The 2 Actual Benefits of Messenger Bots

(French version here : https://medium.com/@patriceb/les-2-vrais-b%C3%A9n%C3%A9fices-dun-bot-messenger-f3292f3d1a99#.d41dl594y)

Messenger Bots will kill mobile apps. — many people, April 2016
Messenger Bots will take the job of customer service agents. — many people, April 2016
Messenger Bots are a disappointment. They didn’t even kill mobile apps or take customer service agents jobs yet. — same people, June 2016

Let’s not rush into predicting the death of a still healthy digital format, or the obliteration of a job category, and take a calm look at what makes Messenge bots so important, so different, so special.

The first benefit of a Bot Messenger is also a huge competitive advantage…

About 1 billion cross-platform identified users

A massive share of the billion active Messenger users have registered their Facebook ids into their smartphone. Most of them are also users of Facebook.com website, which means that a Facebook session is opened during the larger part of their desktop browsing.

And here is the missing link between platforms, introduced by Facebook in April 2016 to allow developers to also take advantage of this cross-platform users knowledge:

Don’t click. These are images, not buttons

This button allows visitors of your website, wether on desktop, mobile or tablet, to become Messenger correspondants of your bot. In a simple click, they not only give your bot permission to send them messages through Messenger, they also send context information. This information can be generic (location of the button that was clicked on), and specific (customer id of the identified visitor that clicked on the button).

Each following interaction benefits from the cross-platform data history and identification made possible by Messenger:

  • Relevant notification sent by your bot are distributed on every platforms of the user. Even Windows Phone and Apple Watch. Oculus most likely coming soon!
  • When the user contacts you back, whatever the platform he decides to use, he follows up on an ongoing conversation where he is identified and where he can retrieve every previous messages
  • If he clicks on another of your “Send to Messenger” buttons, it will only add new data to this ongoing conversation

Messenger Bots frictionlessly solve for users and developers the majors issues of cross-platform identification and notification.

Just that is already a big deal. But between clicks on “Send to Messenger” and notifications sendings, do I need to code my own Siri to understand what users are saying ? Or should I dedicate an around the clock team to answer to EVERY messages immediately ?

This bot understands nothing.

No. The era of artificial intelligence capable of handling a relevant conversation and resolving specific questions of your users and customers better than humans may come some day, but not tonight. When this era comes, it will probably be through AI platforms made available by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and/or a startup that will have discovered an original solution to this riddle and managed not to be bought by one of the previously listed companies.

Waiting is the right move, or you will regret investing so much on your own when these platforms will become available (except if you have this original solution. In that cas, run fot it!).

But Messenger offers a solution that is not insufficient nor inadequate, and actually constitutes its second true benefit…

Interfaces in the conversation instead of conversation as the interface

Messenger Bots aim for simpler and more fluid user experiences. Facebook is well aware that expecting the users to try and understand what they can get from a bot by asking random questions or reading an instruction manual is not the right solution in the current state of technology.

Guiding Interfaces

As soon as the Bots Messenger platform was launched, in April 2016, actions buttons (multiple choices under a message) were introduced.

Shortly followed by quick answers, multiple choices in greater number displayed as buttons right over de text typing area.

These buttons just got even more powerful, and can be used to trigger a text response, but also to send locations, pictures, or even payment. They can also open a url.

YOUR Web Interfaces Integration

If Messenger structured response formats are not enough, you can use urls buttons to open a part of your website, specifically designed to look good in one of theses formats:

This guy really loves hats

You can integrate in theses interfaces a command that will close the webview when the user is done with it and gracefully bring the conversation back.

This makes it possible to make the most of cross-canal authentification and notification, while offering interfaces “traditional” enough for users to feel at ease with available features. They only will have to send “out of script” messages when they need to talk to a human. Which happens sometimes, and is good.

NB : Next time a bot offers me to book a trip, and ask for my departure city, without autocomplete, then my destination, idem, then my day and time of departure, without agenda or time selector… Well, you get my point. Skyscanner, building bots is cool, really, but you don’t have to throw away nice and practical web interfaces that were perfected over time.

Presentation interfaces

Your bot may not be a single tasker, and having to present every features available when starting a new interaction could prove cumbersome. Two customizable interfaces were designed to solve that.

First, the presentation page, that the user discovers before starting interacting with your bot and where you can describe its different features:

This bot will love to hear about your vegan habits

And, when the conversation already started, the persistent menu gives quick access to your different automated features, though a familiar burger menu located on the left of the text typing area:

So, will Messenger Bots kill mobile applications ?

Certainly not all of them, but definitely some of them. The most endangered types of mobile apps are the simple customer account applications, where the users can only consult and perform basic actions on their customer data. Transposed as Messenger bots, customers may actually start using them more.

Will Messenger Bots take customer service jobs ?

Certainly not for brands who respect their customers. But customer service agents can become more productive by making use of bot automated features that they will activate when relevant in Messenger customer service conversations. As customer experience is becoming a major key to stand out on most markets, we can hope that the productivity gains will be invested into creating customer services with ever more added value, also optimized by innovative bots.