Though consumers see the benefits of using Facebook Messenger bots to interact with brands, the concept is still novel and unfamiliar.
That’s why, as users learn to navigate these new interactions, companies have to build experiences that are useful, intuitive and reflective of what consumers actually want. Matt Sueoka, vice president of digital partnerships and development at American Express, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about how the company continues to improve its bot experience based on feedback from customers.
eMarketer: What are some ways that you are using Messenger, from a customer service standpoint?
Matt Sueoka: On Messenger, we saw potential to automate some of our most frequent and useful types of interactions. For example, our initial bot delivered transaction notifications to cardholders, so that they received an alert when their card was being used. Customers gave us positive feedback on that experience—many were able to catch fraud thanks to the notifications.
Since then, we’ve made the bot experience more conversational by adding contextual information on benefits relating to high-value purchases. If someone buys a couch at Crate and Barrel, we push through a notification saying, “You just spent $500 at Crate and Barrel on this item,” but follow it up with: “Did you know you get purchase protection for this item with your card? If you want to know more about how that benefit works, click here.” This drives more dialogue with the bot.
eMarketer: How effective has Messenger been as a customer engagement tool?
Sueoka: It has been effective. At first we were conservative about sending too many messages about payment protection or other features. We didn’t want it to feel like spam, and we didn’t want to message people too frequently. But when we asked for feedback, our customers said they liked the messages and wanted more. Then we started tweaking and sending messages in higher frequency. We try to find the right balance by listening to customers, since this is new for many of them.“Brands have to recognize that users don't necessarily always know what the bot is going to be able to do.”
eMarketer: Are customers open-minded about chatbots in general? How can brands be sensitive about any potential hesitation that consumers may feel?
Sueoka: Messaging apps are new to some customer segments. Even people that have used Messenger before have often never used it to interact with a brand. It’s a new experience that some people might find scary or strange.
That’s why brands should try to guide consumers down different user journeys gently within their bot experiences. For example, instead of diving right into a conversation, a chat with a bot might start out with a menu that has three or four conversation directions for consumers to choose from. Brands have to recognize that users don't necessarily always know what the bot is going to be able to do.