One of the great things about outsourcing your chatbot development to an agency is that you greatly reduce the risk and errors when building your chatbot as you’re paying for their experience and reliability to get the job done.
However, while some challenges are the same as outsourcing in other departments, chatbots come with their own challenges.
So what are the top 7 mistakes to avoid when outsourcing to a chatbot agency?
In a nutshell:
Which one of these has the biggest impact over the rest? Which are the easiest to avoid and which ones, even with your best efforts, have a chance of still occurring?
Let’s run through each one further to find out:
This is the root cause of the majority of mistakes most companies will make when outsourcing.
Unlike other verticals such as marketing or design and even development where you may have some understanding and experience, machine learning and chatbots are still very new.
To reduce the number of errors, you need to understand what the known unknowns are.
Otherwise, many estimates will be way off, such as underestimating costs, overestimating chatbot capability and not asking the right questions of the agency you plan to hire.
The simplest and cheapest solution is taking some time to understand this new sector. You’ve made a great start by checking out this article:
Without a doubt, the most common mistake we come across is:
The disparity between the chatbot capability and the pain you’re aiming to solve vs the cost and time it will take.
Typically, management has a pain which could be solved with current technology, but to solve that challenge usually takes the very latest tech. Thus the cost is way higher than most anticipate.
The other bit of good news is a £40-50k chatbot project is roughly the same cost as an employee, meanwhile, it brings 6-10x of a full-time equivalent (FTE). Often a worthwhile investment.
Lastly, as you can see in the Gartner chart below, chatbots (or virtual assistants as it’s labelled) we’ve gone through the trough of disillusionment and being in 2019 to 2020, chatbots are certainly at the beginning of the slope of enlightenment.
The good news for you is, as both charts demonstrate, investing in the basic infrastructure now ensures you capture all the benefits and increased productivity in the years to come.
As the old saying goes: Measure twice. Cut once.
Most companies have a UX & UI process as part of the product development cycle and your chatbot should have the same. Doing rapid and low-cost interviews & tests with your target users will help validate the business case, find unforeseen intents and work out some early kinks that will save you a lot of pain and cost in the long run.
There is an extra stage to chatbot design that chatbot agencies carry out, to take into consideration that didn’t exist in the design process before: “the bot persona”.
I’m sure you’ve heard the motto of “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do a job, wait until you hire an amateur!”. As much as it makes me cringe to write it, it does hold truth. Let’s break the old cliché down:
Cheap usually means going abroad. Going abroad equates to having some sort of language barrier. Building chatbots are difficult enough as it is, that has a lot of unique & complex terminology. Adding this extra challenge into the mix will only add extra mistakes and cost in the long run.
Chatbot conversation design is critical to chatbot success. Language and culture greatly affect how you create that flow and train the intents.
For example, when designing a chatbot that had to cover multiple cities in the UK – the way of saying “hi” or “how are you?” changed from city to city. The responses those local communities expect from the bot also vary.
Since they’re working at a lower rate, it’s likely they’ll be juggling more projects and few agencies are focused entirely on just AI. (usually, it’s a sub-branch of other offerings)
Simply: less focus = poorer results.
Sadly, we’ve seen many companies get taken advantage of, as they don’t know what the process should look like and incidentally get taken for a ride.
We’ll elaborate on this section further in the “questions you should ask to test their knowledge” so you can be sure that the agency you hire will get things right first time around and create a chatbot that delivers results.
We found the most effective questions to ask and test potential agencies are:
This needs to be broken down into two parts which we go into further depth in our “Analytic techniques & tools to improve your chatbot performance” article where we cover the detailed reasons and data behind why we find certain metrics better than others. For now, though, we’ll cut to the answer you’re looking for:
Here are our recommended top data points to keep a close eye on:
The above recommendations are when you have a level 2 chatbot or above. There are, of course, a lot of nuances and individual circumstances.
The most common pitfall is expecting too high performance or ROI from a proof of concept.
To elaborate on a couple of examples:
For a basic proof of concept chatbot, a full-time equivalent (FTE) / return of investment (ROI) of 4x or more is unrealistic. The purpose of a PoC is to prove integration and the bot build process is working, demonstrating how you reduce the risks of implementation and deployment.
When you start ramping up chatbot uses cases and increase the number of intents the bot can handle, THEN you can expect an FTE of 6-10x.
Containment rate on initial builds will usually be defined as a goal in themselves. For example: “this MVP will aim to answer 10% of all inbound FAQs that we’ve selected”
Sadly, some clients see the outstanding results of other chatbots and hear stats like 30-40% containment rate.
This only achievable after extensive A/B testing and after months of the bot running. As we just mentioned, your welcome message and following conversation flow even after initial wizard of oz / early user testing will be at 10-20%, especially if you only have a basic proof of concept or a chatbot that primarily uses buttons.
When developing your budget, make sure you account for the fact one of your employees will have to take this on a full time, even when you’re outsourcing. Chatbot agencies like us, need a reliable port of call, someone with strong knowledge of the business and its needs.
Having a chatbot champion has numerous benefits:
This person champions and drives success metrics. As the chatbot function grows, this champion will be the person that grows the chatbot team.
(yes, the most successful chatbots have entire teams behind them, typically a chatbot developer, a product manager and an analyst.)
Honestly, 99% of all inbound enquiries of potential clients looking to outsource or partner with us have RFPs that’s missing a lot of information or aren’t specific enough. If you send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll gladly send you our version to use.
There are use cases for pretty much every vertical and industry. From HR to lead generation, chatbots are going to improve the sector.
There are 3 major factors that impact whether your company is right to use a chatbot:
Our usual go-to favourites are Dialogflow or Watson powering the natural language understanding, we then use our own analytics and bot management tool: EBM for the rest of it.
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