What Are Chatbot Platforms?
At their core, chatbot platforms are used to simulate human-to-human conversations and help provide website visitors or application users with information. They conduct online exchanges web visitors or customers via text or text-to-speech. Chatbots can be programmed to respond to specific key phrases or questions, or carry out more complex conversations about various topics.
Chatbots can be deployed on website landing pages, mobile applications, or messaging platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc. Many vendors that provide chatbots, conversational platforms, or virtual assistants market them to a specific type of user or department. For example, chatbots can be designed for use by sales reps, marketers, eCommerce websites, internal employee requests, or customer service agents. However, even though certain chatbots are marketed towards specific end-users, the underlying technology is the same.
Virtual assistants and chatbots are especially well suited for companies and individuals working in the customer service industry, sales teams, marketing teams, and customer success teams. In the customer service industry, chatbots help resolve simple and routine customer inquiries. This frees up more time for agents to focus on more complex requests. Chatbots are often used by sales and marketing teams to help engage early-stage prospects and qualify new leads. This allows SDRs and marketers to spend their time on more high-value activities, such as nurturing leads identified by the chatbot.
Different Types of Chatbot Technology
There are a few different types of chatbot platforms, chatbot builders, or intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) that fall under the ‘chatbot’ umbrella. Names for this type of software like chatbots, conversational AI, virtual customer assistants, intelligent virtual assistants, digital assistants, etc are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there are differences between the complexity and level of artificial intelligence used across these platforms.
Simple Chatbot Software
The simplest type of chatbot is a rules-based conversational interface that can engage individuals in a basic exchange. These types of chatbots allow web visitors or application users to select a specific question to ask, which is then answered by the chatbot. While these chatbots are great for companies that handle a large volume of routine or repetitive customer inquiries, their ability to deal with more complex or nuanced requests is quite limited. However, simplistic chatbots usually have the capability to escalate an exchange to a human agent if a request is too complex.
Virtual Assistant Software
Intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) can be thought of as the next level of chatbot technology. Rather than providing a simplistic rules-based interface, these types of applications rely on artificial intelligence technology to respond to customer inquiries in a personalized way. Using Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NPL) technology, these chatbots learn from all of the exchanges they have over time to provide customers or application users with better and more contextual information.
These types of chatbots can also be found in our AI Virtual Sales Assistant software category, which provides a narrower look at chatbots designed specifically for sales.
Conversational AI Platforms
The third type of chatbot technology is often called conversational platforms, conversational AI, or chatbot builders. This type of software includes the tools needed for developers to build their own chatbots along with pre-designed chatbots themselves. Some vendors may provide only the APIs or software development kit (SKD) needed to build the chatbots. This allows businesses to create chatbots that are completely tailored to their business and industry. However, building individual chatbots also requires developer time and resources that smaller companies may not be able to spare.
Each type of chatbot technology has a set of benefits and disadvantages. The best way to figure out which type of chatbot technology is right for you is to ask what business needs the chatbot would be serving.
Chatbot Platform Features
Since there are different types of chatbot technology available, not all platforms will have the same set of features. However, there are core capabilities that will likely be common across different products:
Ability to book meetings
24/7 operation on your landing pages or applications
Integration with knowledge bases
Integration with marketing automation software
Integration with help desk software
Integration with customer data platforms
Conversational platforms like SAP Conversational AI and IBM Watson Assistant can be used to build simple or complex chatbots.
Chatbot Software Comparison
Before investing in a chatbot software, consider these three important factors:
What type of chatbot technology is your business looking for? Do you need pre-designed bots that are ready to use out-of-the-box, or are you looking to design your own chatbots and conversational assistants? If you’re looking for a pre-build chatbot, would a rules-based chatbot serve your business best? Or would a chatbot that relies more heavily on ML and NLP technology and learns over time better fit your needs?
If you’re interested in purchasing a chatbot or virtual assistant for specific personas or for use within a specific department, look for vendors that have designed AI assistants specifically for this use case. For example, Conversica offers individual AI assistants for sales, customer success, automotive sales, and higher education.
Which chatbot software best matches your budget? Simpler rules-based chatbots are typically cheaper than more complex chatbot technology that relies on artificial intelligence capabilities like ML and NLP. Conversational platforms that developers can use to build chatbots can be the most expensive, and vendors often don’t advertise prices for these types of platforms publicly.
Pricing will vary depending on the type of chatbot technology you need, the complexity of the software, and the number of virtual assistants required.
For chatbots and virtual assistants that come pre-built, prices can range from under $100 per month to over $1,000 per month, depending on the number of features included. Many vendors will provide either a 14-day free trial of their software or a free version with limited capabilities. Most vendors don’t disclose pricing information on their website for chatbot builders or enterprise-level plans, but will provide a quote upon request.