Growing small businesses and startups know a secret.
Efficiency and automation are the keys to scaling. If you aren’t around 24/7 to answer questions from new leads and process orders around the clock, you get some software to do it for you.
Enter chatbots for business.
Chatbots are seeing the fastest rate of new technology adoption today, with 27% of SMBs reporting they use chatbots in their business.
So how much will it cost a small business to invest in a chatbot?
If you’re an SMB looking for answers to the questions of chatbot pricing, here is everything you need to know.
If you want the one-minute version, jump to the end of the article where we dish up exactly what you need to know and do. Spoiler: It starts at $0/month.
Here’s what we cover in this article:
- How Much Does a Chatbot Cost?
- Chatbot Pricing Depends on Your Business Goals
- Two Chatbot Price Models — Agency and In-house
- In-house Chatbot Prices
- Agency Chatbot Prices
- Sample Agency Chatbot Prices
- FAQs about Chatbot Pricing
- The Simple Solution to Affordable Chatbots
How much does a chatbot cost?
Chatbots cost from $0 to $1,000/month or higher, depending on all the things you program them to do.
That’s as simple an answer as we can give in one sentence. (Read the rest of this article and you’ll have a much more nuanced understanding.)
Here’s a 3-tier way of understanding chatbot pricing. Again, simplistic, but tl;dr:
- Free + Your Time – Create a chatbot in-house and have a basic, functional chatbot for responding to customer inquiries and questions.
- $0/mo-$49/mo for Software + Your Time – Use visual chatbot building software to create a chatbot in-house and have a powerful, robust chatbot to generate new business, do instant lead capture, upgrade Facebook ads, and boost sales. Customers.ai’s starter plan for a chatbot that works in Facebook Messenger and in native website chat (hello, OmniChat!) is free for unlimited contacts.
- $500-$5000/month – Hire a chatbot agency to create and maintain chatbots that do lead gen, execute sales funnels and do customer care and remarketing for you.
Now, let’s get into the all-important details.
Chatbot pricing — it all depends on your business goals
Before you can get an accurate estimate of how much your dream bot will cost your business, you need to answer this question:
What do you want your chatbot to do?
It’s important to decide on the purpose and functionality of your chatbot.
Here are some options for small businesses investing in chatbot technology:
- Customer service chatbots – Customer support chatbots can serve a variety of purposes — FAQs, store hours, and directions, services, etc. Many times, these chatbots look act a lot like a phone menu, except they’re way more interesting. Think gifs and stuff.
- Website chatbot – One of the best uses of chatbots is providing user support and steering prospects toward what they’re looking for while potential customers are on your website. A simple plugin plus a chatbot makes it happen.
- Scheduling or registration chatbots – Want to take the busywork and hassle out of setting appointments for your beauty shop, coaching sessions, or dentist office? A chatbot can handle all of this, saving your office team time to work on more strategic initiatives and saving your business cost of staffing for this administrative task
- Transactions chatbots – Chatbots can support ecommerce transactions, including providing discounts and coupons, receipts, shipment, tracking information, etc.
- Lead generation – Lead generation chatbots are marketing-focused chatbots that usually involve prospecting and lead capture plus lead nurturing tactics like drip campaigns.
It’s worth mentioning at this point, that you can create all of these chatbots using Customers.ai and chatbot templates.
Using a template can save dozens of hours in labor and setup, and is an easy way to jump into the chatbot game with very low costs.
These Customers.ai chatbots work in both Facebook Messenger as well as for folks who aren’t using Messenger but are visiting your site (we call it native web chat).
You can also create chatbots for chat messaging services such as Slack, Kik, Viber, Telegram, WhatsApp, LINE, Skype, and other platforms.
Facebook Messenger is the platform of choice for most SMBs for a few basic reasons — the target audience uses it.
Chatbots like those created with Customers.ai provide a powerhouse of functionality for chatbots across all small business use cases. If you’re just starting out with chatbots, you would do best to start with an OmniChat™️ chatbot that works simultaneously on native web chat and Facebook Messenger created on Customers.ai because:
- The majority of customers are accessible via Facebook Messenger (there are 1.3 billion active users on Messenger)
- Facebook bots get access to a lot of useful customer data and businesses get the benefit of obtaining this data automatically on first connection
- Facebook Messenger bots integrate directly with Facebook ads and are shown to reduce Facebook Ad CPA and increase AOV
- With Customers.ai OmniChat™️, any website visitor who is NOT a Facebook Messenger user can still talk to your bot through native web chat
- And the price tag is most affordable building a bot on a platform that simultaneously works on the most popular chat app in the U.S., Facebook Messenger, as well as for non-Facebook users visiting your website
There are two main ways to calculate chatbot pricing — doing it in-house or hiring an agency
Broadly speaking, the next decision you’ll need to make is this — do we create the chatbot ourselves (i.e., in-house) or hire an agency to do it?
