Mainstay offers both open and closed bots, which they differ in the treatment of unknown contacts. Closed bots will give an "away" message to unknown contacts, letting them know that the bot is only available to authorized contacts. Open bots will be able to message unknown contacts from the start.
What is a closed bot?
A closed bot is a bot that will only respond to pre-approved contacts who have been uploaded into the system. It is not accessible to those who have not been invited to message with the bot. Typically, contacts will first interact with this kind of bot through an “introductory campaign” that allows them to opt-in/opt-out. (See Drafting Your Introduction Campaign Script to Students) Contacts that are not in the bot’s list of approved contacts will receive an away message that indicates they are not able to interact with the bot. Closed bots can utilize the full spectrum of nudges, campaigns, and question-answering, as they have access to the information of a contact at any time and have continuous access to that individual.
What is an open bot?
An open bot is a bot that can be texted or messaged by anyone. These bots are accessed by texting a number or messaging a Facebook or web bot (all Facebook/web bots are open). Open bots do not immediately know who they are addressing when the conversation starts for the first time. This can be solved by having the bot ask the contact a series of questions to gather information after the conversation gets started. This information can be used to link the contact back to an existing profile in your database or to create a new profile if it is someone not currently in the system.
Because anyone can contact an open bot, you may receive spam messages, which can make it hard to identify users who truly need attention from Mainstay and your staff. It can also be challenging to send campaigns through open bots due to the lack of user data. Therefore, we recommend using open bots for answering questions.
What type of bot do you want?
In most instances, a closed bot is going to give the best results for personalized engagement with contacts, especially when a bot is just starting out. A closed bot is going to be able to better serve the individual needs of a population as it is still growing its knowledge base. Moving to an open SMS bot is not something we often recommend, but combining an open Facebook/web bot with a closed SMS bot is a great way to get the best of both worlds: providing individualized attention to known students/applicants but still supporting other stakeholders with information and assistance through the web chat/Facebook messenger platforms.