If you’re considering integrating a chatbot into your customer service system, you may have considered utilising free chatbot software. While it’s a popular choice for amateur enthusiasts, it’s not always appropriate when it comes to professional services. Here, we take a look at what it offers and why it’s not an adequate business solution on its own.
The best thing about free software is… it’s free
The most obvious benefit of free chatbot software is cost. Using a free software platform to build your chatbot costs the business nothing and allows you to implement chat technology without the help of chatbot specialists. For some businesses, this will be enough to convince them that free software is the way forward and the right choice for their company.
However, in the realm of digital technology, you get what you pay for. Though chatbots have existed in one form or another since 1966 (when the pioneering ELIZA bot was invented) it’s only in recent years that they’ve emerged as a widespread customer service technology.
Consequently, the knowledge required to effectively implement the technology is still relatively niche and restricted to those who make it their business to keep abreast of the latest chatbot developments. With free software, you acquire the means to build the shell of a chatbot but still lack the expertise to bring it to life and implement it effectively. Take into account the time and person-power required to correct a faulty Chatbot setup (or the customers you may lose) and ‘free’ isn’t quite so free after all.
But maybe not that free…
Though the software is free, it actually costs your business a fair amount to build, maintain, and manage a “free” chatbot. One of your employees will have to design and test it, taking them away from their usual work and delaying other projects. Technical support, maintenance, and refinement are all resource heavy, too. While free software allows for the creation of free chatbots, it doesn’t guarantee that the implementation process won’t be costly.
Though a chatbot specialist may charge you to create a bespoke chatbot, they’ll also ensure that it’s implemented in the right way and successfully integrated into your existing customer service setup. A chatbot taken in isolation is not a particularly useful tool. However, if it’s integrated into an omnichannel customer service system, it can be one of the most effective technologies in your business’ arsenal. All it takes is a little guidance on how best to deploy the software.
Doesn’t free software allow for additional features?
Yes, some of the best chatbot platforms allow you to integrate fairly complex features into your chatbot. For instance, Natural Language Processing technology can be integrated into a chatbot using a relatively simple, modular build process. By removing the need for an in-house coder and providing individuals and businesses with the building blocks they need to create a chatbot, software development platforms allow anyone and everyone to build themselves a basic chatbot.
Though this allows for a democratic and accessible system, it also results in poorly designed chatbots. In this case, it’s important businesses ask themselves whether it’s better to have a poorly designed chat channel or no chatbot at all. In the vast majority of cases, a badly designed chatbot frustrates customers more than it helps them and can cause great damage to a business’ reputation.
Of course, the preferred option for all companies is to have a fully-functional, brilliantly designed chatbot that’s capable of handling large volumes of customer enquiries – but that’s extremely difficult to achieve with free software and limited expertise.
It’s also important to recognise the fact that chatbots aren’t really ever “finished.” though free software allows you to build a chatbot, it doesn’t help you maintain or improve it through the leverage of big data.
No analytical inputs
Digital technologies need to harness the power of big data if they’re to be of any use in the modern business environment. A chatbot that doesn’t utilise the data at its disposal, or collect data from those customers it interacts with, is a wasted opportunity. Free software does nothing to help you in this regard and won’t provide any assistance when it comes to leveraging the data you harvest or already own.
On the other hand, specialists understand exactly how data can be used to improve chatbot services. Whether it’s measuring active users, session length, fallback responses or chatbot ratings, you’ll receive comprehensive analytics pertaining to customer behaviour and the popularity of your chatbot. Likewise, chatbots can be set up to draw on your existing data to answer questions and handle queries.
Chatbot specialists are also particularly useful when everything starts to go a little wrong and it’s necessary to request technical support.
Lack of support
Modern software is remarkably complex and nuanced. Consequently, at some point or another, things are bound to go wrong. When this happens, it’s essential that you have help on hand to remedy the situation and get things back online as swiftly as possible. With free chatbot software, there is no technical support, no one to phone, and no quick fix that will make everything alright.
When technology doesn’t function as it should, it becomes expensive. The business has to dedicate its resources (time, labour, and money) to fixing the issue and ensuring their chatbot is of use to customers. Suddenly, free chatbot software is not so free and you’re paying for a sub-standard chatbot that doesn’t perform as it should. Where once you were saving money, now you’re losing it. The best way of preventing this is by employing the services of a chatbot specialist who can support the service and implement a programme of preventative maintenance. They can also offer training so that these services can eventually be brought in-house.
The one big benefit of free software is that it’s “free.” However, in reality, using free chatbot software is like being handed a spanner and told to fix a car. Most people simply do not have the expertise to utilise the tool in a way that realises its purpose. Though free software may seem like an attractive option it typically results in a substandard product that can cost a considerable amount – particularly when compared with the services provided by chatbot specialists.