Facebook Messenger Bots: A business outlook
I vividly remember the day when Facebook announced the switch from Facebook Inbox to Facebook Messenger, I laughed, I was wrong.
Back then I used MSN Messenger every day, there was no way Facebook would replace MSN Messenger with all of its amazing features with this dull web based chat interface. Fast forward to today, MSN is dead, Facebook Messenger is thriving and well.
So what happened here?
Facebook was already connecting people on its platform, people were already using Facebook Inbox as a chat platform, it was just not ready for primetime yet. Facebook took this opportunity to develop its messenger product to leverage this connection and keep everyone on the same platform, which made sense.
Facebook Voice & Video Calls
Facebook introduced Free VOIP calls, which I think is one of the core features that messenger has, connecting people even more. If you have everything on the same platform, why would you switch to a different app?
Facebook Instant Apps & Games
In 2015, Facebook released in-messenger HTML5 Apps and games, in an attempt to guide software developers to create apps within Messenger, since Messenger was one of the most used apps on the App Stores, might a well turn it into a platform, right?
The problem with this approach -I believe- was the introduction of the feature, people were confused if this was a real app/game or was it just a web app within Messenger. It didn't do so well as Software Developers as well were confused, HTML5 didn't offer the full features they needed to make a fully fledged app, and they would rather be in control of their app anyway. The platform was fun for quick small easy games, but not for fully fledged apps.
Facebook Messenger bots
Facebook released the Messenger Bot platform in 2016. The concept behind bots is simple yet very powerful,
People are using messenger every day to interact with their family and friends. They also contact business pages for their business queries.
The problem was that these business chat pages are not online 24/7 and some of them cannot handle the vast amount of requests they receive. The good news is that most of these operations can be automated, ex: ordering a pizza or a cab.
What do businesses use Messenger for today?
- Raise awareness for brands
- Acquire new customers
- Enable transactions
- Customer support
- Interact with customers, collect feedback
Enter: The Facebook Messenger Bot
The Messenger bot -in theory- would be able to handle all customer queries with 100% accuracy, while being friendly, just like a customer service rep would.
But that's not the case, yet.
Most businesses have jumped into the bot craze too soon, without having a proper robust infrastructure that would handle user requests, leaving the user confused with a pretty useless bot, that just links them to the business website or plainly states that this bot isn't in service any longer.
Some businesses have transformed their website experience into a bot experience:
Which allows the user to browse products within the Facebook Messenger app (using images and carousels), but that's still not a genuine bot experience.
This doesn't only affect the business perception in the user's mind but also the Bot Platform itself. Users have become confused about what the bot platform reason to exist is. Is it just a new interface for the brand website? Is it an automated bot with pre-computed replies?
People want a genuine experience that would solve their problem and return their queries in an easy, precise manner with no auto replies.
Imagine the 100% success use case, the bot is extremely smart (human-smart) and can respond to your queries in no time, this would potentially replace Customer-Service. Use cases for this would be:
✅ Ordering a pizza
✅ Ordering a cab (Uber/Lyft)
✅ Organising a trip
And a lot more, but what's still missing is the human factor, and this is prevalent in human-centric requirements, for example:
🔴 Fashion advice: While image recognition and AI are in a pretty advanced state. We are still not there yet, the human factor is missing.
🔴 Real customer service for a complex problem: Imagine you have a double-booking charged to your card, or you ordered something on Amazon by accident, try explaining that to a bot today.
🔴 Tech Purchase Advice: Imagine you're in the market for a new laptop and you need to speak with a 'Tech Guru' that will walk you through the features and match them with your needs.
I believe Facebook is on the right track with the bot platform, however they need to enhance it even more and help confused developers/brands to connect more with users, not just being there for the platform sake, or we will have a really early bot-fatigue.