Customer Service Chatbots come to Facebook Messenger

Your next customer service call may be on Facebook Messenger where a bot will help you choose and book your airline tickets

Facebook may have just ushered in the next revolution in customer service, introducing bots for the Messenger Platform.

Announced at Facebook’s f8 developers’ conference last week, companies are now able to develop and run chatbots on the platform, used by over 900 million people around the world.


Facebook suggests these bots “can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customised communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages…”

Why should you care?

For marketers, chatbots offer new ways to engage and assist customers.

That said, chatbots are not entirely new — they are widely used by the Chinese social media site WeChat, for instance, while bots like Chomsky and ALICE have been around for over a decade (ALICE will be 21 this year). And, of course, Microsoft’s Twitter chatbot Tay has recently been making the news for all the wrong reasons.

But what’s interesting here is the size of Messenger’s user base, and that companies can now easily create their own chatbots.

Before you do: Remember that natural conversational interaction is no easy thing, however, even for real people. And that makes Facebook’s move all the more interesting.

Early reports are that the few chatbots already on the Messenger platform — with the possible exception of the purely transactional 1-800 Flowers chatbot — have some issues. That ranges from spamming subscribers with news alerts (CNN and the Wall Street Journal both have informational chatbots on Messenger), while too limited a lexicon can quickly lead to user frustration.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.