Monday, 19 December 2016

Facebook Messenger codes and the bot future?

Heathrow airport security really want your feedback.  Once passengers have finished the security screening process they are asked for feedback and given a dizzying array of options including phone, Facebook, Facebook Messenger (through scannable code), Emoticon face button and even through writing using the envelopes provided on the lower left!

Heathrow airport security Facebook Messenger feedback options
Heathrow airport security - feedback options

I thought the Facebook Messenger shortcode was interesting as it's the first time that I can recall seeing one used 'in the wild.'  In 2016 there has been a lot of conversation about chatbots and Messenger solutions, but it has been slower to take off than people perhaps initially anticipated.

I think there are two key challenges around Messenger adoption:

1) Discovery - the majority of people don't seem to realise how to find a Messenger profile / bot in order to interact with it (this is from anecdotal research rather than through any official research - but I challenge anyone outside of San Francisco to find more than a handful of friends who know how to get to a Facebook chatbot...)  The truth is that it's remarkably easy once you know how - message through a Facebook Page and you get a response through Messenger OR just search for the company in Messenger like you would a friend OR scan a Messenger short code.

....which leads me onto:

2) Use cases - I believe that the key use case for Facebook Messenger will be customer service.  It's a more personal (and private) form of community management that sees the community managers role move from public space to private space and become more akin to a call centre.  Additionally, the key role for bots is as an FAQ solution - responding to standard questions ('what time do you open?', 'do you have a kids menu?', 'do you offer non-smoking rooms?' etc) through tapping into easily databased information rather than bots being an interactive / free form kind of artificial friend to talk to.  Further down the line bots may become more emotionally aware and able to hold proper conversations but for the moment I think the best and most widespread use will be for customer service around standard questions.

So what does this all mean?  3 predictions:

1) The need to promote a Messenger handle increases.  In the same way that advertisers used to run fan recruitment advertising to grow their Facebook fan bases, (rightly or wrongly) I believe there will be an explosion in 'Add us on Messenger advertising' in 2017.  We will also start to see Messenger shortcodes used more and more frequently by brands.

2) As the 'Messenger for advertisers' hype dies down in 2017, I believe the role for Messenger in the advertising system will become focussed around customer service and this will play out between community management and the call centre.

3) Generally the most effective and widely used bots (at least for the foreseeable future) will not be found offering 'conversational commerce', but will be found offering quick and easy answers to customers most frequently asked questions.

As always, let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree!


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