Such high tech toys, however, are not just for big name brands anymore. The time is coming soon when every business, even small business owners and entrepreneurs, can provide customer service using artificial intelligence technology like Siri or Chotu Bot.

 In fact, that time has already come for some businesses who have IT personnel skilled in programming. 

 This new option for AI customer service began when Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in April 2016 that third parties could begin making use of Facebook's chatbot and essentially repurpose the Facebook tech for their own customer service needs.

 While April 2016 might sound like dusty ages ago in the rapid-fire life cycle of technology, the idea is just beginning to make waves and appear on the radar of the business world. For example, a new December 2016 article from All Top Startups, written by Thomas Oppong, lists the Facebook chatbot as one of the top social media marketing trends to look for in 2017.

 The reasons are worth considering, as Oppong explains:

[Facebook Chatbot] can assist by automating tasks, retrieving data and offering excellent response to customer queries enhancing their experience....As customers are always looking for prompt responses, Chatbot does the job of engaging customers by replying to their queries with human assistance....With the Facebook chatbot, brands can independently connect with their potential consumers and increase customer engagement and interaction.

 By using the Facebook chatbot, businesses can add a powerful tool to their customer engagement efforts, not to mention its benefits in connecting with potential clients.

 The general principle isn't new, of course. Businesses began automating customer service as soon as answering machines and call centers were invented. But the Facebook chatbot brings the power of Artificial Intelligence into the mix and makes it accessible to any business owner savvy enough to use it.

 Which begs the question: how on earth do I get my business set up with Facebook chatbot?

<h2>How the Facebook Chatbot Works</h2>

 Facebook's official announcement about the chatbot outlined the steps for businesses to get their own AI chatbot:

Starting today, all developers and businesses will be able to build bots for Messenger, and then submit them for review. We will gradually accept and approve submissions to ensure the best experiences for everyone on Messenger. We're putting people first with new guidelines, policies and controls to offer the best interactions we possibly can.

This means that, currently, getting a Facebook chatbot is not exactly a wide open door for every business--yet. Only businesses with skilled developers and programmers can take advantage of Facebook's new tech for Messenger and follow its step-by-step instructions mentioned above.

 However, the reason marketing news sites are predicting 2017 to be the big year for chatbots is simple: third-party developers are beginning to offer their services to businesses who don't have the resources to develop their own chatbots. As the practice expands and competition grows--especially as the popularity of Facebook chatbots gains traction--it will become more affordable to pay someone to develop a chatbot for you.

 Even now businesses and organizations are beginning to do that, and they're offering their customers personalized AI customer service experiences on Facebook. 

 This recent article by Ellie Martin from TNW provides a snapshot of why having a chatbot is becoming so attractive:

...in the past two years, businesses have been increasingly exploring the capabilities of chatbots, the software that can understand and reply to typed commands and questions. Each can accomplish similar goals, but chatbots are a simpler technology that can more easily target a specific subject. If your business regularly deals with customers, they likely have consistent issues or questions, and building a chatbot is an easy way to streamline that interaction by providing information to a customer faster and more efficiently than a customer service representative.

 

The key factor in Martin's point is the simplicity of the technology. As complicated as the concept of AI seems to us, designing a chatbot is not rocket science. The hard AI science has already been figured out and provided by Facebook. Developing a chatbot is more about building a neat little packet of information--layers of answers to questions you know your customers will ask--within Facebook's pre-existing AI framework.

 Whether or not you immediately jump on the chatbot train in 2017, be prepared to see more of the little bots in just about every consumer experience you have online.

 

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