, and ways to leverage the script to have valuable outcomes from the same.
If you opt for a business or enterprise plan, you can rely on the chatbot vendors for designing and scripting the chatbot. These costs are allocated towards hiring a graphic designer and a creative content writer who can understand your business objectives and create the creative content for your chatbot flow.
Here is an example of how a chatbot can handle multiple kinds of conversational flows for a financial company that deals with mutual funds.
5. Chatbot Development Costs
Along with someone creative, you need someone with the technical know-how as well — someone who can implement the output of the conversation designer. A chatbot developer is responsible for building and deploying the bot on multiple platforms.
This chatbot development cost can range from $500 to $2500.
Chatbot developers have a good understanding of what works best in every platform and clone the bots based on the platform specifications. The services of a chatbot developer are essential to optimize your bot, handle minor tweaks, and ensure seamless deployments.
6. Custom Integration Costs
Your chatbot platform may already provide some custom integrations but say, a company is using a custom CRM software or a live chat system that requires custom integration. In that case, these integrations are charged on a time and material model. With these additional integrations, the overall solution will be more advanced and personalized to your needs.
7. Ongoing Support and Maintenance Costs
You pick any tool — the work doesn’t end once it’s up and running.
The tool constantly evolves to accommodate additional requests or updates for better functioning.
For example, you check the chatbot analysis and conclude that the conversations are abandoned at a particular question. As a result, the chatbot agency would have to change the flow to ensure the completion of the conversation. These are called the support and maintenance costs.
You can only predict these costs once you see the bot in action for a few months. You’ll realize when you need an AI chatbot, or an FAQ builder, and have to request these integrations from the chatbot provider. The cost could either be a part of the subscription fee as a feature where the customer gets 10 hours of support each month or it could be an add-on.
8. Usage Costs
Usage costs include any additional charges that you pay to a third party. This can include the costs of a WhatsApp business API, SMS costs, NLP engine costs, etc.
For example, if you want to deploy a bot on WhatsApp, you’ll need to work with an official WhatsApp business solution provider that will help you access the API. They offer around 10000 messages free per month. However, they’ll charge you extra if you exceed the plan limit. You will have to incur the set-up costs and cost-per-conversation (which usually varies based on different regions and providers).
Factors that Determine the Chatbot Costs
Now that you have an overview of how chatbots are priced, you need to figure out how you should decide on the costs to pay. To do so, ask the following questions before deciding:
What is your Business Goal?
Your business goal won’t just decide your chatbot pricing but also your use case, the type of bot you require, and the channels you want to cover. So ultimately, it all boils down to one simple question, “why the need for a chatbot?”. Most businesses aim to achieve the following long-term outcomes from a chatbot:
- Increased automation in key tasks
- Higher site conversions
- Increased sales
- Higher customer engagement
- Reduced operational costs
You can have more than one end goal but this clarity will help you draft a pilot project for your chatbot and also decide how much investment you should allot and the ROI you should expect.
Identifying these goals will decide the features you’ll need, platforms you should consider for deployment, and integrations that will be beneficial.
What is your use case?
Not every chatbot you see can achieve the same outcome. They are designed for specific use cases that can range from demand generation to customer support. As mentioned above, your use case will be determined by your business goal.
Your use cases will define the flow and integrations that will eventually decide the costs associated with your chatbot. Some of the most common use cases of a chatbot that you might want to consider are:
- Demand Generation Chatbot
- Appointment Scheduling Chatbot
- Product Recommendation Chatbot
- Order Placing Chatbot
What type of Bot do You Require?
While the function of every chatbot is driven by the need to drive conversations on websites, the way they achieve their goals is different. There are different kinds of chatbots having varied costs.
Think of a rule-based chatbot as a decision tree formulated in the form of conversation. Rule-based chatbots have a predetermined flow. The user is made to choose an option to take the conversation further so that it doesn’t deviate from the flow or the rules assigned to each question.
An AI chatbot possesses machine learning capabilities and is programmed via an NLP (Natural Language Processing) engine. AI chatbot converses with users by understanding the intent of the question and provides answers based on the intent. With time, AI chatbots get better at recognizing the intent and learn to give out accurate answers to customer queries.
It’s unnecessary for your chatbot to be rule-based or an AI chatbot. It can be a combination of both. Rule-based and AI chatbots are at different ends of the spectrum. Hybrid chatbots are a way to combine them to leverage the benefits of both.
Such chatbots have some rule-based tasks and an understanding of intent and context. It allows you to add AI elements only where you require them.
You must wonder, “that’s great, but how does this affect my pricing?”
