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Imagine paying your bills, checking your account balance, getting help with financial questions, and generally managing all your everyday banking needs via Facebook. Sounds hard to believe?
Not for customers of Tochka Bank in Russia, where all of this is possible today.
Bots, of course, are big right now. Facebook has opened up its billion-user Messenger platform for business, and business wants to talk to customers. Apparently customers want to talk back: managing boarding passes for flights, sending flowers to someone special, and ordering hamburgers from Burger King.
I made a bot myself.
But burgers and boarding passes are one thing. Paying your utilities or credit card bill is another. And talking to a representative of your bank about arranging a mortgage for a new property you want to purchase is yet another.
But both are available from Tochka, where clearly the bank’s leadership wants to not only present a modern high-tech appearance to the world, but also to deliver on that promise to customers.
“Using our Facebook bot you can check your account balance … make payments … check if there are ATMs around you … talk to Tochka team,” the bank’s PR manager Alexandra Prytkay told me via email.
Over 12,000 clients used the Facebook bot on the first day, and an astonishing 50% of them initiated a payment from the bot. Those are very significant numbers for a bot, since bots can be hard to find and start using, and the idea of communicating with a company via Facebook Messenger is still very new outside of the WeChat empire in China.
While it’s still early days for bots on the Messenger platform, there are now 11,000 of them. Rival social network Kik has had bots for longer than Facebook, and already has a easily-browsed “bot shop” where people can browse bots from brands and news outlets like Victoria’s Secret — find your perfect bra — H&M, Yahoo News — global headlines and summaries twice a day – and CNN.
Bots look to be useful little software agents for troublesome tasks we currently do in apps, or on the phone, or in-store. They’re also an incredibly important way for social and messaging networks to shove their way up the food chain to platforms, which can capture much bigger percentages of value than applications. Mobile, which started out as a battle of hardware and graduated to a battle of software ecosystems, is now engaging a boots-on-the-ground war over connections — both people-to-people, and business-to-people (C2C and B2C, if you prefer).
Whoever wins here will not just monetize attention (traditional Yahoo business model), but also intent (traditional Google business model) but also purchases (business model of the future for Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others).
That’s a treasure trove no-one wants to pass up.
And Tochka bank?
It just wants to provide great customer service, wherever its customers happen to be.
John Koetsier is a mobile economist, writer, and speaker. He analyzes and forecasts mobile trends for TUNE. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
This article was originally published on on July 27 on Forbes 2016