The Power of Facebook Chatbots

By Emma Fitzpatrick  

Did you know there are more people on messaging apps than social media? Right now, the top four messaging apps have half a billion more monthly active users than the top four social networking apps, according to a BI Intelligence report.

Messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger, Kik, and WhatsApp, are thought by many to be the next big social platform. As of August 2016, about 2.5 billion people were registered on at least one messaging app, as estimated by Activate. By 2018, the firm predicts that number will grow to 3.6 billion, or about 90% of the people on the planet who have Internet access.

And those using messaging apps are incredibly engaged. On average, messaging apps are used nine times a day. In a week, Kik users spend 97 minutes on the app, while WhatsApp users spend nearly 200 minutes, according to BI Intelligence research.

Now that messaging apps have proven their ability to captivate users, banks and other businesses are seeing their potential. Facebook is leading the pack here with its Facebook Messenger bots, which send automated messages to users. How do those bots work? And more importantly, how realistic are they for your bank right now?

Tell me more about Facebook chatbots.

Essentially, chatbots are artificially intelligent (AI) computer programs that answer questions. They function very similarly to instant messaging a customer service representative. With chatbots, though, there are typically a limited number of options and phrases the bot will respond to. At this point, they mainly work by responding to demands or navigating decision trees. By automating the process, bots are always there to help and can instantly respond to customer inquiries.

While they may sound futuristic, chatbots are already big. As of September 12, 2016, there were already 30,000 Facebook chatbots. That’s nearly three times the number of bots there were a mere three months earlier.

The potential of chatbots.

Already, with Facebook chatbots, you can order an Uber, book a vacation on Kayak, or find a recipe by sending a few food emojis to the Whole Foods bot.

At this point, the best case study is the 1-800-Flowers chatbot, which allows you to order flowers or get customer service help. Both options are used fairly evenly, said the president of 1-800-Flowers in a Digiday interview. Two months after launching, 70% of the chatbot orders were from new customers, who were primarily younger than the company’s usual demographic.

Chatbots are still extremely new, and the ones that work the best focus on simple tasks, like ordering flowers. But the potential is there. Right now, 49% of people said they would rather conduct all customer service interactions via text/chat/messaging if the company could get it right. For millennials, that number jumped to 54%, according to 2016 Aspect research.

Some chatbots offered by financial institutions:

    • MyKAIThis banking chatbot, built by an artificial intelligence company, is not bank-specific. Instead, you connect any bank accounts, and the bot reads the transactions. To transfer funds, you must connect Venmo. Then, you can chat with Kai using texts, Facebook Messenger, or Slack. Since this is built on conversational AI, there are no buttons or commands. Instead, you ask simple or complex questions, ranging from how much is in your bank account to how much you spent on coffee last month.
    • DigitDigit is an app that automates savings. With Digit’s Facebook chatbot, you can sign up, learn more, or connect your Digit account. You can ask the chatbot the same questions you ask Digit over text, like how much you’ve saved or what your recent transactions were. You can also give commands—like save more or pause—to the chatbot. This bot works using decision tree logic, so there are limited choices.
    • TD BankWhile most are automating their Facebook Messenger, TD Bank is taking a human approach. When you message TD, you get a virtually automatic reply letting you know a customer service rep is there seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. When I tested the feature, I connected with a real human in about a minute. Then, you can ask any ol’ question you please.

How to make your own chatbot.

Right now, chatbots are still in their infancy, but many major banks have already announced they’re working on them. If your bank is intrigued by the tool, gather your marketing, social media, compliance, and technical team. Brainstorm the potential and feasibility of a chatbot for your bank while weighing the pros and cons.

To create a chatbot, you can take any of the following approaches:

  1. Have a developer build it from scratch
  2. DIY it with a no-coding-required tool
  3. Collaborate with an agency that specializes in chatbots

Emma Fitzpatrick is a Philly-based freelance writer and marketer, whose specialties include content marketing, social media marketing and short, snappy writing. Pick her brain at emma.l.fitzpatrick@gmail.com.

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