Building Local Business Through Smart Customer Automation Tools – Part 2 Facebook Messenger & Web Bots

In Part 1, we discussed the general topic of Smart Customer Automation and the need to think about how automation was going to improve your customers’ experience and make it easier to run your business.

In this segment, we’re going to talk about Facebook Messenger Bots as an automation platform for local businesses and how to integrate other automation tools into it.  Also, WhatsApp and Instagram will soon open the ability to build bots on their platforms.  The principles of Facebook Messenger Bot design and operation will apply to these platforms as well.

Note: I use the generic term “customer” to include more specific terms like “patient”, “client”, and nonprofit “supporter”. 

What Are Chatbots?

Chatbots are programs built on messenger app platforms that automatically engage with received messages, and act as marketing and customer service channels.  An effective bot performs these functions with a personal, conversational touch and at the same time, uses less staff time.  Today, businesses in almost every industry use bots for customer service and marketing.

Chatbots can be programmed to answer simple requests with personalized responses.  They can be made to respond differently to messages containing certain keywords, tag subscribers according to their interests, and collect customer information such as email and phone numbers.

For example, in the food and beverage industry, bots are being used by top restaurants for menu displays, food ordering and delivery – tasks that would otherwise take up valuable staff time.  Major grocery brands like Whole Foods use bots to make it easy for their customers to find recipes, tips, specials, and inspirations for dining.  This allows them to create a fun online engagement with their subscribers and helps them attract new and existing customers into the store or order online.

Rules-based chatbots use a set of rules, sequences, and programmed responses to interact with users.  Without the business needing any coding skills, they can provide capabilities such as collecting subscriber info without forms, auto-respond to page messages, deliver files, images, and videos, answer FAQs, broadcast promotional info, chat online, provide product or staff contact information, and much more.

Here’s an example of a bot message in action helping to sell real estate:

 

More advanced bots use natural language processing that understands the context of complex requests and learns how to improve interactions over time.  These bots are built with much larger budgets and often integrate much of the organization’s marketing, customer service, and transaction workflows.  1-800-Flowers is an example of a more sophisticated bot.  Their online customers can get questions answered, select and order flowers all through the bot.

The applications for bots and their infinite range from simple to complex make them a good choice for Smart Customer Automation Tools.

Why Facebook Messenger Bots?

 

In the spring of 2016, Facebook announced its Messenger platform’s arrival.  Since then, the platform has grown and rapidly improved.  They’ve worked hard to make it a marketing and customer service platform with rules and privacy features that ensure that their customers won’t have to put up with annoying marketing abuses that plague other channels like email.

With over 1.3 Billion users globally each month, Facebook Messenger is the perfect platform to build a bot.  People now exchange over 2 Billion messages with businesses on Messenger every month.

Businesses now have access to bot-building software apps like ManyChat, Chatfuel, Sprout Social, and Chat Monkey that have made Facebook Messenger a valuable marketing and customer service automation channel.

Three things to keep in mind if you’re looking to create a Facebook Messenger Bot:

  1. Be clear on the purpose and goals for your bot – this keeps your bot execution very focused and effective. Will you use it passively (let people find it on your Facebook business page) or proactively (drive traffic to it)?  Will you use it for marketing or customer service?
  2. It’s not a “build it and they will come” channel. Once your bot is built, you’ll need to promote it to your ideal audience to get subscribers.
  3. Understand the rules of engagement. Facebook protects its users with strict engagement rules for bots.  For example, there are rules against sending marketing messages after 24 hrs. from the time the subscriber has engaged with your bot.  They’ll let you send them sponsored messages (paid ads) after 24 hrs. but failure to follow this rule can get your bot shut down.

Today, there are over 400,000 bots on Facebook Messenger that automate routine customer service and marketing tasks.  When you compare that with over 20M businesses in the US alone, it’s clear that there is an untapped potential for businesses to use Facebook Messenger bots to create a competitive advantage.

What’s even more important is that Facebook intends to integrate FB Messenger, WhatsApp Messenger, and Instagram sometime in the future and they’ll all use bots.  Bots are already being built on these platforms.

Messenger bots are not just a new trend, they’re powerful customer service and marketing tools that are growing in importance for businesses everywhere.  They’ve changed the way consumers and brands interact on Facebook, injecting more interaction and relationship-building between the business and customers.

 

Messenger Bot Benefits

So why should a business build a Facebook Messenger Bot?

