Chatbot Software: The Ultimate Guide (with 22 examples)

This guide to chatbot software will help you understand what it is, how it can help your business and the types of chatbot software available on the market.

All you need to know about chatbot software

“I need to understand chatbot software, but I don’t know where to start.”

“I’ve heard about chatbots but I don’t understand how they can help my business.”

“I type ‘chatbot software’ into Google and most of the results are technical websites. I might understand them if I had a computer science degree.”

How can you know if chatbot software is the solution if you don’t understand what it does and how it can help you?

Knowing where to look, what’s best and what you need from chatbots can seem overwhelming when it’s new.

Don’t worry.

​This guide to chatbot software will help you understand the technology, how it can help your business and the types of chatbot software available on the market.

Once you’ve read the guide you will feel confident about chatbot software and make informed decisions between options to suit your business.

Let’s start with the basics. What is chatbot technology?

​What is chatbot technology?

​It might surprise you that you’ve probably already met a chatbot. You may even have used one without realising. Chatbots, or ‘bots’, are common on websites and social media platforms. But, what are they? And, where are chatbots used?

In short, a bot is a piece of software used to interact with humans. Companies use them to answer questions from people and help them decide.

Some chatbots are household names, including Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. Whether you use them through your smartphone or a smart speaker, they’re chatbots in action.

There are two main types of chatbot.

chatbot software

Chatbot software that won’t bite

​There are plenty of approachable chatbot solutions available, which are easy to use and install.

For example, simple chatbots provide answers from keywords people use when asking a question.

Basic chatbot software is quick to deploy in your business. Most basic chatbots give you ready-made templates that you can use simultaneously or customise to your business.

But, it relies on specific words (or keywords) you’ve inserted into its systems to answer questions.

If the bot doesn’t have the answer to a query in its database, the chatbot can frustrate people interacting with it.

What happens if someone asks it a question for which it doesn’t have an answer? What can you use instead?

smartphone chatbot

Chatbot software that’s almost smart: the AI chatbot

This is when sophisticated bots become compelling. Advanced bots use what’s known as natural language processing or artificial intelligence (AI), hence the name ‘AI’.

We know the ability for an AI chatbot to pass it off as a human as the Turing Test. The late scientist Alan Turing developed the test in the 1950s.

AI chatbots learn from each time a human interacts with them. Over time, AI bots learn how to interpret the language used by their human users.

AI chatbot technology is sophisticated enough today to be valuable to use in more applications across many businesses. Some AI chatbot software is so convincing that you won’t realise you’re chatting with a computer.

Now you know what chatbot software is, you probably want to know why you might need it.

AI Chatbot

Where are chatbots used?

Although chatbots might interest you, that’s no good unless you understand how they can help your business.
To put it into context, let’s say your business has many customers and you need to help them with information when they contact you.

You’ve got a team of people helping them, but you’ve got more customer queries you can deal with daily. Your customers get tired of waiting for your team to help. The customers look elsewhere for a solution to their problem.

And, you’re losing orders.

What do you do?

In the past, you’d have probably hired more staff to deal with inbound customer queries.

But, it’s common for customer questions to be similar and basic. That’s why businesses have a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section on their website; to deal with common questions.

But, the FAQ section on your website may only answer a few questions, and it relies on your customers to find what they need.

Chatbot software can help you in scenarios like the one above.

You can use a chatbot to answer the same questions asked by your customers in a more active way than a simple FAQ page. Customers get quick answers to their questions rather than having to sift through a long page of answers.

Here are some other examples of how businesses use chatbot software now:

- To help people searching for train times
- Holidaymakers or business people searching for flight times
- Answering product questions
-​ Insurance companies helping customers with quotes
- Doctors using bots to answer basic health questions
- Sales teams using bots to qualify leads
- Retail businesses selling products online​

Chatbot software that’s almost smart: the AI chatbot

Using a chatbot can help your customer service team answer less of the same questions, releasing them for more complex, valuable questions or situations.

Chatbot software can help you use your human resources more efficiently. A bot won’t get bored answering the same questions repeatedly. And, it will work 24/7 to help your business.

