How Much Does it Cost To Build a Chatbot in 2021?

How much does it cost to build a chatbot

Like most software projects the chatbot cost really depends on the scale and complexity of the project.

These requirements will govern the effort involved in building your perfect automated assistant and the ongoing effort required to keep it running smoothly.

Let’s take a look at some of the governing factors in how much your chatbot project will cost.

How much does it cost to create a chatbot to fix our [insert business problem]?

We are often asked this question by clients looking to start their first conversational AI project.

At this point, we tend to ask a specific set of questions to get an idea about the scope of the project they have in mind. You can read a bit more about your chatbot scope here.

Chatbot cost can be broken down into 2 parts.

  1. One off design, development, deployment of the chatbot
  2. Ongoing monthly maintenance, hosting and management costs

Spoiler alert: we can’t give an exact price without knowing the details of your project. However, we can give some estimates based on the type of project. Jump to the end if you'd like to go straight there.

Let’s dive in and take a look at the key drivers impacting the price for custom chatbots.

Deployment Channel Chatbot Cost

chatbot costs: chatbot deployments

The first requirement to consider is the channel in which the bot should function.

By this, I mean where the bot will be used.

It could be as a website widget implemented on your webpage or deployed into existing messaging platforms.

Examples of these platforms include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Telegram, and Viber. Some of these examples provide more complex UI elements which can be utilised in your bot.

Other obvious channels to deploy a chatbot are voice; Google Assistant, Alexa or even Conversational IVR systems which can be connected to the same conversational engine as your text-based chatbots.

For our custom chatbot integrations, we normally provide one channel with the project and then charge per extra channel, as required.

We’ve found that our clients will often want a web-based chatbot first and create and deploy different versions to other channels depending on the chatbot use case.

Extra channel development costs vary, depending on the amount of work required to create the best user experience for the platform.

Features

Depending on where the chatbot will work in there is also scope to provide other functionality such as voice capability for web chatbots or enhanced chatbot interface features specific to the deployment platform.

Again, costs depend on the amount of complexity and effort involved in building each feature.

As an example, adding voice interaction capability to a web chatbot would be £3,000+.

Human-agent handover via live chat or WhatsApp integration is also a popular feature.

Natural Language Ability Chatbot Cost

Chatbot costs: natural language understanding complexity

If a chatbot is required to support more complex natural language understanding (NLU- you can read more about some of the tech terms here) features and not just UI elements such as buttons then this will mean that additional effort is needed to train the bot and design and implement a more complex conversational flow.

In reality, most text-based chatbots will have some level of NLU and, of course, voice assistants are all NLU.

We utilise the best of breed NLU solutions to create our conversational experiences.

In particular, we use Google Dialogflow ES and CX for the majority of our projects and, as a result, we are Google Tech partners and experts in Dialogflow.

Conversation Skills

The complexity, scope and volume of the required conversational ability also affect cost. This relates to specifics such as:

  • The number of branches in the conversation tree
  • The number of questions that have to be handled by the chatbot, which can often be in the thousands
  • The number of training phrases needed; this element can improve the accuracy of the chatbot, (you can read more about training data here)
  • The complexity of conversational ability i.e. support for complex user enquiries, multi-turn conversations.
  • Number of entities needed to support the required responses, don’t forget you can remind yourself of terminology here

Languages

Chatbots are capable of supporting different languages, as long as these are supported by the NLP engine.

It’s possible to add different language permutations to the same chatbot project. However, each language will need its own testing and all the responses for each language and potentially any responses returned by business logic may need to be altered for each language.

A conversational designer will also need to consider the nuances of each language here, so costs for each language will depend on the size and complexity of the conversational ability for the primary language.

Integration Chatbot Costs

Connect your chatbot to existing systems: APIs, RPA, Knowledge Bases

The other area which will impact cost is dependent on the planned role of the chatbot: what the chatbot will need to do to carry out its role?

Will the chatbot need to integrate with current systems to provide its responses?

Will it need to hand over to live agents?

Will it need to connect with CRM and ticketing solutions?

Some chatbots may need to carry out complex interactions to provide answers to customer queries.

You can read more about possible integrations here, but the rule of thumb is that if the system you want to integrate with has an API and a means of authenticating then we can integrate with it.

