However, he says that businesses will have to squash those concerns because technology and business practices are already moving in that direction. “It’s just a matter of which platform they’re going to use. It becomes an issue if the business loses control of something they don’t want to lose control of,” Blau says.
Facebook opens a new business-to-consumer channel
“For bots, Facebook is providing a platform and access to customers,” Blau says. “They’re not in any way taking control over it because the business still has to build the bot, they’ve got to give the bot personality, they’ve got to train the bot to answer the questions based on their business and nobody else’s.” How the bot operates, acts, what it does and says are still in control of the business that develops it, according to Blau.
Moreover, as marketers get access to bots on Messenger they must balance their use with human interaction, says Forrester analyst Erna Alfred Liousas, who also attended the event. “Bots bring about a measure of efficiency, especially as a first line of interaction, but the experience has not been fully developed,” she says. “Marketers can’t put the weight or value of interactions in the hands of bots just yet.”
Mike Dossett, supervisor of digital content strategy at the advertising agency RPA, says Facebook is methodically reinventing Messenger to be consumers’ default, centralized utility for communication, information discovery, planning and sourcing of services. Initiating a chat with a business bot is not an open solicitation for relentless advertising, so marketers need to balance the opportunity on Messenger with their responsibility to be helpful, relevant and sparing, he says.
“In other channels, brands who have committed to delivering stellar customer service get rewarded immensely for their efforts,” he says. “The same will very likely hold true in Messenger.”
Although most bots may be rudimentary now, they will evolve into a new type of app that runs entirely within a chat window, according to Steve Goldsmith, general manager of HipChat, an enterprise messaging product. “Bots are an interim step to chat becoming the next great platform for developers,” he says.
Bots have also become increasingly in vogue because users are overwhelmed by too many apps and notification overload from those disparate apps, according to Goldsmith. “Chat is beginning to subsume single-use apps. The chat window is becoming the browser for many business teams” and Facebook is capitalizing on the same trend with consumers.
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