At their recent F8 conference, Facebook announced the development of their new platform, “Bots for Messenger.” As a brand, you now have the option to build your own “smart messaging” tools – chat bots that can respond faster to the most common questions your business receives. Through the Messenger Send/Receive API, bots are able to communication using text, images, buttons, bubbles, and calls to action, all adding to the customer experience and ensuring that the customer needs are met and even anticipated. For example, a bot might recommend a product based on previous purchases, or message you six months after your last dental appointment to remind you to book a quick check up.
Curiosity hit, so naturally we tested out two of the bots currently available in Denmark – Poncho the weather cat, a Facebook Messenger bot that delivers the weather forecast in a humorous way, and Sure, a bot for finding restaurants in Denmark. While thrilling at first, the AI bots soon proved to fall short if taken outside of usual standard questions. As COO Sheryl Sandberg mentioned, the bots are still very early stage – questions need to be phrased clearly and need to match predefined settings, or the program will struggle to reply.
One of the more successful Facebook Messenger bots out there is the one implemented by KLM, where travellers can get their booking confirmation, flight status, and tickets on Messenger, making the experience less stressful than having to print and keep track of a boarding pass.
Where is Messenger now?
According to Facebook’s official announcement, over 900 million people around the world communicate with friends, families, and over 50 million businesses on Messenger every month. It’s the second most popular app on iOS, was the fastest growing app in the US in 2015, and logs over one billion messages between people and businesses every month. Why? It’s easy and accessible. We already spend so much time on social – why not reach out to brands on social as well?
Some companies still prefer contact by email or phone, however they are missing out on the opportunity to connect with customers, save money by enhancing customer experience and loyalty, and streamline their customer service. Messenger has the ability to cut the waiting time, and turn the conversation more informal, allowing users to message businesses like they message their friends.
The importance of one-to-one interactions
In our daily lives, we interact with businesses in different ways: through online transactions (shopping, bookings), through searches relevant for the micro-moment we are in, or, in some cases, as dissatisfied customers. Bots, as fun as they might be as an experiment, can quickly become a barrier between brands and users, and can turn small issues into a full-fledged crisis by their inability to handle more complex or personalized queries. Imagine you just received your bridesmaid dress in the wrong color and the wedding is only days away. In your state of urgency, all you want to do is figure out if the company can help you with your situation, not be welcomed by a bot that can’t understand needs beyond its scope of predefined questions. Sometimes, you just need to talk to a human.
Customer care teams will continue to be a crucial part of any social strategy, at least for some years to come. People connect with people – bots, while useful for handling the bulk of standard questions, will not replace the added value a user gets when talking to a representative of the company. People can make sense of a bigger picture and come up with more relevant and appropriate solutions.
Bots add to the customer experience, however, it’s still the people behind the brand that create the experience and can elevate it to new heights. Where bots’ usefulness comes in, at least for these early days, is in the ability to offer much cheaper support at scale, freeing up your support team to handle the complex queries faster. The anticipated result is reduced response time and overall increased customer satisfaction.
Engaging your customers where it makes sense
With Falcon’s Engage module, brands are able to keep an eye on what is happening on their social channels and intervene at the right time. Engage gives brands the ability to answer private messages on Facebook straight from the platform, allowing your customer care team to jump into any conversations that require their input.
In addition, through our unified customer experience platform, brands can connect all the touchpoint customers have had with their social profiles, together with other relevant mentions of products or industry, and form a complete profile card. Customer care teams and community managers will have the ability to react in more precise ways, that can better match the moment the user is in. Let’s say John DMs you with a complaint about your product, in an angry tone. With Falcon’s Audience info, you would be able to see that, even though he is angry now, he has been writing positive reviews about your product before, and even recommended it to some of his friends. This information can help shape the conversation, turning critics into fans, and fans into advocates.
Over time, bots will become increasingly intuitive, as they gather more data and new development options become available. However, the timeline of their evolution, and their capabilities, is still very much limited, meaning customer service representatives will not become obsolete any time soon. What we’re seeing is the optimization of the process of using Messenger for customer care. These added features help companies prepare for the transfer of more and more inquiries over to social, while keeping answer times quick, as users demand for this environment. The question is – is your brand prepared to face this imminent change?