You’ve heard about bad bots and the havoc they wreak for website owners, but the Facebook chat bots just launched for its Messenger app are the good kind.
Facebook is opening up its Messenger platform in beta to allow chat bots into the application. These bots will let businesses deliver more services for their customers through the developer and business ecosystem of Facebook. This move is one way for the social media giant to integrate more functionalities into its Messenger platform, while at the same time keeping up with chat competitors that have already deployed their own bots.
Facebook Chat Bots Deliver
As reported by TechCrunch before it even was announced by Facebook at F8, the company had been working with chat bot developers for Messenger as early as January of 2016 or even earlier. The accessibility the bots will provide is going to let your company interact with an AI-powered rep from a business within the ecosystem of the biggest social network in the world.
If Facebook has its way, every business will be using Messenger to automate their customer service instead of 800-numbers and the dated menu system of this technology. A well designed bot can deliver more options than 800-numbers while providing services that are key in today’s digital ecosystem, such as sending links, showing products with images and descriptions along with additional services and features.
With more than 50 million businesses using Messenger for communication, there is already a large user base that will be able to easily integrate the new features to enhance the way they make themselves accessible. The Facebook chat bots can automate weather and traffic updates, customize communications for shipping notifications and receipts, as well as deliver live automated messages by interacting directly with users that want the information.
A new search bar will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and natural language processing combined with human help to let you talk to Messenger bots so you can connect with companies that already have bots. This means 800-numbers could be replaced with chat bots in the near future, as this technology delivers customer service experience that is dictated by the user without having to wait for live agents or going through IVR menu trees.
The bots can also improve the sales process or the way you look for information by answering your criteria for a particular product or service on a website instead of searching for it yourself. So next time you visit a news site, only the news with the criteria you have specified will pop up. These features will be achieved through the Messenger Send / Receive API, which will support sending and receiving text, images and interactive rich bubbles containing multiple calls-to-action (CTA).
The three main features of the bots for Messenger as posted by Facebook are:
- Send/Receive API – A new capability to send and receive text, images, and rich bubbles with CTAs.
- Generic Message Templates – These are built by Facebook with structured messages with call to actions, horizontal scroll, URLs, and postbacks, thus eliminating the need to learn a new programming language to interact with your bot.
- Welcome screen + Null state CTAs – Is designed to feel like an app with the real estate and the tools to customize your experience as a developer. With these tools, users are able to discover featured bots and enter into conversation with your brand, your Messenger greeting, and a call to action to “Get Started”.
Eventually Facebook will monetize these features, and one of the ways it will do so is with “Sponsored Message.” In an interview on TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of product for Messenger David Marcus told Josh Constine, the company will be judicious in how the ads are delivered to its users. “These will definitely be limited…we’re very paranoid about that and we don’t want bad things to happen to anyone.”
Facebook will send the Sponsored Messages ads to users that have initiated a conversation with a business. Conversely advertisers can purchase “Click To Message” news feed ads when a conversation with their bot has begun. According to the company, the bots can recommend purchases to recoup ad dollars.
What makes the Facebook chat bot a very desirable tool is the reach Messenger has with its 900 million plus users. With an ecosystem that has been optimized for developers and a proven advertising platform, it could prove to be one of the best options for businesses to interact with their customers without the high cost of call center agents.
Bot development tools will eventually dominate the way we communicate in the digital world by removing the complex barriers of programming. Facebook’s foray into this segment with Messenger is just the beginning. So if you want to experience what the future will bring, dive in and see what these bots can do for your small business. And if you develop an innovative way to connect with your customers, please let us know.