Increasingly, chatbots of businesses and organizations across the world pop up on our screens. You most likely have heard that they save staff time, and business resources, improve customer service, and sales go up. You are told that customers expect your business to be online 24/7 and to provide them with an instant digital self-service solution. Various reports and analyses point to this solution also. It looks like this is the right time for a chatbot for your business. However, the big question for many business owners is whether to develop an AI chatbot by themselves, hire a freelancer, or outsource the work to an expert provider. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each option.
Creating a chatbot on your own sounds like a great idea. You register an account on one of the many do-it-yourself platforms, you start adding texts, pictures, links, and files. There are enough guides and tutorials on Youtube and over the internet, and there are at least a dozen or so good DIY chatbot platforms on the market right now with their own instructions too.
There are some tips to make sure the job will be well done. There is also a range of to-do tasks to go through. Have you determined what the chatbot will do? Have you selected the functionalities that will serve your business needs? Also, make sure to schedule in your calendar blocks of time to work continuously on the project and have a team member or, better, a team in charge of this project.
Let’s assume that you are done with the planning by this moment and know the processes in your chatbot, how to structure the information, and have written it black on white before you enter the platform and start clicking. If you have a small business or have a limited budget, building a chatbot on your own seems like an appealing option. With the abundance of online resources, anyone with digital literacy and a bit of time can learn how to build a chatbot.
Here is some food for thought when you make up your mind about which path to take or how to combine them:
Doing it yourself / your team
Customizable: You will have full control over the design and functionality of the chatbot with many materials to read and learn from.
Knowledge acquisition: Building a chatbot from scratch can help you gain valuable knowledge and experience in AI technology and make you confident in its further development and usage, also flexible in the usage of its functionalities to accomplish your company goals. You and your team know best your product and services, how to explain them and promote them, therefore, how to use the chatbot to benefit from its functionalities.
Timing: As you create the content on your own, you can adjust, add new information, train new topics, run new promotions almost instantly for your customers.
Time-consuming: Developing a chatbot DIY requires some investment of time and effort. You shall plan to allocate time on a weekly basis for your chatbot.
Lack of expertise: If you don’t have experience working with online creation platforms, it will take some time to learn and create an effective chatbot.
Wait a minute, now it sounds complicated. Isn’t it easier for someone else to do it and maintain it?
Luckily, today’s AI chatbot platforms are becoming simple to use and affordable. Such platform is Umni, on which you can create your own AI chatbot without technical knowledge and skills, for customer service and support, sales, marketing, and other purposes.
Freelancer Chatbot Development
Hiring a freelancer to develop your chatbot can be a good option if you don’t have time, you are on a limited budget, and want to ensure that the chatbot is built by someone with expertise in chatbots and AI technology. Freelancers can be found on various online platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr or recommended to you by the platform on which you plan to build your chatbots. There are such freelancers and agencies creating chatbots on the Umni platform too.
Cost-effective: Hiring a freelancer is cheaper than hiring an expert service provider as a full-time team member.
Specialized expertise: Freelancers that offer such services usually have specialized knowledge and experience in chatbots and/or AI technology. This would help the faster creation of the chatbot, having a more effective chatbot from Day 1, as well as you will benefit from the knowledge and good practices, that an experienced freelancer has gained working on such projects.
Customizable: You have some control over the design and functionality of the chatbot as the technical specification of the chatbot must be reviewed and approved by you before the chatbot creation.
Quality of work: The quality of work may vary depending on the expertise and experience of the freelancer.
Limited availability: Freelancers may have other clients and projects that could slow down the development of your chatbot.
Lack of ongoing support: Freelancers may not provide ongoing support and maintenance after delivering the chatbot.
Need for additional fees: If you want some adjustments or ongoing support and maintenance, the freelancer will charge you for the additional work.
Timing: You must plan for the time between giving the tasks to the freelancer and their accomplishment and activation in the chatbot.
The outsourcing company has similar Pros and Cons as hiring a Freelancer and may be more expensive as an option.
You can also split the job between yourself / your team and the chatbot service provider: for example, have them create the chatbot but your team would handle the updates. Or delegate only the marketing part to a freelancer or an agency. Learn in detail what they or cannot do for your chatbot and your business before deciding who and how will handle your chatbot project.
Here are some questions to help you decide which way to go – to create and maintain the chatbot yourself, assign this job to a “freelancer a friend of mine knows”, or trust an expert, a chatbot service provider.
