Since Facebook announced that they were bringing chat bots to the Messenger platform back in April, the marketing world has been abuzz with excitement about the possibilities.
There’s no question that bots will be huge. Imagine companies being able to provide customers with intimate, one-on-one service at a fraction of the cost of a call center.
But we definitely have some time to kill before we’re living in a utopia of chirpy, always-on chat bots attentive to our every need.
It’s still very early days for chat bots, but looking at what companies are doing right with them today is what will inspire you to do even better tomorrow. Think about it: you’re around for the beginning of what might very well be the next massive platform shift.
Here are five chat bots out on the market right now that will inspire you and get you thinking about how YOU can take advantage of this awesome technology.
(Source: Raspberry Pi)
1. HealthTap — Get Personalized Answers Faster Than Ever
HealthTap is a company started in 2010 to make healthcare more accessible. It’s a mobile app that lets users ask questions, share photos, get test results assessed, and get personalized referrals from real doctors.
Now they’ve taken their service a step further and put it on Facebook Messenger. All you have to do is install the HealthTap chat bot and ask a question. First, the bot analyzes your request and shows you similar questions asked by other users.
By clicking on “See answer,” you can see how many doctors have offered answers to each question and check out each response in more detail:
If the answers you see don’t quite fit with your question, you can choose to have it sent out and answered by a doctor:
If you don’t want to wait 24-48 hours for a response, of course, the “Get answers now” button brings users to HealthTap’s premium health consulting service, where you can get in touch with a doctor now for $25.
Showing Off Your Value Quickly
Chat bots make it possible for companies to provide answers to their customers’ questions at scale and at a very low cost. They also make it easy to upsell people once you’ve demoed the product and shown your value.
Take a lesson from HealthTap and think about how a chat bot could help your business generate qualified leads:
- What kinds of questions do people have about your service before they start?
- What are people’s anxieties or reservations and how would you approach them in a conversation?
- How can you give people a glimpse of what your product does while hinting at an upgrade?
Done right, a chat bot can be a great tool for both marketing your business and driving new traffic.
2. Spring — Receive Smart, Personalized Recommendations And Shop Through Messenger
Spring’s personalized shopper bot is not the kind of bot you talk to, but it does take advantage of the medium to great effect.
Every interaction with the Spring bot starts with a list of questions designed to narrow down exactly what kind of product you’re interested in buying:
Then you define your price range and Spring gives you some product recommendations:
Spring’s shopping bot takes advantage of a very counter-intuitive point about Messenger bots—they don’t always need to chat. In fact, sometimes it’s better if they don’t.
Bots Should Always Be Minimizing Friction
Having to click on buttons might seem counter to the idea of a “chat bot,” but it makes a lot more sense than a real back-and-forth here.
Imagine if the bot above required you to type out “Men’s items,” “Clothing,” “Bottoms,” “Shorts,” “Under $75,” and so on. That’s a total of 50 keystrokes including hitting the Shift and Enter buttons. With this bot, finding men’s shorts under $75 takes just four clicks.
It’s also about four clicks on the Spring website, but there you end up having to do a bunch of visual processing to understand how the pages are organized and sit through a page transition:
E-commerce sites with lots of products like Spring have particular trouble with this because they have massive catalogs that can suck user attention away from the actual products they want. Ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of questions could you ask upfront that might get customers closer to checking out?
- Is your website large and complex?
- How can you cut friction out of your product or service?
Remember: chat bots need to be more than a novelty item, they need to make life easier for your customer.
As a designer, you never want to make your potential customers think more than they need to. Chat bots can do a lot to help with that.
3. EstherBot — Use Your Brand To Connect With People Through Language
Esther Crawford is a San Francisco-based marketer who found an incredibly creative way of using bots to promote her brand. She turned her resume into a chat bot.
The bot let prospective employers learn about Esther’s personal and work experience through a conversation rather than a list of accomplishments. Every click brought up a new fact or story about Esther’s life, turning her resume into an interactive piece of digital media.
Esther’s bot got popular quick, hitting #2 on Product Hunt immediately after launch, racking up 1,000 recommends on Medium and resulting in 24,000 messages exchanged with employees of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and various other startups.
That’s a testament to her skill as a marketer, for sure, but it also speaks to something about bots themselves—when they’re done well, interacting with them is a pleasure, not a chore:
Esther’s chatbot made it fun to learn about her history. You could get snack-sized tidbits of information, or you could choose to dive in deeper:
No one’s going to eagerly go through the resume you posted on LinkedIn. But lots of people used Esther’s chatbot, and that’s because she turned a normally tedious experience into a fun one.