Here’s the deal: Rule-based chatbots are straightforward and don’t require any NLP engines or the expertise to build and deploy chatbots on your website. But like we mentioned the usage costs above, what makes chatbots ‘AI’ is their NLP engine integration like Dialogflow or IBM Watson.
These NLP engines often have extra costs associated with them that you’ll have to consider, and the costs of talent hired to build them. For example, IBM Watson charges $0.0025 per API call in its standard plan.
So naturally, if you decide to go for an AI chatbot, then you’ll have to pay 2–3 times higher than the rule-based chatbot.
How complex is the flow to build this chatbot?
Although we discussed the reasoning behind why AI chatbots are expensive, we cannot assume that all rule-based chatbots will be affordable. It takes considerable effort to build a rule-based chatbot as well. Especially if it involves a long conversation flow that ensures that the conversation is engaging throughout and leads to a desirable outcome.
It will take a creative writer several hours and expertise to build a highly engaging chatbot along with drafting a compelling chatbot copy that sounds natural and humane.
This leaves us with a rather simple conclusion: the longer and more complex the flow, the costlier the solution.
What is Your Budget?
Even if your business needs an AI chatbot or a complex chatbot flow, you cannot have it if you don’t have the budget for it. Most times, the management may be reluctant to invest in new technology and have a legitimate fear of not getting the expected ROI.
But the best part about the plans that we discussed so far is that there’s a lot of flexibility in pricing options. There’s a chatbot plan for every budget from $0 to $1000.
If you have a minimal to nil budget, you can always opt for a free plan or a basic plan that gives you access to just the critical features. It is also a great way to get started with a chatbot tool. You can use it and measure its progress so that you can ultimately pitch to ask for a higher bid from the management.
After using the tool and scaling up your business, if your budget increases marginally, you can opt for a business plan that is inclusive of almost all the features you would need in a chatbot.
What Channels Do You Want to Cover?
A lot of businesses want to establish a presence on popular platforms and connect with customers on messaging apps they use. If you’re deploying a bot on a website or Facebook, you don’t have to incur any additional costs.
However, going back to the usage costs, deploying a bot on WhatsApp or SMS will cost you extra, which is payable to third-party vendors.
If we take the example of WhatsApp, you first need to avail an API from a WhatsApp business solution provider like Twilio or 360dialog.
For WhatsApp, in the USA, Twilio doesn’t charge for the first 1000 conversations each month and then charges a $0.005 flat fee per interaction (period of 25 hours). Similarly, businesses can send an SMS to a local number for $0.0079. The pricing changes for each country and API providers.
What is the Cost of the Workforce?
By now, you must’ve realized the importance of location when deciding your chatbot cost. The country where you get your chatbot developed will largely affect the chatbot pricing, primarily because of the differences in hourly wages.
In the US, an employee will cost you around $50/hour. Now consider all the talent that goes into building a chatbot — the developers, the marketers, the writers, and the designers. A chatbot solution in the US can be expensive, whereas you can pay three times less and get the same solution from a country in Eastern Europe or India where an employee will cost you less than $25/hour.
What is the Volume of Conversations that the Chatbot will Automate?
Any brand that wants to implement chatbots can expect an increase in conversation volume capability. Since chatbots work on the SaaS model, the more conversations they handle, the more server power the chatbot platform needs to have. This volume largely depends on your website and social media traffic.
The pricing plans will typically have an upper limit on the number of chats. Based on your current support volume, you need to figure out how much will be diverted towards chatbots and how many requests are they expected to handle. It will help you figure out your chat volume. If your chatbot capacity needs to be scaled to accommodate a higher volume, the cost will shoot up accordingly.
What Integrations do you Require?
Integrations are a bare necessity for chatbots. If you build a scheduling chatbot, you’ll need a scheduling tool integration like Calendly, or if you build a lead generation chatbot, you need a CRM integration like Salesforce.
It is the interconnectivity between these tools that makes your chatbot solution comprehensive. Approximately, the cost of an integration can vary from $1000 to $10,000. These prices depend on the complexity and level of customization needed to integrate a tool into the chatbot which will add to your costs.
Chatbot Cost-Benefit Analysis
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for. The moment of understanding if chatbots are even worth the hassle.
Research suggests that chatbots answer over 80% of the standard queries and save up to $2–5 per interaction. For example, if your chatbot handles 10k chats per month, you save around $50k per month. If it handles more than 20k chats per month, you approximately save $100k per month, and so on.
You already know how chatbots could potentially be beneficial. But you also need to understand the extent to which they’re beneficial in your scenario, albeit with your budget and business goals.
A cost-benefit analysis will help you decide if you really need a chatbot and how much money you should invest in the tool.
