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Can a free chatbot development platform replace a team of experts?

“Let’s make a chatbot using a development platform! Why shouldn’t we use one of those services without coding? We can develop it on our own and save money.”

We can explain why.

There are simple reasons to choose custom development

  1. You will spend time understanding an interface of a platform, learning to work with it and developing your bot.
  2. As a rule, your chatbot will be “decorated” with the branding of the platform you use, and instead of one menu item your users will find an inscription “Powered by N”.
  3. If you use a cost-saving version, the technical support will be also very “democratic”. In general, you will be redirected to the forums and community to search solutions to your problems. You can get an answer to a question sent directly to platform representatives. However, prepare to wait for several days.
  4. The majority of platforms allow you to create a chatbot for Facebook Messenger, some of them will do for Telegram, and just a few offer building Slack bots. The key platforms cannot help if your audience is on Viber, Skype, WeChat, Line, Kik… The platforms are also useless if you want a cross-platform bot (that can work in several messengers).
  5. As a rule, you can’t use all existing chatbot interface features, platforms include only the key elements.
  6. The platforms for development without coding limit your chatbot functionality. You can’t do many useful and even necessary things there. Let’s put it all on the table: it is the main reason why you should abandon the platforms in favor of custom development.

Here are some examples of the difficulties with development platforms

  • You are building your chatbot and want to add a certain interface element (for instance, List Template). You can not find it among building blocks that a platform offers.
  • You need a certain feature. For example, you want your chatbot to be able to understand when a user types “I want to talk to a human!” or “Give me a human operator!” and to send a notification to an operator. Or you want to receive payments via your chatbot. You don’t know how to do it.

To begin with, you have to search for information about where required interface elements are or how to provide necessary features on forums, in FAQ section or in the Facebook group. It is not an easy task, especially if it should be done quickly. So, you are viewing the posts and thinking “Maybe, there is an answer to my question but I have not found it yet? Maybe, I should put it in other words?”
You write to the support and wait.
In a few days, you get a letter where they say that, to their regret, at the moment, this element or feature is not available on the platform.

There is another common situation. You make a little mistake while building your bot. For example, you forget to specify what block appears when a user presses some button somewhere in the chat flow. The chatbot won’t work because bots with such mistakes are not allowed by Facebook API. But you don’t know it yet. You just see that the bot doesn’t work and can not understand what’s the matter – it is your fault (but where? And you have to check all your chat flow to find it), or there are some temporary problems with the service, or something else is wrong.

Important things chatbots created on the platforms can’t do

Some platforms have quite a large set of features – usually, on the paid plans. But only custom chatbot can properly do several essential things.

  1. To be integrated
    with a CRM (the platforms store only data obtained from messaging apps)
    with a database (for instance, of an e-shop to avoid manually adding new items to the bot)
    with Google maps.
    And this is hardly a complete list of third services which can’t be integrated with a bot built on a platform. For example, most platforms don’t allow to make a bot which will receive payments.
  2. To understand free user input and recognize natural human language (there is an exception, it’s Dialogflow, but this platform has its drawbacks)
  3.  To generate documents from messages
  4. To escalate to the support team. Yes, they have live chat option on most platforms, but its abilities are usually strictly limited: you cannot redirect the question to a most qualified operator from the team, set up notifications about the chat status, pull the information about a customer from other sources.
  5.  And, surely, you can forget about machine learning.

Managing your chatbot

One more disadvantage of the platforms is that each of them has a unified standard admin panel designed according to its creator’s understanding of functionality.
When you order a custom chatbot for your company, you fully define the appearance and convenience of the admin panel and it is developed according to your needs. All the modules, their arrangement, and availability to moderators depend only on you. Also, development platforms are in English only and, with a custom chatbot admin panel, you can choose a language or make it multilingual.
Consider that a person who will manage your bot will probably work with the panel many hours a day. An inconvenient panel cluttered with unnecessary functionality will complicate operations.
For example, after you have created your bot, in most cases, you don’t need a bot constructor and dialogue editor but this module is the main unit in platform interfaces.

So what is the advantage of building a chatbot on a development platform?

Obviously, it is saving. Temporary one. The platforms offer free plans only with limitations on subscribers number, messages, and abilities. As your chatbot grows you will need to upgrade the plan and pay for using the platform. Afterwards, in a few months, you will spend on the subscription to the service the same amount you could pay to develop a custom bot from the scratch.


Build a chatbot on a development platform. Evaluate the advantages even the simple bot provides. See the benefits and the efficiency of the technology. And then develop a full-fledged custom bot with a team of experts.

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