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The Chatbot: Evolution or Revolution in Customer Engagement?

  • Clock logoJune 01, 2016
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Everybody is talking about the 'bot' and chatbot. From Microsoft to Facebook, giants of tech are singing the praises of these little automated communication software driven experiences. At F8 (the Facebook Developer Conference) earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg announced the release of the Messenger bots. The bots work far beyond the current use of personal Facebook messaging communications. Now, Messenger offers brands the option of installing a conversational bot that automatically opens during an exchange with a client via Messenger. These bots allow consumers to receive data such as an order confirmation, invoice or package tracking information. Because of the extensive services offered, the bot optimizes service and streamlines processes without the consumer needing to download an App, prompting some to say bots may replace Apps in the future.

The Social Client foresaw the value of Messenger a year ago after Facebook previewed a similar approach in 2015. In the quickly evolving area of customer relationship management (see "Messenger is open for business") and began adapting Messenger to the needs of our brand clients. The Social Client’s Creative Technologist, Patrice Bonfy, shares her vision for bots below.

The Chatbot: Optimizing The Customer Relationship

With bots, it is now possible to consult calendars, prompt customer reviews or find information about a product at any time. Through the use of bots in a conversation on Messenger, clients have access to a wealth of information instantly.

With bots, frequent customer service cases can be simplified and systemized. In one great example, KLM airlines developed and installed a bot on Messenger that allows users to have one-click access to their airfare ticket confirmation, boarding passes, receive updates on flight delays and even make changes their flight ... all from a Messenger thread. (see KLM adopts Messenger for a top-flight customer experience).

With the success of 900 million monthly users on Messenger, brands are attempting to mimic this peer to peer communication with their clients on their own websites. Bots integrated with conversations on Messenger add even more value as more and more consumer interactions move to social media.

If the bot automates a number of these relatively simple procedures, the opportunity to message with a live customer service agent is not required but can always be made available and even further, is much more efficient due to the bot completing initial interactions. The bot is not a conversation but a conversation assistant tool. The human, the customer service agent, has its own place. With Messenger, the interactions between the consumer and the brand are stored in a permanent conversation that the consumer can close without losing the message thread.

With the use of chatbots, customers no longer have to download brand Apps to access certain information. This leads us to ask, are current Apps and business approaches outdated ?

In The Age of Chatbots, What is the Role of the App?

A bot can replace the need for entire App or just a single App functionality. It is true that the bot is able to complete many tasks brands utilize in Apps. In these cases, brands may not be required to develop an app if they develop a Messenger bot with a usable interface. For the consumer, using a Messenger bot is a time saver as the consumer does not have to download an additional application to access a basic service that the bot offers. Also, storing interactions in Messenger allows the customer service agent to consult the chat conversation history, making future interactions far quicker and more of a pleasant experience for the consumer, which is not possible via an App. Messaging with an agent within an App ends with the closing of the App, while the conversation on Messenger is saved, stored, and always available to continue when needed.

Even with all of these advancements, for now this does not mean the death of Apps. The most relevant thing for a brand is to strategically utilize bots and Apps as complimentary services. The immediate aid of the bot combined with the durability and abundance of information on the App is an ideal combination. To maintain the relevancy of the App, the bot must be thoughtfully restricted to a single, conversational customer experience. The application can then add value with more detailed, high-quality information and other interactive features. If well-balanced, the combination of the bot and the App is a winning system for both the brand.

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