Move over mobile apps, messenger bots are here to stay. The latest mobile tech trend is software that pretends to be a person you can message through your preferred instant messaging platform.
And businesses and brands are turning to Facebook Messenger bots in particular—attracted by Facebook’s enormous user base—to engage with and service their customers who use the platform.
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What are Facebook messenger bots?
A messenger bot is a piece of software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and converse with you. The more you chat with a bot, the more it will learn and the more useful it responses should get.
A bot is like an app, but the interface is a conversation rather than a menu. At least, that was the original intention when bots came onto the scene in 2016. Many bots today also use menus with preset phrases, such as “Tell me what’s new.”
Businesses in the travel, finance, media and entertainment, health, and retail sectors in particular have all found success with these pocket-sized personal assistants.
For example, you can open up Facebook Messenger at breakfast and ask your weather bot what Mother Nature has in store for you that day. Then you can ask your favorite newspaper bot for the latest sports or business headlines. Planning a trip? Message a travel bot for flights and hotel recommendations, to rent a car, and more.
Bots use AI technology to understand your question, find the right response, and deliver it in as conversational and “human” a way as possible.
Benefits of Facebook messenger bots for business
Bots represent the first large-scale appearance of AI technology in real life. Until then, AI was very much the realm of science fiction like 2001 a Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, and Westworld. There’s no doubt this gives bots that novelty factor that draws in many early adopters and generates publicity, which further increases adoption.
However, bots aren’t gimmicks—people genuinely find them useful. If you’re one of the 1.2 billion people who use Facebook messenger every month, it’s probably because it’s convenient and easy-to-use. And your Facebook friends use it.
Bots offer the same convenience and ease-of-use. Plus they let you perform tasks within Messenger that would otherwise require you to open an app, go online, or make a phone call. You can perform simple tasks like ordering a pizza or do something trickier like dispute a parking ticket.
Bots also deliver automated customer service in a more personal-feeling way. Type a simple “Hi” in the chat window, and most Facebook Messenger bots will respond immediately, answering questions conversationally and in real-time. It feels more like talking to a friend than a customer service agent.
From a business point of view, bots offer many benefits.
Not least is Facebook Messenger’s huge user-base. It makes sense to use a platform everyone is already using to enhance your customers’ user experience.
Customer service is a popular use of Facebook Messenger bots. It’s a way to help customers in a more personal way that incorporates your brand values and voice. It also helps you be seen as more available in the eyes of your customers.
For example, if you’re an insurance company you can enable customers to pull up policy information or even start a claim. Or a retailer can let people pull up their most recent orders, track a delivery, or find the return policy.
Businesses also use bots to help customers research their products, or to deliver content. For example, the Whole Foods bot focuses on helping people find recipes. Others provide specialized services and enable transactions.
Brands also use bots for awareness campaigns. For example, to promote their “Genius” series National Geographic used Facebook Messenger to allow people to chat to an Albert Einstein bot.
10 Facebook Messenger bot examples
Wondering how Facebook Messenger bots could fit into your Facebook marketing or customer service strategy? Here’s a roundup of brands that are good with bots.
Finding a hotel can be a chore, especially at short notice. SnapTravel asks for your destination, dates, and budget, and messages you some deals you can book on their website.
The company that made it easy to order flowers by phone now lets you do it through Facebook Messenger. You can select the occasion, choose your flowers, add a delivery address, and place the order. The bot also lets you connect with a live customer service agent.
If you’ve ever tried to get around London, you’ll appreciate this bot from the city’s transport organization. You can find out when the next bus arrives, check on London Tube disruptions, and generally try to navigate one of the world’s largest cities.
Real estate and bots are a good fit. Homebuyers often have a list of things they are looking for, and this bot lets you narrow down your options. The bot will also message you with new daily listings.
Send cash to friends or family around the world, the TransferWise bot is an instant messaging version of the app that does the same thing. Accountholders can quickly send money overseas by answering a very short series of questions in Messenger.
Indecisive movie-watchers rejoice (that’s all of us, right?)! The AndChill bot is a film buff in your Messenger contacts list. Tell the bot the type of movie you’d like to watch and it will send you a suggestion and link to the trailer.
This tech-savvy chatbot talks with you about the latest in the tech sector. To tailor your conversations, subscribe to specific topics or authors and the bot will send you news from TechCrunch about what interests you the most.
Forget long waits at the clinic. With HealthTap, medical advice is right at your fingertips. The bot offers a wide range of health and wellness advice, drawing on knowledge from a network of over 100,000 doctors.
The makeup company’s bot uses a quick quiz to deliver content and products tailored to individual tastes. These include how-to guides, lipstick colors, and contouring methods.
Another travel bot, Skyscanner helps you find the right flight at the right price, and connects you to where you can make a booking. You can set a home airport to make trip-planning quicker, and can even just type “anywhere” as the destination to get some ideas.
To check out these and other bots, just open Messenger and search for a brand name. The bot will take it from there. Remember the bots use AI, so the more you chat, the more they learn and the more useful their responses should get.
5 tips for using Facebook Messenger bots
Like any new-to-you marketing tactic, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the dos and don’ts before jumping in. Here are a few important things to consider:
- Have a strategy: Don’t just create a bot because other businesses have. Think about what your customers need and how they could benefit from one. Then design the bot around those specific needs.
- Consider the customer journey: Think about where your bot could fit in on your typical customer buying journey. Do you need a different bot for different buying stages? A bot doesn’t have to be a sale stool—it can help with customer service and research as well.
- Test what works: Be like a bot and learn from how your customers use it to provide a better experience. You should aim to constantly refine and improve the bot experience for your customers. For example you can test a conversation-focused interface against a more menu-driven interface.
- Perfect the bot voice: Bots are meant to be conversational, but the voice and tone still needs to fit with your overall brand voice. And think about “manner” as well as voice and tone. That just means using a slightly different tone of voice for different situations. For example, a reassuring tone for someone looking for the return policy. Or a helpful and encouraging tone for someone researching products.
- Write great scripts: Think about all of the possible questions a customer might ask and how they might ask them. Then create a variety of answers and interactions and test how they work. Use a tool like IBM’s Watson Tone Analyzer to check your tone of voice.
Tools for building Facebook Messenger bots
So, you’re intrigued enough to start thinking about creating a Facebook Messenger bot for your business? Here are some tools for building and managing a bots, including ones that don’t need any coding ability. Most of these tools have a free trial option.
Chatfuel lets you build a Facebook bot without needing to know how to code. You can easily add and edit content through a WYSIWYG interface. Chatfuel’s impressive client list includes Adidas, British Airways, MTV, and BuzzFeed.
OnSequel is another tool that lets you easily create a bot with no coding required. Create any type of bot, including a storybot, personalbot, gamebot, and more.
Botsify is another “no coding required” option. It’s also the only one from this list that appears to practice what they preach by welcoming you to the site with a customer service bot of their own.
Conversable is for when you are getting really serious about bots. With a client list that includes Whole Foods, Pizza Hut, and Marvel, it offers a full-featured enterprise solution, including analytics, training, and conversation flow modelling.
Facebook Messenger Platform
The Facebook Messenger platform itself also lets you develop your own bot. It’s a little more complicated than the above options, but is well worth checking out. It offers a huge range of resources and documentation for developers.
Some ecommerce platforms even let businesses integrate Facebook Messenger bot functionality. Shopify, for example, lets users connect with customers through Facebook Messenger.
As bot technology matures, new services will appear and others will drop away. You can keep up to date with bot developments through online resources like Chatbots Magazine.
This should be more than enough to get you started with creating your first bot. Happy chatting!
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