Focus On Crafting A Narrative
Chat bots are highly narrative-driven, which makes them very different from other tech services or platforms. If you can’t make your bot communicate in a way that’s snappy, intriguing, or witty, then you’re not going to connect with your customers on a personal level.
Whenever possible, you should be:
- Using humor. No one wants talking to a robot to be like… well, talking to a robot.
- Storyboarding your chat bot. Look at every branch of your bot’s conversational tree and make sure it’s a cohesive narrative with no dead-ends.
- Think about boring experiences you can use chat bots to turn into intriguing ones. The possibilities are endless: pricing? Help documentation?
There are lots of situations where a real conversation beats navigating through a bunch of static information, so use your imagination!
4. Surveybot — Conduct Surveys Where Your Customers Actually Are
Surveybot is a bot that, as its name suggests, allows you to send your customers surveys after the completion of a task—a purchase, a download, registration, etc.
What’s nice about SurveyBot is that it doesn’t require any coding knowledge. It’s 100% plug-and-play:
You can send the SurveyBot-generated link to your Messenger bot to your customers at any point:
It’s a highly simple bot—all you can do with it is create surveys—but it gets at something really essential to the idea of the chat bot.
Make The Unnatural Natural
What SurveyBot does is lessen the friction required for users to respond to your surveys by a dramatic degree. Instead of sending an easily-archived, generic email or an easily-shut pop-up window, you’re reaching out through a personal and intimate medium. Here are some things to keep in mind thinking about doing something similar with your business:
Here are some things to keep in mind thinking about doing something similar with your business:
- You should make your surveys short and sweet. The conversational format won’t work if you’re dragging people through a long interrogation. Think three questions max.
- Make it easy. Ask for one-word, yes-or-no, multiple choice or 0-10 answers. You can ask for longer text responses, but don’t overdo it—maybe once per survey.
- Make people feel like you actually care. Seamless recently began sending texts after each delivery asking if your food was hot when it arrived and if the order was correct. Don’t come off as self-centered, try to understand the customer’s experience.
It’s hard to get your customers to fill out surveys. You’re asking people to devote time to helping you after the sale or interaction has been completed. They’re not getting anything out of the survey.
Theoretically, you can use their responses to create a better product, but in the moment, that’s a tough sell. So show value, make it easy, and don’t just send questions—make it a conversation.
5. 1-800-Flowers.com — Make Frictionless Purchases At The Speed Of Light
The 1-800-Flowers chat bot was one of the first bots on Messenger. The way it works is simple. After you click “Get Started” in your Messenger window, you’re given two options: Order Flowers and Talk To Support.
The bot’s good at parsing addresses correctly. We entered one without any kind of comma separation, and it got it right on the first try. After confirming, you’re shown a variety of different options for flower arrangements that you can click and slide left and right through:
The simplicity of this early Messenger chat bot does a lot to hide the really smooth execution underneath.
Keep It Snappy
Within milliseconds of opening this bot, you’re down to business ordering flowers—or at least it feels like it. The first thing the bot says to you is “Please enter the delivery address for these flowers. Include apartment # if needed.”
You still have to pick out the flowers and give the recipient’s name, but the psychological effect of getting this message first is to make you feel like you’re already 95% of the way there. It also gets the boring, procedural step out of the way and prevents the annoyance of entering an address from cutting the sale short later on.
If you’re thinking about building a bot for your business, consider:
- Where, in the typical sales process, your customers tend to churn out
- Whether you can put the friction-causing elements of your sales/checkout process first and get them out of the way
- Whether you have unnecessary steps or places where the experience could be sped up.
Every millisecond counts when dealing with user attention. That goes double for a site like Facebook where another distraction is always just around the corner. So keep it snappy, and don’t waste your customers’ time with unnecessary work.
How To Build Your Own Facebook Bot
Here are some of the resources we’ve found that can help you on your way to building your own Facebook bot:
A tool for building bots with good Github documentation.
A visual tool for building bots. Good if you really want to avoid coding!
A powerful bot tool for developers looking for more functionality and features.
A registry of different bots for different platforms so you can see what’s out there and get inspired.
We’re super excited to see if anyone’s working on chat bots now and what you’re doing with them! Let us know what you’re up to or what you’d like us to cover in the comments below.