At the recent F8 Conference, Facebook announced they are giving brands the ability to build messenger bots within the Messenger platform. A small part of the internet freaked out and the rest of the world ignored it and went on with their day. Well, I am telling everyone to pay attention, because bots will be game changers.
OK, but what is a bot?
Bots are pre-programmed digital interactions users can have with a business; an interaction that to the user appears to be with another human, but in reality they are having a conversation with a machine. There is a small level of Artificial Intelligence (AI) involved with bots, as they do have the ability to learn user behavior over time based on interactions to better anticipate needs.
If you have a smartphone you probably became aware of bots when Apple introduced Siri in 2011, but this next generation of bots is far more advanced and customizable than Siri.
Got it, but how will bots change my user experience?
Imagine arriving at a football game and having your hot dogs and beverages ordered and paid for through a text. Or being able to get on Messenger and complete tasks such as purchasing a new shirt, finding the delivery status of a gift you sent to a friend, making a dinner reservation, getting directions, sending a friend money, booking a flight or making a haircut appointment. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg of what bots could offer.
According to a 2015 report, since 2008 people are spending more time on their phone every year than the previous year. While they are spending a lot more time on their phones, 85 percent of their time is spent using only five apps, meaning it is more important than ever that brands are meeting their customers where they already are. A large amount of customers make up Messenger’s 900 million active users. That means there are potentially millions of queries happening on a regular basis to allow the bots to learn and customize needs all the way down to specific industries.
These types of interactions are what Facebook is aiming to solve. They are looking to help brands mimic the interaction of a real person while completing all of the tasks the customer needs.
So what does this mean for brands?
While some brands have been experimenting with using more automated systems – automated phone responses or a mix of bots and humans, like Living Actor – for baseline inquiries, Messenger opens faster customer service to a much larger pool of brands through bots.
Facebook is not simply opening the source code for businesses and letting them develop their own bots. They are providing brands with developers and bots that are already built to successfully handle basic customer service. This means Messenger bots are not just for the Fortune 500, but even your local pizza shop.
Brands can save money by eliminating outsourced customer service by using bots to handle their baseline customer service queries so the community manager can focus on bigger picture items. CNN and 1-800-Flowers are two of the brands already utilizing Messenger bots, and that list will continue to grow.
Bots will only grow in popularity as consumers begin to care more about how quickly and accurately they can get their problem solved, and bots will be a cheaper customer service alternative for businesses.