Facebook has recently released bots for Messenger that allow businesses and developers to create bots to interact with customers.
There are three main capabilities of bots for Messenger -- templates for generic messages, welcome screens, and send and receive text, images and rich bubbles. Some possible use cases for these bots include creating and confirming reservations, listing show times or items available for purchase, completing transactions, weather updates and personalized news delivery.
These Messenger bots can be developed through importing message data from businesses that use SMS for real-time communication such as delivery tracking or incident notification. Messenger bots integrate with third-party platforms to provide advanced features and capabilities. Some examples of third-party integration are Shopify for payment-processing, Twilio to access mobile and text communication, and Zendesk which provides advanced customer support features.
In its early days, developers are still trying to learn how to successfully develop Facebook Messenger chatbots. As it turns out, developing AI is one of the classic problems in software development. It is becoming apparent that so far, Messenger bots fail as AI.
Many users are reporting that Messenger bots are having difficulty parsing simple commands, they are slow to respond, unreliable, and do not interact in a way that is natural for the end user, thus fail to meet user expectation.
For example, one user who was attempting to purchase pants from the shopping bot Spring was presented with five products but the bot failed to understand his requests to narrow his search by color, fabric or size, forcing him to quit the transaction. Another user reviewed Poncho, a weather bot, and also complained about the bot failing to meet one simple request, that is, to send weather reports every morning. Instead the bot insisted that the user was on a boat instead of simply delivering his local weather.
Even with these bugs, the Facebook Messenger bot platform is still in its early days and it remains to be seen whether developers can learn to create bots that simplify complex interactions. It might be Mark Zuckerberg's goal for users to be able to message businesses in the same way they would message a friend, however with the challenges and bugs reported and the difficulty in developing these bots, that day may still be far away.