That might be the literal you as owner or “marketing person” of your SMB. Or, you can have an employee create the chatbot, your tech-savvy kid, or an intern.
Total transparency, making a chatbot is very easy.
Yes, I speak from the perspective of an elder Millennial who works on a computer all day. But if you have a working knowledge of computers — think Facebook Messenger or a basic SaaS — then whipping up a chatbot is quick and easy if you use a chatbot builder like Customers.ai.
By “agency,” I’m referring to hiring an outside business that specializes in marketing and chatbots.
This is an estimation of how pricing would work based on which route you go.
|In-House Chatbot Costs||Agency Chatbot Fees|
|Chatbot Software Platform||$50-$500/month||$50-$500/month|
|Chatbot Setup and Development||Salaries (5-100 hours of work)||$500-$2,500|
|Ongoing chatbot support and maintenance||Salaries (0-10 hours of work per week)||$50-$5000/month|
What’s involved in those:
- Chatbot software platform – At the most basic level, you’ll need a chatbot builder. Sign up for Customers.ai to get a robust multi-channel chat marketing automation and Facebook advertising bot solution.
- Chatbot development and setup – This is the work of making the initial chatbot that answers commonly asked questions about your business and collects useful info about your new contacts that you can use to qualify them, identify what they need, and enter them into a marketing sequence or sales funnel. If you do this in-house, you’ll expect to spend a certain number of hours to learning the software and making the chatbot.
- Ongoing chatbot support and maintenance – Once your chatbot is up and running, expect some ongoing tweaks. Agencies do this for a fee, or you could spend a few hours a week doing it in-house. If you’re running a simple chatbot like an FAQ bot, this may require zero to one hour weekly just to review unanswered questions and see if your bot should have any new Q&A responses programmed. If you have several chatbots doing several things — drip campaigns, Facebook click-to-Messenger ad bots, etc. — it might take more time.
Here’s the basic idea. Doing it yourself usually allows smaller dollar amounts are drawn from your account but it requires you to invest that other limited resource, you or your team’s time.
Now for disclaimers and tips:
- Hiring an agency to create chatbots frees you and your team up to do what you do best. In the long run, that might lead to optimal revenue.
- If you run a tight, lean team of highly-compensated employees, hiring an agency might work best. For example, if you’re a small law firm, brokerage, or real estate agency, outsourcing the job to an agency makes more sense from a cost perspective.
- Alternately, if you have a team of 5-20 employees, including some tech-savvy specialists or a marketing department, consider doing it in-house. This marketing team (or individual) may be able to make the time and have the technical chops to create your chatbot.
- Consider hiring contractors to do the work, too. An agency-alternative is the contract model, in which you might hire someone to do the setup and development and train your team to do the ongoing maintenance.
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Consider these costs for accurate in-house chatbot pricing
Obviously, there’s more to chatbot pricing than just the software, even if you do it in-house. Here are some costs to factor in:
Chatbot Platform – $0-$500/month
First, you’ll need to get a chatbot platform. Customers.ai is one of the most robust and competitively-priced chatbot builders available. Heck, it’s free. Get it. Use it. Do it.
Although we have a vested interest in recommending it, we are also aware of the market and
Pricing starts at $0 and goes up for full-fledged, high-octane chat marketing automation software with all the bells and whistles.
Employee time – $50+/hr
If you assign this task to your team, make sure you understand
- What they won’t be doing as a result of taking on this job. Will it hurt the business or lead to a loss in revenue?
- How much they cost per hour. Making chatbots is a high-value job, but it does not require a highly-trained or highly-paid person to do it. It involves more experience than mopping the floors but doesn’t require an advanced degree or years of experience.
Those who are often tasked with the job of creating chatbots are in the “marketing specialist” job level range — someone with 2-5 years of experience, a bachelor’s degree, and some technical ability.
According to Glassdoor, marketing specialists earn, on average, $50,528/year.
For an hourly rate, that’s about $100/hr. The overhead for this employee (equipment, vacation, insurance, etc.) is presumably 1.4x higher. So the hourly cost for this employee is about $140/hour.
With that number in mind, if your marketing specialist spends 10 hours to create a chatbot, the cost to you is $1,400.
Consider these 3 costs for accurate agency chatbot pricing
Here is an overview of the kinds of costs associated with hiring an agency to create your chatbot.
