Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the chatbots for Messenger at the F8 conference this week. The social networking company says chatbots will give consumers a new way to interact directly with their favorite businesses over the Messenger app. Though the platform is still in beta stage and currently works with only a handful of US companies, it is available to try out right away.
Finding and using the chatbots is pretty easy
To get into a conversation with your favorite brand, open the Messenger app or go to the Web-based version, and use the search box to find the chatbot you want to chat with. Currently, only a few bots are available, including the Wall Street Journal, Uber, CNN, Spring, and 1-800-Flowers. When you search for a chatbot, say CNN, it will show up under the heading “Bots and Businesses.”
If you want to chat with the Wall Street Journal, search for their chatbot to get the latest news and financial market updates. When I entered “Top News”, it instantly served a quick slideshow of top headlines that I could click on to read the full story. You can also ask the WSJ chatbot about the performance of certain stocks. You simply have to enter the company’s ticker symbol with a dollar sign prefix.
The automated chatbots are pretty interactive. Let me show you another example. If you want to order some flowers, you can use the 1-800-Flowers chatbot. Start a conversation with the bot to select the delivery address, choose a bouquet, select the delivery time, include a note and make payments. Chatting with the bot is much easier and quicker than filling out details on a standard site, especially when you are on mobile.
You can use the bots to shop online, get a weather report, and much more. However, it is still in beta stages and full of bugs. Sometimes using the chatbots even for simple tasks looks frustrating. It still has some way to go before it becomes good enough to replace standard websites. Over time, you should be able to get what you want by chatting with the bots in natural language.