Okay, so you have some examples of how other businesses use chatbots. But, you probably have a specific business challenge to solve before you decide if chatbot software is the solution.

We’ll look at that in more detail next.

Call centre chatbot

How will chatbot software help my business?

The choice of solutions on the market to help many business problems is endless. Before you decide if a bot can help your business, step back and look at the ‘bigger picture’.

Here are three situations which might be familiar to you and your challenge:

- You’ve got a limited customer service team and more customer queries than you can manage.
- You’ve been asked to improve customer service levels but without hiring more people.
- Your most valuable people spend too much of their time answering basic questions and not answering enough high-value, complex questions.


​In all these scenarios, chatbot software can help you.

A bot can help you scale your customer service without hiring more people, which adds to your fixed costs.
Use a chatbot to answer basic questions and act as a filter to help your top staff answer deeper, challenging questions.

You can be more responsive to your customers and help them stay with your business.

What impact could a chatbot have on my business?​

At this stage, you might wonder whether chatbot technology makes a difference to a company’s bottom line. Does it help increase sales or improve response rates?

According to Parmy Olson on Forbes.com in July 2018, chatbots make an important difference in the sales and conversion rates of some notable companies. One Swiss insurance company, Helvetia, says bots helped them convert more customers to buy policies.

Insurance, banking and healthcare companies use bots to lower the time to help customers with queries. And, they save money on each query compared to interactions with their staff.

chatbot business impact

​Could a chatbot convince customers to buy a pizza?

​You can use existing applications, like Facebook Messenger, and other ‘off-the-shelf’ chatbot software to help you create simpler bots for your business.

It’s easier than you think to add a simple chatbot to your website. And, it’s just as easy to use your existing social media accounts with a bot.

Let’s look at an example of how one high street name uses a bot through Facebook to sell their products. And, we’ll look at some alternative solutions.

Pizza Hut and Facebook chatbot software

Pizza Hut in Poland decided they wanted an easier way to serve young customers with pizza using Facebook Messenger.

To order a pizza, customers send a message to the Pizza Hut Facebook Messenger account.

They can glance through the choice of toppings and dough bases, which makes it like ordering from a menu in a restaurant. Customers can ask the bot questions, get answers, choose their pizza, and then pay.

Pizza Hut also set up a bot which customers can use through Twitter to order food.

You can view the Pizza Hut Facebook chatbot here (beware — it’s in Polish!).

pizza hut chatbot software

There are several Facebook chatbot software solutions. Here are some examples:

ManyChat
ManyChat is free, simple to set up and use. To use the automation tools, upgrade to the Pro version. ManyChat is confident that you can get a bot up and running in two minutes with no code.

ChatFuel
A free-to-set-up Facebook bot to use for sales, support or marketing. Use it to automate messages coming to your business before a human takes over to answer more complicated questions. To get the full chatbot features, you need to upgrade to the full version.

ItsAlive
ItsAlive helps you build Facebook bots for sales, customer service and marketing. It’s free to set up with upgrade levels depending on what you need. The company claims brands including Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Veolia use their chatbot software.

MobileMonkey
obIleMonkey uses AI to help provide users information. Free to start and build your first chatbot.

According to ChatFuel, companies using chatbots get better results from their digital marketing activities. Look at the increased open rates they claim are possible using messenger compared to email in the graphic below.

ChatFuel - chatbot click-through rates

ManyChat
ManyChat is free, simple to set up and use. To use the automation tools, upgrade to the Pro version. ManyChat is confident that you can get a bot up and running in two minutes with no code.

ChatFuel
A free-to-set-up Facebook bot to use for sales, support or marketing. Use it to automate messages coming to your business before a human takes over to answer more complicated questions. To get the full chatbot features, you need to upgrade to the full version.

ItsAlive
ItsAlive helps you build Facebook bots for sales, customer service and marketing. It’s free to set up with upgrade levels depending on what you need. The company claims brands including Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Veolia use their chatbot software.

MobileMonkey
obIleMonkey uses AI to help provide users information. Free to start and build your first chatbot.

