First-generation tech isn’t always as impressive as we expect it to be, but it can progress quickly. That is likely to be the case with the recently-released Facebook chatbots that users can access via Facebook Messenger. The chatting functionality was released in April 2016 and already boasts over 11,000 bots ready and willing to answer your questions, place your order or tell you about the weather. While creating a Facebook chatbot isn’t right for every business, if your customer service team gets the same question repeatedly, and you have a strong presence on the social media giant, it might be worth dipping a toe in the water.

Facebook Bot

What Is a Facebook Bot?

Quite simply, chatbots are pieces of software that can automate basic and repetitive tasks such as responding to requests about tomorrow’s high temperature or chance of rain. Users have a simulated conversation with the artificial intelligence (AI) agent, which often takes the shape of the user responding to a series of recommended options that the bot presents. However, text is not the only medium allowed by the bot — pictures and even emojis are fair game as a response.

Chat-based Sales Opportunities

Businesses are always on the lookout for ways to integrate shopping into the online user experience in more seamless ways. Chatting with a bot through Facebook Messenger — an app that many people will already have open — offers yet one more entry point for consumers to interact with their favorite brands. Chatbots can be pre-programmed to respond to simple queries such as ordering a cheeseburger or responding with details from your recent shipping receipt.

Bots v. Humans

Some of the most fluid chatting strategies will be a seamless blend of bot and human, a mix that will limit customer frustration and ultimately result in more sales. 1-800-FLOWERS.COM is employing this strategy, and while the platform is too new to fully declare it a “win,” they are seeing significant activity. Their “gift concierges” are able to actively answer questions and place orders right through the Facebook Messenger app.

Compelling Content Isn’t Enough

No matter how compelling the content is that your sales and marketing team create, customers will have little patience if they’re unable to have natural conversations with your chatbot. The technology is still a little early in its lifecycle, and can be challenging to interact with. Users are likely to find themselves rephrasing and repeating questions — looking for that magic nugget from the developer’s mind that will allow them to unlock the next step in the chatting process.

Dominating a Less-Crowded Space

Real opportunities exist for businesses to define what a stellar user experience looks like in the chatbot space, especially if they are smart about their public relations and marketing. With more than 1 billion messages sent between business pages and individuals, chatbots look to fill the gap left by humans with simple and automated responses. Early movers in the Messenger space have the opportunity to engage users deeply with a service that could be used on a daily basis — a compelling marketing strategy for sure.

The opportunities for brand interaction will only continue to grow as the technology progresses and the conversation level of the AIs becomes more intuitive and natural. Who knows; a time may come in the near future when chatting with a bot and chatting with a live customer service agent may be indistinguishable . . . but we’re not there yet.

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