Chatbots

Crafting RFP Questions for Your Chatbot Project: Here’s a Helpful RFP Template

By 4 Minute Read

What questions do you need to consider when putting together a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new and emerging technology solution such as chatbots? Our RFP template will guide you.

The more comprehensive your RFP template is, the better your chances are of procuring the right vendor and technology solution to meet your business’s chatbot needs. As we see an increasing number of organizations issuing RFPs for chatbot or natural language solutions, it struck us that it would be helpful to provide an RFP template that guides the crafting and structure of the questions you need vendors to respond to. 

Check our our RFP Template Preview to get a flavor of what we mean.

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Each company has a unique set of business objectives, use cases, and circumstances that drive their needs and criteria for building bot solutions.  And since this is a relatively new market, with a range of different vendor solutions and skills, it’s worth the time to craft a thorough RFP questionnaire that covers multiple aspects of your chatbot projects.

From Chatbot Strategy to Chatbot Requirements

Investing in new and emerging technology can be daunting but the benefits can outweigh the fear. On the other hand, FOMO can exist around new tech, driving companies to take a rushed and shotgun approach to their implementations. So if you don’t want to miss out on the benefits of implementing bots or if you’re afraid to take the lead on a bot project for your business, the best place to start is with strategy. This will help mitigate the fear around adoption and helps you think beyond a chatbot being just a conversational interface to your customer or employee. In an earlier blogpost I highlighted some key considerations for chatbot strategy which may be useful to review.

As businesses start to adopt new technologies they usually start small and then begin to scale their projects, either across departments, use cases, customer bases, regions, or features. The approach to AI-powered bot projects is no different. Many companies started their foray into conversational AI with low risk, simple chatbots, for example a FAQ bot or a Password Reset Bot. From their experience with prototypes or these early implementations, they explore the broader potential and use cases for the technology. Word spreads. Leaders buy in to it and strategy and business cases emerge. 

But as bot projects are prioritized, businesses need to clearly articulate their needs in order to find the right solution provider. Sometimes this is in the form of an RFI (request for information) or RFP (request for proposal) document but it can also be formulated as a set of requirements to a preferred vendor. Whatever means or format a business uses, a well-structured, comprehensive questionnaire template will help save time and money, limit risk and unforeseen issues, and generate successful end results.

Considerations for Enterprise Chatbot Solutions 

Chatbots or natural language solutions offer a convenient and cost-effective means to engage with customers and/or employees via chat across multiple digital channels. They are more than just a means of answering simple customer service queries or FAQs. They have the power to transform complete customer or employee journeys, upping the ante on self-service and experience and driving attractive business outcomes.

But like many enterprise software solutions, bot creation and deployment is multi-faceted. Bots often will need to integrate with your systems or enterprise data. They may need to handle sentiment or multiple languages or sensitive personal data. Consider the different channels through which they will need to engage and how you can create consistent brand experiences. And with any enterprise, security and governance will keep your IT and Security staff on high alert. 

There are different approaches to take when deciding to build and deploy bots for an enterprise. You can build highly customized bots from scratch using either your own development team and data scientists or those of a services provider. This can often be a lengthy and costly approach as everything has to be conceived and developed for the specific use case. We’ve seen some of these bot deployments that have taken the guts of a year to build at a cost of several millions of dollars. The downside is that these solutions are often harder to maintain or adapt. They are heavily reliant on the vendor or the individual developers that built them so there is a degree of lock-in that reduces their flexibility to adapt to business or technology changes.

Another approach is to avail of off-the-shelf developer tooling to build a chatbot that satisfies a particular use case. This can be a faster approach but the limitations of many off-the-shelf tools often emerge, requiring a lot of additional customized coding or data science skills. However, for basic bot solutions this approach can be fruitful. 

A third approach is to consider a platform approach to building bots. A conversational AI platform is especially attractive for organizations that are thinking of extending bots across their business. Tools, blueprints, APIs/integrations, security, analytics, and other core enterprise services can all be centralized in a platform and made accessible for all bot building projects. Different roles in the business can also collaborate better using a platform. For example, the business teams can be self-sufficient in creating their bot projects while security and IT teams can have more control over integrations, security, and deployment without hampering the business getting to market with their bots. This approach is also attractive for businesses that focus on creating consistent brand experiences across different customer engagements and journeys. Different departments can launch their own bots in order to achieve their specific business goals while centralizing brand identity and maintaining a consistent experience to the customer. And finally, a platform approach is considerably more efficient and cost-effective in getting more bots to market faster and availing of shared services and resources of the platform. 

Crafting the RFP Template and Questions

Each company or business department will have different use cases or criteria for their chatbot solutions so the set of requirements can vary considerably form one RFP to the next. However, in creating our full template of RFP questions we came up with 10 categories of requirements that pretty much apply across any chatbot implementation. these are:

  1. The Bot Use Case Description(s)
  2.  Conversational Capabilities
  3. The Chatbot Development Toolkit
  4. Bot Styling or Design Features
  5. Integration to Data and Systems
  6. Artificial Intelligence and Automation 
  7. Security and Availability
  8. Architecture and Hosting
  9. Analytics and Metrics

Download the RFP Template

Our full template offers multiple questions in each of the above categories that may spark some thoughts for you as you set about writing your own RFP document. Here’s a mini-version of our RFP template for you to download.

It gives you an idea of some of the leading questions and if you find this useful you can contact us and we will share our extended version of an RFP template.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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