Following the announcement that bots could be used by Facebook's Messenger earlier this year at F8, Facebook has reported that there are now more than 11,000 bots in use on its platform. Bots allow businesses to set up conversations with their customers allowing them to do anything from booking an appointment to complaining about a faulty product all while mimicking a conversation with a real personality.
The number of users increased considerably following some major upgrades by Facebook into how bots work inside its messenger. These updates have been designed to give more control to both the businesses using them and their customers.
Some of the early usability problems have also been addressed. Problems like customers becoming frustrated when engaged in a nonsensical conversation with a bot or even multiple bots in some cases. An experience that is likely to damage a brand when its customer feels they are not getting a chance to be understood. With this in mind, a new quick reply feature has been introduced to scan suggested responses for those most appropriate to the conversation. Bots also now have access to a wider range of media in their messages so can make use of Messenger elements like Gif, audio, and video - all adding to the idea that the customer is interacting with a real personality and not just a pre-defined script.
Businesses using bots are going to be able to create a more personalised experience by allowing the bots to connect to customer profiles so bots will be able to communicate with a much broader amount of information about the customer.
The customers will, of course, have control over the whole experience. Access to their account is only granted if permission is given and any bot that they do not want to see notifications from can be easily muted. Customers will also be able to give their own input to bots using Facebook's Messenger in the form of ratings and reviews.
It is yet to be seen if this will, in reality, prove to be a useful tool for customer engagement via social media. Before this, the biggest obstacle is widespread acceptance and that means convincing the significant number of users that are resistant to using bots to give them a try.
The first wave of bots produced for use in Messager has proven to be a let down against consumer expectations with the typical user experience being somewhere between amused and baffled but worst of all often leaving the original issue unresolved. While this initial experience has not been helpful to promoting the use of bots these updates do seem to show promise and a recognition that developers are listening to user frustrations.