Last week Facebook made a major announcement. They informed the world that they are getting into the bot business by unveiling a bot platform into Messenger. This is just a few weeks after Microsoft unveiled bots into Skype. Up until now, these communication systems were just for interacting between people on the personal level, now with bots you may be able to interact more intelligently with companies.
What does this mean you may ask? Let me try to simplify things a bit by first thinking a little bit about how you interact with a company.
You might visit one of their brick and mortar stores and have a face to face conversation. You might pick up a phone, dial the companies number, interact with their IVR, and then have a conversation with an agent. You might go online, visit a companies website, answer a few questions and then begin a conversation thru a chat. You might pick-up your smartphone, download an app from a company, log in and then have a conversation with their automated app system and potentially continue that conversation via a call or a chat. You can also go to any social media site (twitter, facebook, etc) or create your own website about a company and post a comment about that company. From experience, I am pretty sure they will be listening and try to reach out to you to engage in a conversation.
So what is a bot platform? Facebook and Microsoft believe that customers do not want to be forced to go to individual companies websites or download apps for support. What if you could use the messaging systems you use for your personal conversations to interact with companies? You already do this with the telephone messaging system. You may call your friends and you may call companies the same way. With Messenger and Skype you will soon be able to interact with companies similarly to the way you thru the telephone, except it will be thru a much richer digital experience. Instead of dialing a number and navigating thru a “painful” IVR before you speak to an agent, you will select a company in your messaging system and interact with a bot. IVRs are limited because they are Voice only, but with a bot you can introduce multimedia, digital, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence capabilities.
Facebook and Microsoft (as well as other messaging platforms) are banking on companies to integrate with their messaging system. They believe (as well as I do) that people want conversations to be easier. Bot integration with everyday messaging systems people use makes sense and I am sure companies will soon be scrambling to integrate their back office systems thru a customized bot just like they did years ago with an IVR.