ChatFuel - chatbot click-through rates

Chatbots are not all about text

​You’d think bots are all about text.

But, voice chatbots are common, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. Voice chatbots listen for keywords or process sound searching for phrases, and search the internet or an intranet seeking answers. Then they reply with the best answer to the person who asked the question.

Yet, these chatbots are for consumers.

What about voice chatbots for companies? Is there a Google chatbot?

Businesses want solutions created for companies. And it’s no different for voice chatbot solutions.

You’d expect Google to have a chatbot solution, right? The search giant has its consumer chatbot ‘Google Assistant’ which you can use on your smartphone or with a smart speaker.

Google Assistant uses natural language processing to help people get answers to their questions or command applications.

But for business, Google has ‘Contact Center AI’. It helps companies with call centres who need to provide customers with the option to chat or call your company.

When the customer calls in, the system routes them through to a ‘virtual agent’, a bot which listens to what they ask and then either finds what they want and fulfils it automatically. Or, if the bot can’t find what the customers want, it routes them to a person to help.

Watch the video about Google Contact Center AI below

Google Assistant Chatbot

Microsoft also has a chatbot platform, namely Azure Bot Service. Developers working in a Microsoft environment can create custom bots using their bot framework and ‘BotBuilder software development kits (SDK)’,

Amazon also has a chatbot for call centres, called Amazon Lex. Using their Alexa technology for consumers, Amazon created a business version that uses voice and text.

Watch the Amazon Lex video below.

What do I need to integrate chatbot software into my business?

To integrate chatbot software successfully into your company systems you need something else too — software developers.

To customise the software to your situation, you need developers to customise and integrate it into your systems.

Most of the prime providers will help you with an SDK to make the process easier for your developers. Plus, they provide documentation and training too.

software developer

​What about my own custom business chatbot?

Creating a custom chatbot is also possible. Again, you need developers to build them to your specification. Here are two examples of companies that provide products to create your own chatbot:

- Oracle’s Digital Assistant is a ‘platform as a service’ (PAAS) system that allows you to create custom chatbots for websites, messaging apps and voice.
- IBM’s Watson AI is another platform for creating customer service ‘virtual assistants or chatbots.

If the sound of the ‘big business’ chatbots is putting you off chatbot software, don’t worry. There are other ways to use chatbot software with applications you may already use.

If you’ve got a tight budget or no budget, what can you do? Read on!

​Is there such a thing as a chatbot builder?

“Is there a solution between ‘off the shelf’ chatbots and custom chatbots?”

If you need a custom solution which you can build with no coding skills, consider a ‘chatbot builder’ option.

A chatbot builder is useful if you don’t have any developers in your business. Or, if you don’t have the budget to create a more sophisticated, bespoke chatbot. You can create a bot using either pre-set templates or customise them to fit your business better.

MobileMonkey chatbot builder

Look at three examples below to see which might suit your business:

HubSpot
Hubspot is renowned for its inbound marketing systems and services. They’ve also created a chatbot builder, which helps users qualify sales leads, improve customer support and make supporting customers more scalable.

MobileMonkey
As mentioned earlier, is a chatbot builder platform aimed at helping businesses improve their mobile marketing through Facebook Messenger.

Snathcbot
Snatchbot is an intriguing platform that you can use across more social media platforms and web apps, other than Facebook.

Is there any open source chatbot software?

If you need to work with an open source chatbot platform, you’re in luck. Developers can create custom chatbots using specialised frameworks on the market.

Here are three examples of open source chatbot software platforms:

BotPress is a chatbot platform with a flow editor for creating ‘conversational flows’, 'natural language understanding' to recognise user intents and meanings, an SDK and APIs.

Rasa is a set of development tools to help software engineers contextual chatbots and assistants. Their users included banks, insurance firms, car makers and telecom firms.

Ana.Chat is a free, open source platform used by e-commerce, automotive and real estate businesses. Ana boasts a simulator so you can test your bots before you let them loose on your customers.

How do I make a chatbot for free?

Yes. There are several free chatbot software options on the market.

