Facebook Inc. (FB) is gearing up to rein in its development efforts on chatbots on Facebook Messenger after the technology failed to answer 70% of customers’ questions and requests, according to Silicon Valley blog The Information.
According to reports on The Information’s findings, the user requests couldn’t be taken care of without having human agents step in. The bots, which weren’t built by in-house developers, are causing so many headaches because the technology wasn’t fully developed when Facebook introduced it. As a result, The Information reported Facebook is abandoning plans to create a large posse of chatbots, opting instead to focus on getting its Messenger chatbot to answer a small set of questions so that users won’t be disappointed or frustrated with the inability of the chatbot to handle their requests. In April, Facebook put speculation to bed when it announced it was getting into the chatbot business, rolling out tools for developers to build bots for Messenger. Facebook subscribes to the idea that Messenger can be the main way businesses interact with their customers, even predicting that someday it could replace 1-800 numbers, and that’s where chatbots and artificial intelligence comes in. When Facebook announced the developer tools, it also announced it includes an API (application program interface) that enables developers to create chatbots and chat widgets for Messenger and the internet, respectively.
Chatbots as Big Business
In July, shortly after launching the chatbot developer kit, Facebook announced it had 11,000 chatbots on its Facebook Messenger platform. The social media giant also disclosed that more than 23,000 app developers had already signed up to support and make applications for Messenger's bot engine. This was seen as a striking milestone, considering it had been only a couple of months since Facebook unveiled the chatbot function. The chatbots, when integrated with the Messenger app, can allow users to conduct transactions and receive various forms of information without having to download a separate app. If the bots can provide users with access to ecommerce transactions and things like sports scores and local entertainment, users would never have to leave the platform. Keeping users engaged will help Facebook sell more ads.
While all sorts of companies and industries are getting into the chatbot game, it remains to be seen if this burgeoning technology will take off. In the financial industry, with a move to more automated investing’s via robo-advisers, chatbots are playing an increasing role. (See also: The Increasing Role of Chatbots in Financial Services.)
With a chatbot, financial services companies can give consumers automatic answers to questions and even let a customer check their balance without the need of a human. According to Citigroup, the chatbot economy saw 170% growth between the third and sixth months following the launch of Facebook Messenger. There were more developers working on chatbots during the sixth month after launch than there were working on apps 14 months after the launch of Messenger, Citigroup found.