If you are looking to buy chatbots then don’t do an RFP. Instead do proof of concepts with 2-3 vendors.
This has been the main learning from the recent Forrester report “The Forrester New Wave™: Conversational AI For Customer Service, Q2 2019” and based on our experience I wholly agree with this finding (you can see the Forrester summary video from this link here).
Chatbots (or virtual assistants) have become more established over the past year and their value becomes increasingly proven in the realm of contact centers and sales. As more companies are looking into the space they want to select the most suitable vendor. So what companies do is they issue Requests For Proposal (RFPs) to select the right vendor. However, these tenders don’t work really well. There are two reasons for that.
First, the challenge is that all vendors look the same from outside – all use machine learning, all claim to work well. So on paper, there is no way of really knowing who is good (who has a good product, has great support and is flexible in delivery) and who is average.
The second reason is that conversational AI and chatbots are not traditional packaged enterprise software products. Each chatbot is to an extent custom made for the customer as no two customer are 100% the same. So with these two aspects in play, the companies issue an RFP, select a vendor and only later discover that the features they actually need are not there or that the vendor is not specialized on delivering those.
The solution is pretty simple. Instead of spending your team’s time for 3-4 months on an RFP process – putting together specs, assessing vendors – do proof of concepts. Select 2-3 vendors and give them a limited scope for a chatbot with the must-have requirements you need. Have them do a 1 month long simple PoC. From there you get a clear understanding how easy it is to use the vendor’s product, how flexible it is and whether there are features in the product that you actually require. You also learn during the process what you really need and have a practical understanding how the vendor’s product fits your needs.
TO SUMMARIZE – because chatbots in the enterprise world are not simply out-of-the-box solutions, do quick PoCs and you’ll find the vendor you need in the most efficient way.