Many of them give a free ‘starter’ option and then an upgrade path depending on how much usage you need.

GoBot - GoBot is a free chatbot platform that helps sales teams qualify more leads. It helps you use a mix of live chat and AI bots.

Engati - Engati has a free chatbot option that you can integrate with many social media and web apps.

Snatchbot - Snatchbot is free. And you can build unlimited chatbots and take unlimited messages across platforms including Slack, Facebook Messenger and Skype.

HubSpot Chatbot Builder - HubSpot’s bot builder is free, although you need to use it with their free CRM system. Integrate it with your website and use it with Facebook and Instagram too.

free chatbot software

Which is the best chatbot?

It’s difficult to pick out the best chatbot software. Do you categorise them by numbers of users interacting with them? By how many times it’s installed on applications or websites?

An easier way to categorise them is by the number of visitors to their websites (from visitor data via similarweb.com). Here are the top 22 chatbot software solutions in descending visitor number order:

Hubspot Chatbot builder - A free keyword-based chatbot builder limited by having to use it with their free CRM

Google Contact Center AI - Use Google AI to create call centre solutions. It’s perfect for big businesses

ManyChat - A Facebook Messenger chatbot that’s free to start

Microsoft Azure Bot Service - Get started for free. Helpful for developers skilled in Microsoft technology already

TARS - Build landing pages that use chatbots instead of forms to help convert leads

Chatfuel - A ‘free to start’ Facebook Messenger chatbot platform for which you don’t need coding skills.

Drift bot - A marketing automation chatbot that you can integrate into many major web platforms and CRM systems.

MobileMonkey - A ‘free to start’ Facebook Messenger chatbot platform

Rasa - An open source platform so help you build AI chatbots

Collect.chat - A chatbot platform that’s easy to integrate into websites with HTML, a Wordpress plugin or links

Botsify - An AI chatbot system that integrates with Alexa, WordPress, Shopify and Zapier

FlowXO - An ‘easy to use’ chatbot system which requires no coding skills

Wit - Wit is a voice and text chatbot platform aimed at developers who need to create bespoke bots

Snatchbot - Snatchbot is a free AI that integrates with many platforms, including Slack, Skype and Messenger.

Engati - Engati is free and needs no coding skills, plus you can integrate it with many platforms

Botpress - An open source bot development platform designed for business

Pandorabots - A developer-friendly chatbot platform that uses open standards. Start for free

ServiceNow Now Platform - The ServiceNow Now Platform is a range of tools, including bots, to help businesses carry out digital transformation across their processes.

BotKit - Botkit is for developers who need to build bots for some major messaging platforms.

Gobot - GoBot is free at the moment and is a sales and marketing chatbot system

ItsAlive - A chatbot builder platform for Facebook Messenger

Chatteron - Chatteron claims you can build a bot in under 5 minutes. It includes machine learning

“I’ve heard about Drift Chatbot. What is it?”

Drift Chatbot is a popular sales and marketing bot used by small, medium and large businesses to help them qualify leads. 

Companies use it to help them book meetings, support demand generation campaigns, answer customer questions, and create conversational landing pages.

Customers use the Drift chatbot to integrate with applications including SalesForce, Marketo, HubSpot, Slack and LinkedIn.

Watch Drift’s video about their solution:

Drift Chabot

Chatbot Software and its future with you

When you started reading this article, chatbot software probably sounded alien to you. You’d heard about chatbots, but probably weren’t sure how they could benefit your business.

With so much choice available, it was difficult to know where to start.

Chatbot software can help you scale your customer service, product sales and marketing efforts without adding high fixed costs to your business.

Decide whether a simple keyword-based or a more sophisticated AI chatbot is what you need and look through some solutions above.

Use this guide as the starting point for saving your business money, helping more customers at scale and giving your business a new level of responsiveness.

chatbot software

Chatbot Software: The Ultimate Guide (with 22 examples)

This guide to chatbot software will help you understand what it is, how it can help your business and the types of chatbot software available on the market.

GUIDES

Will Hawkins

2020-03-24 13 min read