Five open source platforms for chatbot development

3 robot-looking chatbots talk to a figure of a head on a mobile phone with 'HELLO' on the screen

Chatbots can store huge volumes of information and provide 24-hour support in a convincingly human style, so it’s no surprise that more and more businesses want one. The good news is, you don’t need technical expertise to create a bot capable of providing effective customer service. Many easy-to-use platforms enable businesses to create their own chatbot free of charge. So, whether you want your bot to answer customer queries, promote a new product or collect and analyze data, there’s a platform out there to help you do it. Many of them are remarkably user-friendly, too, so you can have a bot tailored to your business’s needs up and running in no time. Here are five open source platforms that you can use to develop a successful chatbot for your business.

  • PandoraBots. The Pandora Bots Playground is one of the world’s oldest and largest chatbot hosting services, with 285,000 bots created and more than 3 billion interactions so far. It enables businesses to create “AI-driven virtual agents” to hold human-like text or voice conversations with their customers. This popular platform is used for everything from advertising and virtual assistance to e-learning and entertainment. It was also used to create one of the most famous chatbots ever, A.L.I.C.E—or simply Alice—which was the inspiration for the award-winning film, Her, in which the protagonist falls in love with a chatbot. Pandora’s features include command-control for natural language directions such as “switch the lights off”, and customer service to reduce support queries, monitor forums and automate tasks with detailed knowledge of a business’s FAQs. Pandora has a sophisticated scripting engine that can be used to create interactive content for talking characters or brand ambassadors, and messaging applications which allow you to add a bot to your Slack channel or integrate with other services, such as Twitter, Facebook and Skype.
  • Botsify. Botsify uses a drag-and-drop template which allows businesses to create chatbots quickly and without technical expertise. Its intuitive interface has attracted more than 20,000 users, including Apple, Shazam, Travelex and Aljazeera. It offers a number of appealing features, such as seamless bot-to-human transitions, designed to make it as easy as possible to take control of a conversation a bot is having with a customer without disrupting the exchange—a function which could be particularly valuable to entrepreneurs who are concerned about losing leads. One of the main advantages of Botsify is undoubtedly its interface, which is straightforward to use but underscored by nuanced artificial intelligence, capable of recognizing a wide range of phrases in users’ queries. Botsify offers several plugins that allow you to easily integrate your chatbot into various platforms, including via RSS Feed and JSON API. Real-time updates and machine learning, where you gradually improve your bot and eliminate errors, also set this platform apart. The drag-and-drop template simplifies processes that would otherwise be too complicated for users without technical knowledge. Botsify’s conversational forms are designed to be easily customized, with multiple fields to collect information from customers, while data from forms can be collected via email or any JSON API endpoint.
  • Chatty people. Chattypeople offers ready-to-use chatbots that businesses can customize to meet their needs. Its templates are geared towards e-commerce, customer support, and food businesses. Focused on fulfilling the requirements of businesses that want to provide their customers with 24-hour support, Chattypeople supports OpenCard, Magento and WooCommerce. It works by guiding the user through the creation of a ‘decision tree’ of questions and answers, which is then used to create a unique chatbot. Users have a dashboard with regular updates on their bot’s performance and an emphasis on making sales, which has made it particularly appealing to businesses. Chattypeople is easy to use and quick to get up and running, only requiring users to input basic details and questions and answers, and choose various uncomplicated settings. It offers integration with Shopify, PayPal and Stripe API, and a basic FAQ section.
  • Telegram BotsTelegram is a free, cloud-based service, supported by Russian entrepreneur, Pavel Durov. Its wide-ranging HTTP-based bot-development interface makes it possible for businesses to quickly develop powerful chatbots which can be easily integrated with a range of services. Telegram’s platform aims to enable users to create bots that can “do anything—teach, play, search, broadcast, remind, connect, integrate with other services or even pass commands to the Internet of Things”. Telegram’s platform allows you to create custom keyboards for specialized tasks and controls your bot with a simple https API. Each bot has a link that starts a conversation when someone who clicks on it has Telegram installed. All forwarded messages include a link to their original sender, too; a forwarded message from your bot is like a retweet, which can be an effective way for businesses to create a buzz around their product.
  • ChatfuelChatfuel lets you create an effective chatbot for your business, even if you have no coding knowledge whatsoever. The San Francisco-based company was born in 2015, with the goal of making bot-building accessible to everyone, and now has more than 17 million users around the world. Chatfuel is focused on enabling businesses to create dynamic chatbots on Facebook Messenger, where its users include Forbes, British Airways, Adidas and a number of NFL and NBA teams. Technology news website TechCrunch used Chatfuel to create a bot that delivers news tailored to users’ interests, allowing followers to subscribe to different topics, authors or sections of the site. Chatfuel’s features include content cards, automated sharing with followers and information gathering in Messenger. Its artificial intelligence technology can be used to script interactive conversations and react effectively to clients’ queries.

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