In the time since Facebook announced their bot API at their 2016 F8 developer conference, everyone from Hyatt Hotels to 1-800 Flowers to Domino’s Pizza to PayPal have rolled out bots inside Facebook Messenger.
Now, with over 100,000 bots deployed in Facebook, and the proliferation of chatbot specific tools across a wide range of other platforms, it’s time to look at the early successes to understand how to leverage this technology moving forward.
We’ve selected six use cases to get you thinking about how bots can help you achieve your 2018 goals.
Don’t Count Out Bing Just Yet
As search marketers, we wrote off Bing long ago. However, the emergence of voice paired with improved AI capabilities, means we may need to give it a second look. The combination of Cortana, Microsoft’s device-agnostic intelligent personal assistant, with Bing, Xbox, Skype and its newly-acquired LinkedIn, has the potential to create a truly powerful, connected platform.
Bing is currently running a pilot for local restaurants in Seattle that integrates Skype’s chatbot into local search results.
Since I was on my honeymoon in Seattle, it gave me a chance to test the pilot. My friends recommended that we visit No Anchor, which is known for its curated selection of beer. Knowing that wouldn’t be the only selling point for my wife, I decided to see what else was on the menu.
After searching for “No Anchor Seattle,” Bing served up the local listing with an offer to ask the No Anchor bot for help.
After asking the bot about vegetarian options, I asked other standard questions about the menu, along with parking info and directions. Most surprisingly, the bot was even able to answer whether or not dogs were allowed (sadly, they were not).
While the types of questions were limited to a predictable and specific set of questions, it proved to be fun, fast and informative. And you can bet restaurants will benefit greatly by reducing the number of phone calls asking these routine questions.
Kayak Takes the Lead on Facebook Travel Bots
While there has been a lot of buzz around Skyscanner’s Facebook bot and its clean UI, it’s Kayak that provides the best integrated experience for air travel, hotels and car rentals.
Since I had an upcoming business trip to Los Angeles, I opened up Facebook Messenger and did a search for Kayak. Like all Facebook bots, no download is necessary other than Messenger.
There are two different ways to book travel with the Kayak bot. I first chose the app interface, which allowed me to quickly specify my flight info. On the next screen, Kayak presented me with the default option of cheapest flights. Since I was undecided at that point, I moved back to select a hotel. Kayak was smart enough to associate this hotel stay with my airline search, so my destination and dates were already pre-filled.
After reviewing my hotel options, I decided to return back to the chatbot to compare the booking experience.
The chatbot proved to be simple, but the experience was neither richer nor faster than the app. In both paths, I found a seamless transition to the Delta mobile interface without having to leave Messenger. The real-time updates with check-in status, flight delays and gate changes will be more helpful to infrequent flyers since frequent flyers are likely to already have airline apps on their phone for e-tickets.
It’s likely that the Facebook chatbot interface will be replaced or augmented by voice in the near future, which would make usage over the app more attractive.
Hail Rides Through Slack
Everyone’s favorite teamwork collaboration app allows users to request an Uber by using a command-line type interface. While not as quick to use as the app, there are a couple of use cases I have found valuable.
If you find yourself somewhere without a charging cable and your phone is dead, you can still initiate an Uber from Slack (or through Uber’s Facebook bot). I have also been on client calls in a noisy room, making it impossible for me to switch to speaker so I can pull up the Uber app.
Users of Uber on Slack will find it easy to initiate a ride, get an fare estimate, receive status and even cancel trips.
Improving the Registration Process with a Chatbot
Tank client MDLIVE, a leading virtual medical and behavioral healthcare provider, recently launched Sophie, a chatbot initiated by text message. One of Sophie’s main objectives is to improve MDLIVE’s registration process.
“The launch of Sophie supports one of our primary goals of improving the overall virtual care experience for consumers. Virtual care is intended to be a convenient and appropriate alternative to an emergency room or urgent care visit, but oftentimes the registration process is so cumbersome that it removes the convenience factor,” said Randy Parker, founder and chief business development officer of MDLIVE.
According to Parker, Sophia aims to improve the user experience by creating a tailored, conversational registration process for each individual. Conversation is initiated with a user based on demographics and the information entered throughout the registration interaction.
Reducing Customer Service Calls by Marrying Voice Search with Contextual Content
Voice search can become a powerful tool as AI continues to improve and companies respond by creating content based on intent.
Last week the heater at my Airbnb rental went kaput. I thought the pilot light was the likely culprit, so I pulled up Google Assistant on my iPhone to see if I could learn how to relight it.
Google Assistant pointed me to a YouTube video that quickly showed me what I needed to do.
Even though my rental was not covered by a home warranty from Tank client HMS National, I was curious to see how well their website content would align with voice search. I decided to ask Google Assistant how to file a claim and was rewarded with content that perfectly matched my query.
While Google was able to find a video to help me with this particular problem, that isn’t the case across many products and services. Bots should also be paired with useful video snippets for FAQs and troubleshooting to limit service calls.
Leveraging Bots for Scheduling Appointments
Several of our clients have businesses that require scheduling service appointments. By integrating scheduling software with bots, users are can make, cancel and change their own appointments.
In the example below, I asked Google Assistant to find the nearest sushi restaurant and book a table.
As you can see, Google uses a blend of voice commands and on-screen prompts to facilitate the process. I then have the option of adding a reminder within Google Assistant, along with adding it to my Google Calendar. The OpenTable bot can also send a reminder the day before, asking me to confirm my reservation.
Why You Should Be Thinking About Deploying Bots in 2018
Over the last two years as bots have become more conversational and a number of successes have demonstrated the capabilities for customer self-service, cost savings and revenue generation, Tank has been looking at how lead forms, eCommerce and the entire customer service experience will be impacted by AI in the coming years.
We’ve also seen significant advancements in how bots can improve the sales funnel and HR recruitment process through pre-qualification and providing instant information without human interaction. When integrated into a CRM, bots can provide sales teams with improved data and greater capabilities for lead scoring.
Unlike their human counterparts, bots are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year outside of call center hours. Users don’t have to figure out a cumbersome IVR and aren’t limited by the knowledge of the person on the other end of the phone. Bots provide quick answers to routine questions and are useful at helping guide customers or prospects through predetermined use cases.
Tank sees several opportunities for our clients to use bots:
- Improving the lead generation process with better form conversion, lead qualification and lead scoring
- Customer self-service for routine tasks such as appointment scheduling and troubleshooting
- New product or service announcements
- Order and shipping notifications
- Soliciting customer feedback
- Abandoned cart reminders and lead nurturing
- Announcements of sales or events near a geo-location
- Facilitating the customer onboarding and registration processes
- Improving the HR recruitment process by answering FAQs
- Increasing revenue through conversational commerce
- Remarketing, upselling and cross-selling
Tony Roy is the head of digital marketing and eCommerce strategy at Tank. He has generated over $1B in incremental eCommerce revenue during his career. Tony created the first health social platform and the first mobile package-tracking app. He has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institute for innovation as the product manager for FedEx’s Internet shipping application.