Facebook, Sprout Social build customer service chatbots

Sprout Social allows companies to create Facebook chatbots to improve customer service. (Sprout Social)

Social media management company Sprout Social has announced the launch of its Bot Builder for Facebook Messenger. The tool allows brands to create, preview and launch chatbots within minutes. 

There are currently 100,000 active bots on Facebook Messenger. These bots enable brands to serve customers via Messenger and to streamline customer service on that channel. Now, with the implementation of Bot Builder, a company's Facebook team can set up chatbots without the need of outside support. 

Sprout debuted the same tool for Twitter Direct Messages last month. Previously, Twitter had used chat bots for marketing, but these new bots are specifically for customer service. One brand finding success with the tool is Evernote, a note-taking app. Since the implementation, Evernote has served 80% more customers on Twitter per week while decreasing the number of replies in each conversation by 18%. 

And for the customer, the chatbot offers a personalized message upon entering Messenger chat. The user is greeted with a preset opening reply and then given options of where to head next depending on their question. By the time the query is handed over to a live agent, he or she already has all of the details necessary to efficiently find a solution. 

"We think of chatbots as a solution that creates happier humans on both sides of the equation," Andrew Caravella, VP of strategy and brand engagement at Sprout Social, told FierceRetail. "Customer service teams fielding a high volume of questions and issues through social often find themselves answering the same questions over and over. A chatbot can field the same query thousands of times a day, giving the same efficient response to each person who reaches out and allow human agents to focus on issues that need a more nuanced human perspective."

Caravella says that these rules-based chatbots aide consumers in getting better, faster answers and cut down on the back-and-forth and waiting time that can characterize traditional customer service strategies. 

"As retailers receive similar questions about their products or customers’ order statuses daily, imagine how many more people their social teams could help or proactively reach out to by getting that time back in their day," he said. 

Of course, with any new technology comes the fear that the new tool will infringe upon retail jobs. But Caravella says that marketing automation is a field built to better serve people, not make them irrelevant. 

"Social media, and customer care in particular, will always require a human touch. Bot Builder enables brands to build rules-based chatbots that give predetermined responses," he said. "They give customers an instantaneous response and guide them through an automated conversational flow, but ultimately they’re gathering information to hand off to a human customer service agent when more sophisticated resolution is necessary. Overall, this can help brands retain and grow customer service talent by lessening repetitive and mundane aspects of the job, as well as better serving a larger volume of customers in a more efficient way."