Will Facebook Messenger Chat Bots Replace Humans?

As a natural response to Facebook’s push to get more pages to use Messenger as a platform, brands are developing chat bots to handle customer service. How well is this working?

As a natural response to Facebook’s push to get more pages to use Messenger as a platform, brands are developing chat bots to handle customer service. How well is this working?

At the Socialbakers Engage conference in Prague earlier this month, experts talked about the future of chat bots.

The chat bots companies are starting to develop are more like the first step of a customer interaction, allowing them to take care of low-level inquiries, and then provide information to a human to complete the process.

As the tech gets more mature, the bots will become more responsive, Socialbakers founder Jan Rezab said in his keynote address, adding:

We’re going to see a lot more intelligent bots out there. Like with applications at the beginning, there were good apps and there were bad apps. There will be good bots and there will be bad bots.

According to TechCrunch, as many as 10,000 companies are developing chat bots for Facebook Messenger. Business Insider, citing Socialbakers data, showed that social customer care on Facebook is trending heavily to private messages over public wall posts.

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Dutch airline KLM has been an early pioneer in using Facebook Messenger for business. KLM goes full-force on social, with a 200-employee team ready to respond to queries in 13 languages. In the first quarter of 2016, KLM handled roughly 35,000 private messages and 5,000 wall posts.

But even with that team, KLM relies on chat bots to help customers with basic tasks. Through Messenger, KLM customers can get updated flight information, as well as receive their boarding passes.

Gert Wim ter Haar, KLM’s social media hub manager, said people used this service 115,000 times within the first month of launch.

And no, Wim ter Haar does not believe that these chat bots will replace human customer service agents. As he discussed in his presentation, he sees bots and artificial intelligence as an aid to human customer service efforts, not an equal:

Don’t forget humans. We’re in social media. That’s a human thing. Everything with bots, try to keep it human. A fine combination is the best … If we’re thinking about bots and artificial intelligence, remember: A correct, personal and timely answer–that’s the best.

So, does your brand absolutely need to develop a chat bot today? Not necessarily.

These are still the early days of chat bots, which make more sense for large-scale organizations that handle lots of customer-service inquires.

However, if social customer care is placing a burden on your business, it is something to consider. You can use a Facebook Messenger chat bot to answer simple questions such as store hours, special products or directions, and then have the bot feed to a human agent for more detailed questions.

This path was paved at Facebook’s F8 conference in 2015, where co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and vice president of messaging products David Marcus introduced Messenger Platform. Facebook wants to replace email and telephone as the primary driver of customer contact, allowing people to place orders and receive shipping info through Messenger.

Now, brands are developing the tools to scale up to satisfy this demand.

Justin Lafferty is the founder and CEO of On Base Marketing and the former editor of SocialTimes. Follow him on Twitter: @JLafferty21 and @OnBaseMarketing.