1. Do you need any programming skills for your project?
Most platforms allow us to create a basic chatbot (without AI and integrations) without any programming skills. They offer one way or another visual assistance for creating a chatbot. Combine different boxes, links, pictures, and other elements – it looks easy. This way, however, you can make a basic chatbot, nothing more.
For a chatbot to be good in terms of functionality, and beneficial to the business, staff, and customers, it needs to be upgraded with conversational AI, built-in request forms, and some integrations. The basic chatbot creation platforms don’t offer such therefore, you will need to know to program to integrate your basic chatbot with conversational AI supplied by third parties. The alternative is to look for platforms that offer all needed functionalities in one place, however many of them are low-code platforms, meaning you will need still to know how to code. There are few platforms that offer both no-code experience and all necessary instruments in one place. One platform that makes this job easier is the no-code Umni chatbot constructor that allows the business to create, maintain and train AI chatbot with various built-in forms and other functionalities in it without any technical skills. Recently the Umni platform was upgraded with ChatGPT integration to speed up and simplify further the chatbot creation mitigating the risk of the generative AI by having it work together with the conversational AI on the platform, as well as the option for creating voice chatbots.
2. Do You want to know what is really going on in your chatbot?
Most platforms offer some type of statistics. Usually, it comes down to how many times a link has been clicked, possibly how many men and how many women have visited the chatbot, how many visitors, in general, there are, and maybe also from which country they are.
But the number of people who visited the chatbot does not really answer whether they just entered the chatbot without writing a single message in it.
It is much more important to know how many people returned to your chatbot this month, how much time they spent in it, how many interactions they exchanged with the chatbot (how active they have been), what they searched for, and what time of day… If you really want to know what happens in your chatbot, then you need access to a platform that would provide this type of feedback on customer behavior from your chatbot. As we mentioned earlier, Umni provides detailed statistics and the possibility for easy no-code chatbot content management.
3. Do you know how to train your chatbot to understand and respond meaningfully?
The chatbot is not a list of answered questions in an instant message and is not a repetition of the website.
The essence of a chatbot is to chat – when people ask questions, to understand them, and to answer them with the right information. Many chatbot platforms offer the upgrade of the basic chatbot with basic keyword recognition. However, the chatbot only catches one keyword in the sentence among all of them and provides answers according to it, not in accordance with the meaning of the customer question. Working with keywords in this way often causes the chatbot to respond incorrectly and appear „dull“.
Let’s take this example.
Let’s say the keyword is “park” (like a park, for walks).
In this example, if a person writes Where is the nearest park? the chatbot will respond correctly and provide information about the park.
However, what if the user wrote Where can I park my car?, or Where to park in the city? The chatbot will again tell him where the park is, which will be wrong and in other cases could lead to problems.
Of course, you can write word combinations or entire sentences instead of keywords. However, the chatbot will only understand them if there is a 100% match. This will not work because you do not know exactly how the user would structure the sentence and what mistakes he would make while typing.
What you can do to solve the above issue working with a platform that offers basic chatbot creation is to integrate into the chatbot an external AI tool (from a conversational AI provider) to help understand what the user is writing and to give the right answer. Here you are facing again plenty of reading, learning, programming, and a lot of testing (if you use an external connector such as Janice then knowing how to do the settings) to get the chatbot to talk to its external “brain”.
The easiest way to train an AI chatbot is to give it to someone to train it for you, and you just would provide the information needed. This shall be someone for whom this is a daily routine and knows how to do it properly, which is what an expert or a company that focuses on AI chatbots does.
However, if you want to start small or on a budget you better make it yourself. The Umni platform makes it as easy as 1-2-3 to train the conversational AI in your chatbot and everything is in one place in your account, there is no need for additional integration with conversational AI. Umni even integrated ChatGPT to help its customers train their business-specialized AI model faster and easier.
By the way, if you still want someone to help you start with the small topics questions and answers you still can ask the Umni team to provide you with the pre-trained sets of questions to help you start fast.
4. Do you know how to comply with GDPR and other policies?
This is a serious topic. With a little more planning and work, the chatbot can be made GDPR-compliant. Did you plan the processes in your team properly with regard to customer information collected through the chatbot on your website to be GDPR compliant? Are the company which services you outsource or the freelancer you hired GDPR compliant? Do you have Personal Data Processing Agreement with them?
Before you start working on your chatbot, make sure you can create it and maintain it from a GDPR perspective. If you choose to trust someone else for your chatbot, then ask for a Personal Data Processing Agreement between your company and him/her/them. If you create your AI chatbot on the Umni platform, the customer information collected by the chatbot is only first and zero-party data and then this data should be used by the business team according to the personal data rules restrictions.