Chatbots can also leverage other AI systems to provide relevant information to govern conversational flow. For example, sentiment analysis.

With so many possibilities for chatbot features, it's hard to estimate the price here as each integration can have its own complexities and sets of APIs to authenticate with.

Integration Chatbot Costs

Connect your chatbot to existing systems: APIs, RPA, Knowledge Bases

Chatbot costs: integration requirements

The other area which will impact cost is dependent on the planned role of the chatbot: what the chatbot will need to do to carry out its role?

Will the chatbot need to integrate with current systems to provide its responses?

Will it need to hand over to live agents?

Will it need to connect with CRM and ticketing solutions?

Some chatbots may need to carry out complex interactions to provide answers to customer queries.

You can read more about possible integrations here, but the rule of thumb is that if the system you want to integrate with has an API and a means of authenticating then we can integrate with it.

Chatbots can also leverage other AI systems to provide relevant information to govern conversational flow. For example, sentiment analysis.

With so many possibilities for chatbot features, it's hard to estimate the price here as each integration can have its own complexities and sets of APIs to authenticate with.

Deployment & Infrastructure Security

Chatbot deployment costs

Often security demands for a chatbot project need specific features, for example, HIPAA compliance.

In these cases, SSO, RBAC, and on-prem or private cloud deployment can be used to ensure compliance with company security policies.

These can have an impact on overall project costs and again, costs are based on the demands of a specific project.

Chatbot Training & Maintenance

Chatbot training and maintenance

We offer our chatbot solutions based on a SAAS model.

Costs incurred tend to be based on a yearly subscription and again depend a lot on the scale and complexity of the chatbot.

These monthly costs will cover the following:

  • Access to our world-class chatbot and voice assistant analytics platform (Chatseer)
  • Daily supervised learning and improvements
  • Monitoring conversations and confirming qualified intents as well as checking for unmatched intents and fixing them as needed
  • Third-party and integration maintenance. Making sure your bot is performing well and healthy!
  • Natural Language Understanding service costs (depending on volume and platform used).
  • Hosting and data storage
  • Chatbot reporting interface
  • Post-development support.

As a rule, monthly maintenance costs tend to be in the region of 10% of the initial implementation cost.

Chatbot Packages

Chatbot costs

The cost of a chatbot project can vary widely depending on the overall scale of the project and the features required.

We tend to split our projects into 3 packages. You can see the features included and the one-off project costs and monthly costs in the table below.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the cost of a capable chatbot does not have to be prohibitive and it’s often easy to start small and add features as business needs require them.

We make sure all our chatbot and voice assistant projects will scale. So even if you want to start with a smaller scale chatbot solution, your company can still expand and build on this to create a large scale solution further down the line.

Small Project

Project Cost: £1,500 to £5,000

Monthly Cost: £150 to £500

  • Website chatbot
  • Facebook Messenger chatbot
  • NLU
  • 10-20 intents
  • 100s training phrases
  • 5 – 10 rich UI elements
  • knowledge base support
  • Small talk
  • 1 language

Medium Project

Project Cost: £5,000 to £15,000

Monthly Cost: £500 to £1,500

  • Website chatbot
  • Facebook Messenger chatbot
  • Microsoft Teams Chatbot
  • Slack Chatbot
  • Alexa Skill
  • Google Assistant
  • NLU
  • 1000s of training phrases
  • 50-100 intents
  • 10-25 rich UI elements
  • Simple integration
  • 1 or 2 languages

Large Project

Project Cost: £15,000 to £100,000

Monthly Cost: £1,500 to £5,000

  • Large scale enterprise chatbot with multiple API integrations
  • 10,000s of training phrases
  • Personalised UX
  • 1000s intents
  • Multiple knowledge bases
  • Deployed to multiple channels including conversational IVR
  • Custom user interface elements
  • Bespoke functionality
  • Multiple languages

About The Bot Forge

Consistently named as one of the top-ranked AI companies in the UK, The Bot Forge is a UK-based agency that specialises in chatbot & voice assistant design, development and optimisation.

If you'd like a no-obligation chat to discuss your project with one of our team, please book a free consultation.