Sometimes it can be pretty hard to tell whether or not there’s a human on the other side of your conversation. Did you ever think that would happen one day? You probably know what it feels like to try to dodge the calls from a telemarketer at home, but did you ever imagine wanting a representative to reach out to you on your mobile device? Probably not, but today, companies are reaching out to customers and users via Facebook Messenger with social media tools like friendly chat bots.

Facebook Messenger has come a long way since the platform first implemented the chat function in 2008. Today, Facebook Messenger is a standalone app that is capable of so much more than just sending text messages to friends and family. Users can take photos and videos and add effects like filters, stickers, and animations. Clicking on the games tab opens up Words With Friends, 8 Ball Pool, Solitaire, and other in-app games to play with each other. To find and chat with bots, users can hit the Discovery tab.

Photo Credit: https://static.pexels.com/photos/190362/pexels-photo-190362.jpeg

What is a Bot?

A bot is a computer program that acts like artificial intelligence to interpret a text message and respond with helpful information. You’ll find that most of the time you can tell you are chatting with a bot and not a human on the other end. But the technology is constantly improving and some bots improve the more you talk to them.

When you don’t have the manpower or a large enough staff to answer every customer service question that comes your way, then it may be time to use some bots. Customers with simple questions and issues can be helped by a bot. It’s a win-win-situation when your customers are getting helped quickly and you can continue working on complicated tasks.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised considering that consumers are becoming less comfortable with receiving assistance on the phone and prefer to get customer service through a chat client or through their email. People have a variety of devices at their fingertips, like smart phones, smart TVs, tablets, kindles, and small laptops, from which they can reach out for help.

In fact, many people are now accustomed to having a virtual personal assistant. For example, Amazon’s line of Echo devices employ the use of Alexa. Users ask Alexa to complete simple tasks like turning on music, reporting the weather, and turning lights on and off. Amazon now offers Amazon Lex to make Alexa technology available to engineers.

What Do Bots Look Like?

Similar to Alexa, bots on Facebook Messenger assist users with questions, troubleshooting, customer service, and obtaining information. Companies are responsible for developing their own bots and Facebook decides which bots are acceptable to use on their platform.

Below are some examples of chats with Facebook bots from big brand names.

Kohl’s (Department Store)

Note how the content from the bot is frank about its lack of humanity and ability. Being up front about this in a friendly manner is crucial for setting the right expectations for consumers communicating with bots.

Finding a store through Facebook Messenger is convenient and more interactive than trying to search for a nearby store through a corporate webpage.

Samsung Electronics

Again, the text sets the right expectations for using the bot. It can help customers, but admittedly, the type of assistance it can provide is limited. The drop down menu at the bottom gives users some options. Clicking on an option sends a canned response to the bot.

Here, we asked the Samsung bot a question (without using one of the canned options). The bot was able to forward information on current promotions.

Huffington Post (News Website)

The HuffPost bot asks users if they’d like to subscribe to receiving content from the website on a daily basis. As users share their thoughts on the content with the bot, the bot will proceed to customize the content being received. The bot drives traffic to HuffPost while also providing useful, targeted content to Facebook users.

Photo Credit: https://www.stuzo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Facebook-Messenger-Customer-Service.png

The screenshot above from Facebook illustrates how the Internet service provider Xfinity offers speed tests through its Facebook bot. Receiving timely messages from a bot feels more personal than waiting on the phone or sifting through a FAQ section of a website.

The examples above illustrate how bots help customers solve problems and find information. Other types of content sent by bots include sponsored messages, direct marketing, and advertising. You may have noticed that some messages from bots are tripped when you like a Facebook page for the first time. The bot may reach out to encourage users to visit the company’s website, place an order, or contact staff.

Other times a bot may send out information on a promotion or deal. The bot can assist customers with initiating the sales process, but keep in mind that to close a sale, a salesperson or a company representative may need to follow-up with the purchaser.

Depending on the business, the bot functionality differs. Facebook users can communicate with bots to make reservations at a new restaurant, order takeout for dinner, send money to a friend, and create a reservation at a hotel.

Users are in control of communication with bots and they can choose to mute messages or stop receiving messages from specific bots. Companies wishing to run bots need to have their own bots developed, and only bots reviewed and approved by Facebook will be implemented.

Tips for Using Bots

  • Just be sure to make a bot believable. If someone feels like they’re talking to a robot, they may not find the help appealing.
  • Don’t spam people or overwhelm them with too messages that are sent too frequently. You may turn them off, and they’ll decide to mute your messages.
  • Make your customer service more efficient, faster, and better by dedicating human customer service agents to complex issues and using bots to respond to simple requests.
  • You don’t want people to think that the bot is there, so that they can’t get ahold of you or that you don’t want to deal with them.
  • Research your competition to see what other companies in your area are doing with social media bots. What can you offer that will be helpful for both you and your customers?
  • Don’t try to trick people into thinking your bot is a real person. Bots aren’t perfect, and people quickly realize that they’re talking to a computer program. Try to find the right balance between making your bot sound friendly and being clear that there is not a person on the other end of the conversation.

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