Here are 8 reasons to consider a Facebook Messenger Bot as a part of your automation strategy:

  1. Chatbots keep consumers engaged with your brand. Staying top of mind is important in these times of marketing noise.  A chatbot, properly managed, can prevent followers from forgetting about your brand and attract new followers.  The more engagement, the higher the probability of new and repeat sales.
  2. Chatbots can inform, educate and entertain your fans. What better way to build trust with your customers than by educating them in a fun and friendly way? A conversational chatbot can build a relationship with your followers and draw their attention back to your brand.
  3. A chatbot campaign has a 90%+ open rate. A Facebook Messenger bot campaign is one of the best ways to get your offer in front of leads.  An email marketing campaign at best will have a 20% open rate with most open rates in single digits. However, people find it hard to ignore the ding of the messenger notification.  A messenger notification is almost always opened!
  4. A Facebook bot can offer your leads a personalized experience. Messenger bots are already connected to Facebook profiles.  When people send a message to your messenger bot, it can then send messages addressed personally using their names.  It’s also easy to get the subscriber to confirm their email addresses that are prepopulated by Facebook.  Messages customized to the individual’s interests can be sent using a tagging system.   Chatbots can easily be taught to learn more about customers and offer them a personalized experience as they interact via chat.
  5. A messenger bot can attract new leads and help sales. Driving traffic to your bot through ads, contests, offers, blog posts, QR codes and lead magnets is a strength of FB Messenger Bots and produces new leads and followers.
  6. Efficient messenger marketing campaigns can gather and analyze consumer data. No marketing campaign is complete without gathering consumer data. Setting the bot up to ask the right questions can create important customer insights that build better and more efficient marketing campaigns.  The messenger bot is the only platform that will self-populate the subscriber’s email and phone number if the subscriber chooses to confirm it. This “quick reply” feature reduces subscriber hesitancy and makes it easy for people to provide their information in exchange for a lead magnet or other benefits.
  7. Chatbots can identify and solve customer problems quickly. Prospects, customers, and people who message your page expect instant responses. Bots can help speed up responses in a way that comes across to subscribers as excellent customer service.  A central dashboard makes it efficient to handle multiple customers at once.
  8. Messenger bots can take care of the most boring tasks, so you won’t have to. Last, but definitely not least, chatbots are great at taking over repetitive or boring tasks!  Sequences can be built that answer FAQs, schedule appointments, manage purchases, respond with a repeatable message when certain keywords are used, and much more.  Staff can always manually intervene through a message dashboard if necessary.

 

Building Your Bot

This article isn’t intended to be a tutorial for building a bot.  I recommend signing up for one of the bot-building platforms like ManyChat, or ChatFuel and going through the detailed training that comes with them.  You can also contact a bot building agency for help in building yours (we’re one of those agencies).

If you build it yourself, you’ll need a verified business fan page from Facebook and an account with a bot builder.  There’s usually a free version and an affordable pro version which gives you more features.  If it’s your first one, start out small and simple, then add functionality if and when you need it.  For example, start with a simple bot sequence that welcomes a visitor and invites them to subscribe for a monthly deal or a special report.

Most importantly, you’ll need to think through the purpose and goals for your bot, and how you’ll manage it.  Should it be used for customer service? marketing campaigns? or both?  Who will manage it? What functions will it have? (see Part 1)

Tips For Building An Engaging Messenger Bot:

  1. Never pretend to be a human – people know they’re not talking to a person.
  2. Always give the subscriber a way to quickly talk to a human if they need to.
  3. Always provide subscribers with the option to unsubscribe
  4. Build an email list by integrating with an autoresponder once the subscriber has given their email address.
  5. Keep your messages short – part of the appeal of messengers is their short format content.
  6. Use images, videos, and gifs to create a more fun interaction and more character.
  7. Always have an engagement point and image/video after a few messages
  8. Don’t ask for personal information too soon and always give a reason for why you need it.
  9. When building your sequences, imagine you’re talking informally with a friend – keep it light.
  10. Tag subscribers within the bot to send future relevant messages to different interests.
  11. Drive traffic to your bot through social media posts, ads, and a widget placed on your website that sends them to your bot.
  12. Send sponsored marketing messages to your subscribers once they fall outside of a 24hr. window but don’t overdo it.
  13. Treat it as a valuable customer channel. Develop and improve how you use it over time.

The key is to use Facebook Messenger Bots to engage your customer in ways that provide them value, builds your bot subscriber numbers, and your email and phone contact list.  This takes practice and a commitment to use the new tools in the brave new world of Smart Customer Automation.

Website Bots

There are useful customer engagement bots that don’t use FB Messenger.

As the name suggests, website bots are located on web pages in the form of a widget.

These bots offer a little less automation functionality compared to FB Messenger Bots but are very good at specific tasks such as delivering coupons or getting contact information.

Since they aren’t connected to Facebook, they don’t use Facebook’s rules of engagement.  They offer the business more freedom for communicating with subscribers.  They perform useful website visitor customer interactions, but lack Facebook’s huge customer database and social media dynamics.

The onus is on the business to handle customer interactions through these bots in a way that provides them value and also provides the business with bot automation functionality.


Next Level Local Business is a reputation, marketing and advertising agency dedicated to helping local businesses create an effective online presence.  Learn more at nextlevellocalbusiness.com.  Our automation systems provide local businesses with automation options.  Call or text us at 941.867.4520.