Today, few people would argue the immense role that social media plays in how we interact – both with each other and with our favorite companies. To get a real sense, consider that a 2016 Forbes article suggested that there were 900 million people on Facebook’s Messenger platform – a number that has undoubtedly grown since.


With an audience that size, it’s no surprise that some of the world’s biggest brands have tried to engage with customers through social media – often with very little success. We can all name a few of our favorite “oops” moments where these brands have really stepped in it – either by failing to respond in a genuine manner or by being downright offensive.


A lot of these social media gaffes can be chalked up to human error or a basic lack of judgment, but the days of these types of mishaps may soon be coming to an end. In 2017, Facebook placed an increasing focus on the role that artificial intelligence bots play on the platform, and how brands will be able to use those bots to improve their customer service.


Today, we’re going to introduce the idea of bots on Facebook’s Messenger platform and delve into how this technology may have a role to play in how your pharmacy interacts with customers online.


So… What Are Bots?


This is a great question and one that is simpler to answer than you might expect. You can push those images of the Terminator out of your mind because bots are simply programs that help to perform a specific task.


While there are much more technical answers out there, there are two key things to know as you get started: 1) Bots can help automate specific business processes and 2) Facebook has developed a platform and engine to make it easy for developers to build bots that meet their specific needs.


Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 200,000 bots on Facebook and its Messenger platform. These bots range from pizza delivery to payment processing, banking to fashion advice – if you can go out and consume it, chances are there is a bot for it.


Interestingly, bots have even extended into providing services for social good. One example, Tarjimly – an app that helps connect refugees with instant translation services in real time. Consider the value of this technology for someone who can have translation access to menus, signs, and job information without requiring a translator.


Bots are playing an increasingly important – and diverse – role on Facebook’s platform. For those looking to boost their pharmacy’s marketing effectiveness, these bots may be the answer.


How Do These Bots Work In A Customer Service Environment?


One of the unique things about Facebook’s bot engine is its capacity to recognize natural language. This effectively means that it can understand how human being actually converses and pull out the key information accordingly. The ability for the bots to be conversational in nature, combined with their ability to access customer “memory”, have made for some interesting implications for customer service.


Consider this: would you rather sit on hold with a customer service line, being transferred from department to department, or would you rather interact in real time with a program that has access to all necessary information and can carry on a regular, natural conversation? For many, the convenience of these bots – especially over a widely used platform like Messenger – make it a no-brainer for addressing customer service needs.


What Role Would A Bot Have With My Pharmacy?


The truth is, there are countless options that really depend on the specific needs of your pharmacy, and your individual customers. With that said, some popular applications of this technology for pharmacies could include:


  • Improving customer service – Imagine having a bot be able to automate answers to questions about store hours, prescription refill dates, customer notifications to refill, and even accept payment. While these types of automation are always a little bit more complex in a healthcare environment, the potential is striking.
  • Healthy living tips – Your pharmacy’s bot could become a valuable resource to your customers looking to make a healthy change in their lives. A bot that can answer basic lifestyle questions, provide healthy tips, and even connect you to a pharmacist to learn more is a fantastic value add to the basic customer service side.
  • Strengthen customer engagement – Finally, your bot is just one more opportunity to connect your brand with your customer. The conversation between your customer and your bot may be the perfect opportunity to finally get them signed up for your mailing list, share some upcoming promotions, or provide a special bonus just for them.


Regardless of what will work best for your customer base – chances are good that a bot can help you strengthen your engagement with customers, and increase the value that you are providing to them.


How Do I Get Started?


We have three tips for pharmacy marketers to keep in mind before plugging into the wide world of bots:


  • Have a strong existing infrastructure – If your website is barely keeping up with the times and you just started your first Facebook page, you probably aren’t quite ready to start setting up bots for your pharmacy. A strong web and social background, and a skilled developer and great assets to have before branching out into bots.
  • Know what you need – Your bot shouldn’t feel like a novelty experience that is just “neat” – it should fulfill a real business need and create an efficiency for you and your team. A strong understanding of this need is imperative before embarking on a quest to build a bot. Simply put, whatever you do has to create value for the customer.
  • Be thorough – Finally, it’s not enough to string together a few generic answers to common questions. Your bot needs to be a fully developed experience that anticipates your customer’s needs and reflects your brand. The engine’s natural language recognition allows you to program the bot with your brand’s unique voice, so really consider where you can build in uniqueness or personality. And most importantly – have high-quality answers to the questions you anticipate being asked.


While this has been a crash course in all things “Messenger Bots”, there is so much more to know to really fine-tune a bot for your pharmacy’s needs. Contact Prizm Media today to learn about how our team can help optimize your pharmacy’s marketing program and bring you one step closer to bringing bots on board.