One-Time Development Fee for Basic Chatbot Development – $500-$1000
An agency often prices bots based on their functionality. Basic bots include the following:
- FAQ bot for customer support, often embedded on the business website
- Bot for acquiring new customers and more leads
- Bot for reducing the cost of Facebook Ads, and increase leads and sales from Facebook Ads
- Bots for showcasing or recommending products for ecommerce or retail
The agency will usually do the setup and implementation of the chatbot for anywhere from $500 to $2,500 as a one-time fee.
This setup costs usually includes things like basic chatbot creation, chatbot implementation, chatbot troubleshooting, and even training you or your team on using the chatbot.
One-Time Development Fee for Advanced Chatbot Development – $1,000-$5,000
If you have a specific, one-time campaign in mind, you might be looking for chatbot development priced by the project. As long as the deliverables are defined, you can go this route. Of course, the more functionality and more integrations to other business systems that your chatbot needs, the more it will cost.
Ongoing Chatbot Subscription, Maintenance, and Support – $50-$5,000/month
Agencies usually offer ongoing support and maintenance for the chatbot. Many agencies, in fact, require this as part of the contract for chatbot creation.
Chatbot support is a good option and something that you should invest in. Unless you are experienced in creating chatbots, this support comes in handy.
Far from being wasted retainer costs, the monthly chatbot fee often covers the subscription price for the chatbot platform that the agency is using. In addition, you may receive on-demand support, troubleshooting, and enhancements.
If you discontinue agency support from your chatbot, you may lose various chatbot features such as integrations or monthly reports.
Additional landing pages, campaigns, opt-in points, etc. — additional charges.
Chatbot agencies often price their chatbots based on the quantity of certain things like landing pages or campaigns.
You may find that agencies will customize these prices, or they may have different pricing tiers that address the specific needs you may want.
Keep in mind, agencies do most of the work, but they will require your time. Your time is another “cost” that you’ll need to factor in as you consider chatbot pricing.
Sample Agency Chatbot Prices
This agency uses a tiered pricing structure based on things like the number of landing pages, campaigns, and connections.
For this company, each bot setup is priced at £500.
The ongoing chatbot support package is £250/month.
FAQs about Chatbot Pricing
What factors determine chatbot pricing?
Chatbot pricing can be determined by several factors, including the complexity of the chatbot’s functionality, the level of customization required, the number of supported platforms, the size of your audience or user base, and the provider or development agency’s pricing structure.
What are the common pricing models for chatbots?
Common pricing models for chatbots include one-time licensing fees, monthly or annual subscription plans, and usage-based pricing where you pay based on the number of interactions, messages sent, or API calls made by the chatbot.
Are there free or low-cost chatbot options available?
Yes, there are free or low-cost chatbot options available. Some chatbot development platforms offer free plans with limited features or usage. Additionally, there are open-source chatbot frameworks that allow you to build and host chatbots without incurring any direct costs.
What additional costs should I consider when budgeting for a chatbot?
In addition to the chatbot platform or development costs, you should consider any ongoing maintenance or support fees, integration costs with other systems or APIs, and potential costs for natural language processing (NLP) services or third-party plugins required to enhance your chatbot’s functionality.
Can I get a customized pricing quote for my specific chatbot requirements?
Yes, many chatbot providers or development agencies offer customized pricing based on your specific requirements. Contact the chatbot platform or service you are considering to discuss your needs and get a tailored pricing quote.
Are there any hidden costs associated with chatbot pricing?
While chatbot pricing varies depending on the provider, it’s essential to inquire about any potential hidden costs. Some common hidden costs could include charges for exceeding message limits, additional fees for advanced features or integrations, and costs for technical support beyond the basic level of service.
Can I upgrade or downgrade my chatbot plan in the future?
Yes, most chatbot providers offer flexibility to upgrade or downgrade your plan as your needs evolve. It’s advisable to review the provider’s terms and conditions to understand their policies regarding plan changes, any associated fees, and the process for making adjustments to your chatbot subscription or licensing.
Are there any discounts available for long-term commitments?
Yes, some chatbot providers offer discounts or special pricing for long-term commitments. They may have annual plans that provide cost savings compared to monthly subscriptions or offer discounts for extended contracts. It’s worth exploring these options if you anticipate using the chatbot for an extended period.
Is it possible to build and deploy a chatbot without hiring a development agency?
Yes, it’s possible to build and deploy a chatbot without hiring a development agency. There are user-friendly chatbot platforms available that provide no-code or low-code interfaces, allowing individuals without extensive programming knowledge to create and launch their chatbots. These platforms often offer various pricing plans to accommodate different user requirements.