5. Chatbot development and dynamics
If you have decided to have a basic chatbot with several buttons and links, nothing new would happen in it, or you would update something from time to time, with no special functionalities in it, then skip this point.
The life and the development of a good chatbot begin at the time of its “birth” – its activation online. From this point, the chatbot requires monthly technical and content care – to add dynamic information (for marketing and sales purposes), to maintain and further develop content and functionalities, and to train it:
- Update answers, pricing, and other information
- Adding new topics to the conversational AI module based on conversation history with customers. The more topics you have, the “smarter” your chatbot becomes.
- Chatbot re-training – fixing misunderstood questions
- Creating and deploying bot-specific promotions for the chatbot users
- Monitor and support request forms and other functionalities if the chatbot has such (integrations with SMS, or other platforms, and any other chatbot integrations and connections)
- Technical adaptation of the chatbot to the changes in its digital ecosystem (other software, platforms, CRM or booking systems, messenger, etc.).
Modern technologies are evolving very dynamically, and any change in the chatbot platform where the chatbot is live – on a website, in a messenger, in external applications with which your chatbot is integrated, may require to adapt or reconfigure the chatbot to continue to function. It may be a better option to have your chatbot on your website in order to have as much control over it as possible and gain additional benefits from its usage.
Remember, the chatbot is a dynamic software solution that is a combination of technologies that come together to accomplish tasks, not complete standalone software installed on someone’s computer. Many IT companies add a chatbot to their service list, but chatbots are not the focus of their business. They mostly make custom chatbots for businesses that come pricey. Digital marketing agencies that offer a chatbot service limit their use of it to its most basic functionalities, mainly for short-term marketing purposes. Freelancers work on a piece-by-piece basis and only undertake the configuration of a chatbot, rarely would engage with the maintenance and further development of the chatbot. You shall make an informed choice based on your company’s needs, expectations, and budget.
Doing it yourself can be easy. Umni has its focus on conversational AI for digital assistants, providing businesses with access to Umni’s chatbot content management platform, integration with ChatGPT for easier training, and voice assistance for faster online communication where without any technical knowledge they can:
- Easily add or change business information,
- With one click, connect the AI answer to another chatbot section such as to request forms, pricing, etc. to direct users to action,
- With a few clicks, create and manage modules for promotion, pricing of services, and more that appear straight into the chatbot,
- Access statistics about the user behavior in the chatbot (first and zero-party data)
- Connect exact elements in the chatbot to elements on your website for 1-click or scroll over access to them.
6. We have a chatbot, now what? Promoting the chatbot
Wonderful! You have a chatbot or have access to a platform, to manage and develop it yourself. And now what?
The chatbot does not search for users on its own. You must direct them to it so that it may do the work for which it was created. Do you know any good practices and interesting ideas on how to position a chatbot online and offline to attract users to it? How to promote the AI chatbot on your website?
If your chatbot is integrated into social media… Do you follow the changes on Facebook (or other messenger platforms) from a chatbot marketing point of view – what and when can be done in a chatbot and what are the restrictions, so as not to break any rules of the platform and to get your chatbot or business account in trouble? What will be the effect of any feature changes on the functionality of your chatbot?
Do you know what the 24-hour rule means for Facebook chatbots and what messages you can send via chatbot to your customers? Are there technical or other loopholes in the rules and what are they?
If you do not know the answers to these questions and do not have the time to read daily various platform documentation, chatbot blogs, forums, and case studies to gain interesting, useful, and up-to-date information from them, you better work with those who can help you and provide you with such information, process and collect it for you, or do it on behalf of you.
To make it easy for you, Umni offers a blog post full of helpful ideas and tips for promoting a chatbot.
Here are 3 tips you probably didn’t think about:
- Set your website to show a pop-up with attractive text and image, call-to-action, pointing to the chatbot for more when the user tries to close the page.
- Set up links to more personalized and detailed information in the chatbot from words or images in the texts on your website to create an interactive experience.
- Create QR codes with links to exact elements in the chatbot to personalize customer experience from anywhere online and offline – with 1 scan!
We hope this article has been useful for you to make the proper decisions associated with creating and using an AI chatbot.
The day your chatbot is live is only the beginning – every month you would need to maintain, develop, train, and promote it… Do it right from the beginning.
** This article was published originally in 2020 and has been updated to its current version, last update April’23