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Conversational AI Technology: Build or Buy? A Comprehensive Guide for Businesses

Exploring the pros and cons of building and buying Conversational AI software to make the right decision for your business

As customer preferences and expectations continue to shift towards digital self-service, Conversational AI has become an increasingly popular way for companies to deliver on these expectations. Organizations of all sizes often struggle to find the right Conversational AI technology to support their business needs. Often the first decision to make is whether to build a solution in-house or buy it from a vendor.

Building a Conversational AI tool in-house

Companies that choose to build Conversational AI technology and offshoots in-house are able to get close to total control over the technology. Simply because they’re building from scratch, every decision that they make is highly personalized and specific to their business. They must choose everything from the language model and features to the integrations and form factors that they want to use and support – and then they need to build it. The timeframes for these builds can often range from months to years.

Like any technology build, it will require ongoing support and prioritization of everything from bug fixes to new feature launches. Improvements that are not viewed as critical enough to warrant developer attention may not be prioritized, and innovation may stall. 

On the user side, expectations are currently being set across all industries by experiences powered by Generative AI, which is growing and changing at a rapid pace. Keeping up with those expectations will require that the internal team have access to large amounts of data, and the ability to continuously invest in R&D to avoid obsolescence.

When in-house teams include highly skilled engineers and data scientists, user experience, and product experts, they’re able to build incredible experiences for their customers. Realistically, many companies struggle to justify the level of financial commitment required to staff the teams that would build, test, and maintain it in-house.

Buying a Conversational AI tool from a vendor

For companies that choose to buy Conversational AI technology, what they give up in control they gain in lower costs and faster speed to market. While every aspect of the vendor’s technology won’t be built to their exact specifications, many industry and use-case specific offerings exist that make it possible for companies to minimize the number of compromises that they have to make. 

Vendors that specialize in Conversational AI typically have years of experience and know what mistakes to avoid and how to avoid them. They can be strong guides and offer up best practices that come from in-market experiences. 

Unlike an in-house build, the people behind the vendor technology are focused exclusively on building and innovating Conversational AI technology. Put simply, it’s a different financial conversation for them. Because this is their core business, they are incentivized to stay up to date on things like Generative AI, fixing bugs, and adding new features. They’re then often able to roll out updates and advanced features for pennies on the dollar because the scale of their customer base offsets costs at the individual level

Many vendors offer packages that include personalized support, and there’s often a focus on user-friendliness that makes it easier for the end-user at the client company to manage. When evaluating vendors, it’s critically important to prioritize desired features to make a selection that is flexible enough to meet current and projected needs.

Deciding whether to build or buy Conversational AI

An easy way to determine if it makes sense for your company to invest in building from scratch versus buying a pre-engineered product is to ask yourself this:

Is Conversational AI a core competency for our company?

If the answer is no, there’s a strong likelihood that there are vendors available whose products can meet your business needs at a price that makes sense.

Contact us to discuss how we can help any size business launch AI-powered search and chat solutions that answer customers’ questions, build trust and capture leads.

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