Facebook is launching a trial in Silicon Valley of its new virtual assistant M, but this assistant is more than just the AI offered by Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana – it comes with the intelligence of a real human being.
As reported in Wired, M will have an AI base, but be supported by contractors that Facebook is calling M trainers. Their job is to make sure that every request is answered. Embedded within Facebook’s Messenger tool on mobile, M will be launched with the tap of a small button. Once a user makes a request, a conversation thread is created with M offering information and asking follow-up questions.
Facebook says it plans to employ thousands of M trainers to back the service in the months ahead. The trainers will have a customer service background and part of the aim is to help out its users in ways that companies haven’t been able to offer. For example, Facebook employee testers have been using the service to have someone wait on hold when they need to talk to their cable or Internet provider.
With an investment in technology and thousands of new people, you can bet Facebook has a revenue plan for M. It may come from making Messenger an invaluable customer support channel that service providers aren’t able to ignore. In the same way that Twitter has become a channel where consumers vent complaints and expect follow-up responses from brand accounts, Facebook may want develop that same expectation with M.
If enough cable subscribers start using M to make those support calls, so they don’t have to wait on hold, that might be indication that they need to have a presence within Messenger. It would be a complement to the Businesses on Messenger features that Facebook has already launched, such as the ability to send receipts, notify of shipments and provide customer service.