Mashup your cloud apps and build great bots
The internet is becoming a much more exciting place for business people with an interest and understanding of tech. Read on to learn how you can harness the cloud apps and services your business already uses to create useful Facebook bots (and bots for other platforms too).
So I need a developer right?
Years ago, the apps and services you used in your business were islands, and creating or integrating apps was the sole preserve of developers and engineers, out of reach for most business people.
It’s now a new world; everything has an API, everything is a platform, you can deploy static sites or even API’s in seconds, and integrate, mashup, build, and innovate anything you can dream up.
So, you don’t need a developer. Using bot platforms such as Flow XO, you can create bots for Facebook and other platforms by building on top of the services you already use.
Ready to learn about the services that can help you to power your bots? Let’s get going..
If you haven’t heard of it (although the chances are you have!), Sheets is one of Google for Work’s core browser-based apps, offering an alternative to Microsoft’s ubiquitous office staple app, Excel.
So you can do almost everything you would in Excel, inside Google Sheets. Think employee commission reports, expense tracking tables, financial reports, etc.
But what you may not realise is that because Google Sheets is cloud based, they have a readily accessible API, which means you can use it as a sort of simple database for your bots.
Let me give you an example. You build a Facebook bot or SMS bot for your business (you run a restaurant), and want to build in a way for customer’s to see what specials you have available each day.
So you create a Google Sheet that lists lunch and evening specials against the date, like this:
Now, using a bot platform that integrates with Google Sheets, when your bot users ask what specials you have, you can look up the current date and get the text in the lunch and evening columns of that same row.
Then, simply send a friendly message back to your user to give them the info.
But why use Google Sheets? Well, it’s accessible. You can share the sheet with your Head Chef, and he can update the sheet on his phone each morning for a couple of days ahead.
If you don’t want to use Google Sheets, you could try Smartsheet, or Airtable instead. You can achieve the same kind of functionality with them.
Good Old Email
No, it’s not dead. It’s very much alive.
Hopefully your users can get a lot of the info they need through interacting directly with the bot. But for more complex queries, or if they get lost, it’s useful to sometimes pick up the conversation. That’s where email can come in.
Most bot platforms allow you to involve a human in the conversation, but some of them let you plug into the channels you already use for sales and support. For many businesses, that’s still email.
The idea is that the user can either opt to ‘talk to a human’, or gets to a particular point in a conversation where it’s appropriate or necessary. Then, the user’s question is sent by email to your sales or support address. You can then respond directly to that email to talk to the bot user.
You can even have threaded conversations this way, because each email back and forth feels like a regular email response.
Another great use for email when building Facebook bots, is to broadcast messages to your bot users simply by emailing a unique (and secret!) email address. Bot platforms such as Flow XO let you do this.
Help Scout, Zendesk or Freshdesk
But what if you don’t use email? Well, if you’re in business you will use email of course, but what if your sales or support team works inside help desk software?
If you can find a bot platform that integrates with help desk software, you’ll be able to have a conversation with bot users right where your sales and support people already spend their working day.
With no new interface to learn, window to open or password to remember, you can integrate your bot, platform and team seamlessly.
If you’re new to Trello, you should try it. It’s a blank canvas, just like Google Sheets, and you’ll be able to find a million different uses for it.
When working with bots, it’s great for creating a card when one of your bot users has a job for you (maybe adding some checklists), and then tracking the progress of that job as it is carried out.
This is quite abstract, so let me give you an example right now.
Bots are great for keeping in touch with customers or winning over new prospects, but you can also use bots internally for keeping in communication with your field service employees.
Now, with no code bot platforms like Flow XO, you can build complex ‘apps within messengers’ for your field personnel to use.
Imagine we’re running a security alarm maintenance business. Each year, customer’s alarms need to be inspected and serviced. So we create a recurring Trello card for each ‘job’.
The job itself has a set of 15 tasks that need checking off, such as “run a software test” and “check that zone sensors are functioning correctly”.
Each job can be in a set of progressive Trello lists, such as Needs Allocating and In Progress.
When a job has been allocated, it’s assigned to a field service employee and moved to the Allocated list. That triggers the job to be scheduled and sent to the user via the bot.
Once on site, the field service engineer can ask for the list of tasks for the job and confirm as each one is completed. Finally, they can take pictures from the site as a record and send them to the bot. Once the engineer signs off from the job via the bot, the Trello card is handed back to the office for invoicing.
Or, why not automate that too, completing the invoicing immediately and automatically via an invoicing service linked into your bot platform.
By choosing a bot platform that makes it easy to send leads to the CRM that you use, you can save your sales people the bother of having to sign in to another UI or manually input data.
Of course, it minimises risk too. If you automate, you can track every lead. Nothing gets lost.
For customer service, if you can establish the identity of a bot user and tie it to a real customer, you can then let the user of your bot check their own details, make changes to their address, etc.. and even see the status of their orders or requests.
FreshBooks or QuickBooks
Both FreshBooks and QuickBooks are accessible through chatbot platforms like Flow XO, and without any coding knowledge or programming, you can build useful and clever features for your bot to automatically handle billing related customer service.
Blog, RSS & Social Media Feeds
Whilst you should be careful about the content you push to your users, you could give your users the opportunity to opt-in to receive updates from you.
To automate this, you should choose a bot platform that lets you feed content to your bot users from anywhere that you’re publishing content to.
Most of these social media and blogging platforms expose your content through RSS, which is still a widely accepted way to exchange feeds in a structured and consistent format.
Platforms (including Flow XO) make it easy to push content to your users from the services you publish to.
Stripe & PayPal
Many bot use cases call for accepting payments from your users. Often it’s for micro-payments or smaller ticket purchases, so you need to make it easy and quick for the user.
Many more possibilities
Flow XO is a flexible way to build Facebook bots and bots for other platforms such as Slack, Telegram and Twilio SMS. You simple build ‘flows’ that access the services and apps you already use, including most of the apps I mentioned here.
You don’t need to be a developer or use code (although you can actually use code in your flows if you want).
Flow XO integrates with over 100 modules, services and apps that you can string together to effortlessly build amazing, super useful business bots with ease.
If we don’t support a service you use, or if you need to get or update data in custom built systems, we have great support for webhooks and HTTP.
Flow XO is a free bot platform (there is a free plan), start building your business bot for Facebook and other platforms today.