KLM experiments with Facebook Messenger bots

KLM airline has a very nice implementation of a Facebook Messenger bot. When you book a flight through their online store, they offer a possibility to get updates and check-in guidance through Facebook Messenger. And it works pretty perfectly — I tested it a few weeks ago when on a work trip to Amsterdam. So, instead of downloading yet another app, I just approved KLM as a Messenger contact. Then I got all the updates regarding my flights through Messenger, even the boarding pass.

The promotional video on KLM’s website explains everything really well, so it is worth spending a couple of minutes watching it.

The last section of the video shows how you can even ask questions and make requests to KLM, but I don’t really think that is a very realistic situation since airlines are probably not interested in that kind of manual customer service for everybody. KLM’s Messenger bot should just be able to handle simple requests automatically — in WeChat style.

Takeaways:

  • Airlines are great examples of businesses that shouldn’t really be investing in mobile apps since most of their customers don’t have a strong and long-lasting relationship with the airline.
  • But airlines have fairly complex service delivery process that can benefit from having a rich communication channel with the customer, and therefore this kind of “app within an app” approach makes a lot of sense for airlines and their customers.
  • There are actually quite many similar businesses that don’t have strong reasons for investing in their own apps, but could benefit from having a richer relationship with the customer after the initial purchase. For example, rental companies (cars, equipment) and travel services (trains, ferries, airlines) are pretty ideal Messenger bot providers since they have multiple steps in their typical customer relationship, but most of their customers are not regular/repeat customers.

Additional reading recommendations:

  • The New York Times is also running a pretty cool experiment with Facebook Messenger bots. They have built a special election reporting bot where their reporter Nick Confessore is acting as the main reporter/contact. It works pretty well, and the interface gives nice guidance on how to interact with the bot/Nick :) TechCrunch has a story about it, and NiemanLab’s story is also worth reading.
  • ... and if you are interested in who builds these kinds of experiments, you might want to check out a company called Chatfuel. They have done the bot for New York Times.