When Facebook launched the Messenger Platform in April of 2016, The Verge stated that the bot era had officially begun. Less than 3 years later, hundreds of thousands of Messenger chatbots have been built proving that the bot era is going to be long and eventful. While Facebook Messenger quickly became the channel of choice for businesses, other popular channels include WhatsApp (limited access), Viber, Telegram, Line, and SMS. A multi-channel chatbot is one that can be deployed on multiple channels simultaneously.
Figuring out the right channels for your business
Businesses today need to be where their customers are and there is no better place than messaging apps. Facebook's messaging ecosystem alone comprising its three chat applications—Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram—has a collective user base of 2.6 billion users with an oncoming integration that will open up new possibilities for businesses.
However, whether you are already using a messaging app for your business or are figuring out the right channel to start with, keep in mind that each channel comes with its own set of possibilities, rules and limitations. And while it might be tempting to choose the channel where mostof your users are or the one that is the quickest to implement, not having a multi-channel strategy is sure to cost your business in the form of lost revenue or disgruntled customers (Hey I'm not on Facebook, does it mean I can't use your bot?).
Benefits of adopting a multi-channel chatbot strategy
1. Cater to a wide audience
Don't ignore customers who don't use popular messaging channels or don't wish to interact with businesses on certain channels. Making your business chatbot or messaging experiences available on multiple channels not only give consumers a choice but also ensure a wider reach for your business. Moreover, the objective behind investing in a chatbot is to improve customer experience and enable them to access information with ease. This can only be fulfilled by allowing customers to interact with your business via their channel of choice.
2. Enable cross-platform conversations
It is not uncommon for people to begin a conversation on one channel and continue it on another. A classic case in point is someone initiating a conversation via a website's live chat widget and continuing it on email. Another use case comes from a Bank that supports Facebook Messenger along with their own secured web chat. Users usually start a conversation on Messenger but sometimes ask a question that can only be answered via the web chat due to security concerns. At this point, the user receives a link to switch to the secured web chat.
A multi-channel chatbot makes it a breeze for users to continue a conversation on a different channel than the one it was initiated on. This prevents a user from starting a fresh conversation every time they switch channels as well as benefits a business by differentiating existing users from new ones.
3. Reduce Platform Dependency
It has been proven time and again that being too dependent on a third-party behemoth eventually affects your business adversely. Case in point, Facebook changing their news feed algorithm that made the reach of page posts negligible, leaving publishers and brands in a flurry.
Similarly, building your business chatbot for just one platform leaves you at the mercy of the platform's algorithms and rules which can be significantly detrimental to businesses. Since such platform changes are almost always unforeseen, it is best to spread your eggs and eliminate the risk by building a multi-channel chatbot.
4. Build once for all channels
Messaging platforms are fast-evolving and keeping pace with API changes and updates across platforms is an arduous task. Moreover, building for each channel separately is time-consuming and expensive. With a multi-channel approach from the very start, you can build your chatbot using a unified API like Amio, thus eliminating the need to stay updated with platform changes, maintain multiple codebases or spend costly resources on adding new channels.
5. Test which channels work best for a use case
The various use cases of a chatbot is a topic for another article. Here's one that highlights how 5 innovative businesses are using a chatbot. The fact of the matter is that not every channel will deliver the same result for a certain use case, and by deploying a multi-channel chatbot, you can conduct tests and figure out the most-suited channels. For instance, Facebook might work well to answer FAQs but SMS is the best channel for emergency services as it doesn't need internet connectivity.
Chatbots have proven to be useful to businesses of all sizes by reducing the cost and time to serve customers. That said, chatbots are still in their early days with a majority of headway made in the last 2 years. There is no tested formula that is certain to work for your business and the only way to find success with chatbots is to test various chatbot types, channels and message formats.
Check out Amio.io if you're looking for a one-stop solution to build a multi-channel chatbot (Messenger, Viber and SMS, with more coming soon) that comes with integrations with NLP providers (Wit.ai and IBM Watson) and analytics tools (Botanalytics). Amio's powerful API is accompanied with a toolbox complete with Postman Collections and powerful SDKs to ease your development while providing the essentials to build and improve your chatbots and messaging experiences.