New Delhi: In a bid to use artificial intelligence for better user experience, online real estate marketplace makaan.com, part of PropTiger, has launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot that can interact with Facebook users like a human customer agent.
Rupert Murdoch backed PropTiger, which bought makaan.com about a year ago, claims to be the first real estate company in India to deploy the Facebook platform to service its prospective customers.
The bot would allow users to have a more natural communication with the company and save on time spent in flipping between apps and websites.
“A conversational paradigm shift is definitely a big trend that is emerging across verticals. Big dollars are being spent by tech giants (Google, Facebook, Apple, etc) in this direction. This is definitely very relevant to real estate as well,” said Ravi Bhushan, chief technology officer, PropTiger.com.
Home buying being a sensitive transaction, the chatbot may be able to put customers at ease by answering all the basic questions quickly.
The users would just have to add makaan.com as a friend on the messenger and start the conversation, to which the chatbot will respond instantly.
However, there have been instances of bots responding in unexpected ways, the biggest failure being the Microsoft’s twitter chatbot ‘Tay’, which started abusing the users and had to be taken offline.
“For complex questions we have used a hybrid approach where the bot automatically switches to a human customer agent from makaan.com,” said Bhushan.
There is also the risk of a break down in the service in case of an unusual traffic surge, resulting in shortage of agents to reply to users’ queries.
“It won’t completely service the clients but an immediate response from the chatbot will be appreciated by all,” said Sahil Kapoor, executive director, RE/MAX India, an online real estate services provider.
More than 1 billion people use Facebook messenger every month and in order to tap that user base, Facebook in April launched the Messenger Platform where businesses can build bots on its chat service to engage with their customers.
“While Facebook provides the technological backbone, we created our technological rapper around it,” added Bhushan.
The chatbot service is only focused at makaan.com right now, but the company may also later start offering it for Proptiger, Bhushan told Mint.
The platform has received a great response from US businesses, which are using it to help customers buy clothes, order meals as well as make travel reservations.
US-based real estate services provider Trulia is already using the platform to help users buy and rent houses.
The move may also force Proptiger rivals such as 99acres.com and Magicbricks.com to adopt the technology thus sparking new technological innovation in the online real estate space.
“It’s high time we start thinking out of the box,” said Kapoor, adding that other players will soon follow suit.