So to understand if they can add value to your business, identify the following metrics:
Estimate the Queries that can be Automated
Your agents are at the front line, speaking to your potential customers regularly. Get to know more about the repetitive queries they come across. For example, a mid-size real estate agency can come across numerous questions about their new projects, like:
Once you understand the most common questions that prospects have, categorize them into the level of support they need. Some inquiries require first-level support and some require speaking with a live agent.
In our example, a real estate chatbot can automate most answers like showcasing the latest projects and their amenities with carousels, adding location details with maps, etc. Apart from pricing, the bot takes care of all the straightforward answers. This means that 4 out of the 5 most common questions (80%) of the queries can be answered via a chatbot.
Estimate the Current Time Spent on Answering Inquiries
Continuing with our example, let’s say an agent spent an average of 15 minutes of call duration explaining every basic and minute detail of the project. As chatbots can take over 80% of the load, the average call duration can decrease to 3–4 minutes.
The decreased time would help your agents be more productive and be available for more important calls where they can nurture the leads, talk about pricing, schedule appointments for property viewings, etc. It will also eliminate their mundaneness and allow them to address only queries that actually require their attention.
Calculate the Annual Cost of Handling Inquiries
Your real estate agents are completing a 15-minute call in 4 minutes.
Now consider that they have eight-hour shifts, out of which they spent five hours on calls. With chatbots, your agents are saving up to four hours every day. Not only does this reduce dependency on your workforce but also allows you to be available 24*7, which wasn’t possible before. It also affects the wage you pay annually.
For example, if your agent works for $25/hour for 20 hours a week, you’re paying them $19, 200 annually.
On the other hand, WotNot offers a business plan at $499 per month, which comes down to around $6000 annually.
As for your agents, they can concentrate on other valuable demand generation activities instead which can increase your sales.
According to research, chatbot automation can lead to $23 billion in savings from annual salaries.
Calculate the Business Value Generated
Chatbots don’t just save costs, they generate business value as well. Since chatbots increase conversion rates, they increase the number of hot leads that can be directly passed on to agents.
According to a study by Forbes, chatbots increase sales by 67%. You can calculate your lead generation by determining the lead-to-chat ratio for both manual and estimated automated leads generated via chatbots. You can then compare the two to see the accurate business value generated.
The lead value for a B2B company is usually $2000-$10,000, depending on the industry. So if your chatbot generates 500 leads per month, it means that $100K to $500K in the pipeline is directly attributed to the bot.
A chatbot can cost you anything from $0 to $5000 per month. The pricing is usually divided into a free plan, start-up plan, business plan, and enterprise plan.
Before deciding on the pricing, ensure that you consider all the factors mentioned below:
Calculate a cost-benefit analysis of the tool to get a better understanding of how the chatbot will bear fruits for your business.
Evaluate the results and choose a plan that gives you the highest ROI.
It suffices to say that there’s no one answer to the question, “how much does a chatbot cost?” Numerous players offer diverse plans based on business sizes and requirements. It’s easy to fall into the notion that automation always means good. It won’t help you if you go out of your budget to install a solution that your business doesn’t even need. So it’s your job to assess your needs and figure out how you can best leverage the tool.
While investing in a new tool can always seem intimidating and a gamble, you can always find a way out by signing up for a free plan. You can sign up on WotNot and determine your feature and integration requirements as you use it.
Are chatbots cost-effective?
Yes. Chatbots answer over 80% of the standard queries and save up to $0.07 per interaction. Chatbots automate key tasks and reduces the dependency on agents for mundane tasks such as lead generation and first-level support queries. It saves time and costs of hiring employees for a 24*7 service and helps you scale your customer conversations without hiring an extra workforce.
How is chatbot value calculated?
You can simply compare the number of queries handled by a bot with the current costs spent on answering simple queries. You also estimate the value your bot generates by estimating the extra lead value you can gain from chatbots with the bot installation costs or your subscription costs.
How much time does it take to build a chatbot?
It depends on the complexity of the flow, and the integrations needed. But considering everything, you can build and deploy a bot anytime between 2–8 weeks.
Are chatbots free?
Yes, you can get a free chatbot on WotNot. You can build unlimited bots and get access to the no-code bot builder, live chat, analytics dashboard, and chatbot templates in the free plan.
How much does a WhatsApp chatbot cost?
While downloading WhatsApp is free, it is the WhatsApp Business API for which you will have to pay extra to a WhatsApp Business solution provider. WhatsApp Business API price is now conversation-based. This means WhatsApp now charges businesses per conversation rather than per notification. You can expect a cost of $0.005 flat fee per message sent to the USA.
Originally published at https://wotnot.io.
Everything you Need to Know About Chatbot Pricing in 2022 was originally published in Chatbots Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.