AsFacebook [https://crunchbase.com/organization/facebook]prepares to launch its
new cryptocurrency Libra [https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/18/facebook-libra/]in
2020, it?s putting the pieces in place to help it run. In one of the latest
developments, it has acquiredServicefriend [http://servicefriend.com/], a
startup that built bots ? chat clients for messaging apps based on artificial
intelligence ? to help customer service teams, TechCrunch has confirmed.
The news was first reported in Israel, where Servicefriend is based, after one
of its investors, Roberto Singler, alerted local publicationThe Marker
[https://www.themarker.com/technation/1.7866139]about the deal. We reached out
to Ido Arad, one of the co-founders of the company, who referred our questions
to a team at Facebook. Facebook then confirmed the acquisition with an
Apple-like non-specific statement:
?We acquire smaller tech companies from time to time.?We don?t always discuss
our plans,? a Facebook spokesperson said.
Several people, includingArad [https://www.linkedin.com/in/aradido/], his
co-founderShahar Ben [https://www.linkedin.com/in/shaharbenami/]Ami, and at
least oneother [https://www.linkedin.com/in/billy-chu-6bb0671/]indicate that
they now work at Facebook within the Calibra digital wallet group on their
LinkedIn profiles. Their jobs at the social network started this month, meaning
this acquisition closed in recent weeks. (Several others indicate that they are
still at Servicefriend, meaning they too may have likely made the move as well.)
Although Facebook isn?t specifying what they will be working on, the most
obvious area will be in building a bot ? or more likely, a network of bots ? for
the customer service layer for theCalibra
[https://crunchbase.com/organization/calibra]digital wallet that Facebook is
Facebook?s plan is to build a range of financial services for people to use
Calibra to pay out and receive Libra ? for example, to send money to contacts,
pay bills, top up their phones, buy things and more.
It remains to be seen just how much people will trust Facebook as a provider of
all these. So that is where having ?human? and accessible customer service
experience will be essential.
?We are here for you,? Calibra notes on itswelcome page [https://calibra.com/],
where it promises 24-7 support in WhatsApp and Messenger for its users.
Servicefriend has worked on Facebook?s platform in the past: specifically it
built ?hybrid? bots for Messenger for companies to use to complement teams of
humans, to better scale their services on messaging platforms. In one Messenger
bot that Servicefriend built forGlobe Telecom in the Philippines
[https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/facebook-presents-at-f8—successful-hybrid-bot-for-messenger-created-by-servicefriend-619943863.html] , it noted that the hybrid bot was able to bring the ?agent hours? down to under
20 hours for each 1,000 customer interactions.
Bots have been a relatively problematic area for Facebook. The company launched
a personal assistant called M in2015
[https://techcrunch.com/2015/08/26/facebook-is-adding-a-personal-assistant-called-m-to-your-messenger-app/] , and then bots that let users talk to businesses in2016
[https://techcrunch.com/2016/04/12/agents-on-messenger/]on Messenger, with quite
some fanfare, although the reality was thatnothing
[https://techcrunch.com/2016/04/12/agents-on-messenger/https://www.wired.com/story/facebooks-virtual-assistant-m-is-dead-so-are-chatbots/] really worked as well as promised, and in some cases worked significantly worse
than whatever services they aimed to replace.
While AI-based assistants such as Alexa have become synonymous with how a
computer can carry on a conversation and provide information to humans, the
consensus around bots these days is that the most workable way forward is to
build services that complement, rather than completely replace, teams.
For Facebook, getting its customer service on Calibra right can help it build
and expand its credibility (note: another area where Servicefriend has build
services is in using customer service as a marketing channel). Getting it wrong
could mean issues not just with customers, but with partners and possibly
Original Article: https://techcrunch.com/2019/09/21/facebook-servicefriend/