The Rise, Fall and Future of Chatbots
December 2019

By Natasha Michelmore

You heard the hype. Chatbots will be the next big thing. So, what has happened since Facebook first introduced its Messenger bot in 2016? We take a look at the rise, fall and future of chatbots.


What is a chatbot?

In simple terms, a chatbot is a piece of automated messaging software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to communicate with people. Chatbots are programmed to understand questions and provide the appropriate response.

Specifically, what is Facebook’s chatbot?

Chatbots have been around in some form for decades – on social media, webpages and apps – however 2016 saw Facebook introduce its Messenger bot and bring chatbots to the millions. Facebook’s chatbot is programmed through Messenger’s Send/Receive API, and is able to send and receive structured messages.

The rise of chatbots 

It was said that 80% of the business world would make use of chatbots by 2020, and plenty of brands have done just that. Brands have been using Facebook’s Messenger bot for a variety of purposes, such as to help with common customer service questions like order issues and bookings, as well as reminding customers to complete an order or trying to upsell another product.

Why? Because chatbots are an accessible time-saver. According to HubSpot, 82% of consumers expect an immediate response to queries. Chatbots are able to provide this service which is not always possible by customer service agents. They can also retain information which can be used to re-engage customers with personalised messages.

The fall of chatbots

So, why has there been a negative response to chatbots? Common behaviour in response to a hype is to ignore the fundamental question: “Is a bot right for my brand?”. For plenty of brands, bots aren’t the right solution. In fact, it was found that 70% of bots on Facebook Messenger are failing to fulfil users’ requests– meaning that they are being deployed in the wrong situations.

Not all customers are ready to accept bots over humans just yet either. A study conducted found that nearly 75% of people want to know when they are talking to a chatbot, and nearly half of them find it “creepy”.

The future 

Chatbots are still evolving; advancements in artificial intelligence and machine-learning are making chatbots more and more human-like each day. Facebook is also putting a lot of effort into making chatbots sound more realistic, and the number of brands using chatbots is expected to continue rising.

 The key advice remains the same, however. Brands need to think thoroughly beforehand to determine whether a bot is worth the time and effort, and if it is the right solution for them, before using them to fulfil customer service-related tasks on social media, or any other digital platform.

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