- Facebook updated its Messenger chat platform with a test feature that lets businesses introduce new "personas" to a chatbot conversation, such as when a chat is handed off to a live customer service agent, per a blog post. Messenger's Persona API (application programming interface) support page shows how businesses can use the feature to maintain a chatbot conversation with their customers.
- Facebook also debuted a plugin to let businesses that use WordPress to run their websites create Messenger chatbots to interact with their visitors. The plugin was created in response to requests to make its customer chat feature compatible with WordPress, per its blog post.
- The social media company also removed a restriction that limited bot developers to using "generic templates" for messages sent outside a 24-hour period. That means bots can send any kind of template or text in a tagged message used for nonpromotional purposes.
Facebook's updates to Messenger chatbots will help expand its versatility in handling a wider range of interactions with customers and make them more transparent when handing off a conversation to a live agent, which could help increase adoption and acceptance of the technology. While only 14% of chatbot conversations lead to a chat with a live human being, according to a study of chatbot usage by SnatchBot, the increased transparency could help decrease the 12% of chatbot conversations that are abandoned.
Chatbots are poised to bring $11 billion in combined cost savings for the retail, banking and healthcare business sectors by 2023, which the global chatbot market forecast to grow by 24.43% over the next four years. For those forecasts to hold, chatbots like the ones offered on Facebook Messenger will need to meet customer demands for technology.
The persona update could help address some of the concerns that customers have about chatbots. About half of U.S. consumers (52%) and U.K. consumers (49%) like using chat to get quick answers to their customer service questions, but their reactions to chatbots are less favorable, per an annual survey by enterprise software developer CGS. Its study found that 40% of U.S. consumers and 50% of U.K. customers prefer speaking to a human instead of a chatbot because chatbots don't provide detailed answers and can be less helpful.
CGS recommends that brands look for ways to improve service without forcing customers to engage with technology that makes them uncomfortable. Brands need to provide access to human customer service when automated options have been exhausted, and give their human agents as much information as possible about their customers by gathering data from multiple interactions and various channels. CGS also recommends that brands balance their efforts to personalize customer service with trust and transparency about how they use the private information they collect about people.