Not content with being the platform every consumer uses, Facebook is now trying to become the platform every business uses too.
Hot off the heels of its recent announcement that its Workplace app had hit the 30,000 business mark, everyone’s favourite social network has now released a test version of a new plugin called Customer Chat, which lets businesses take Facebook Messenger conversations onto their own websites.
In the grand agglomeration of Facebook tools, this may seem a minor one. However, its consequences for customer service and experience professionals could be striking.
Not only does it work across a range of devices but, by being compatible on external websites, it allows brands to keep records of interactions so they don’t have to start fresh with customers each time a new conversation is started up – a major sticking point for brands using chat apps as part of their service mix in the past.
Gartner predicts that by 2019, messaging apps will exceed social media for customer support requests.
“The future of customer service is messaging,” says Conversocial CEO and founder, Joshua March. “It's more effortless and convenient for customers, and more efficient for brands. With Messenger Customer Chat, the benefits of messaging can now be expanded to include live conversations on their website.”
Conversocial themselves have announced they will be one of the first brands to trial the beta version of Facebook Messenger Customer Chat with their own customers, including airline Volaris and UK retailer, Argos.
So, just how much more convenient is a cross-platform Facebook Messenger app likely to be for you customers?
“Given Facebook’s ubiquity it’s an environment most people are already comfortable working in,” says Neil Weston, general manager EMEA at Lithium Technologies.
“It is clear that within the ever-changing digital landscape, streamlined digital customer experience makes a happy customer. In fact, a recent Nielsen study found that 29% of consumers say their first choice would be to engage with a brand via its website, blog or social channels. This is compared to only 17% who prefer to connect in-store.”
Stuart Dorman, chief innovation officer for Sabio believes Facebook will need to overcome certain privacy questions before customers trust using it as a live chat tool outside of Facebook’s own platform.
“It potentially offers a much more accessible and portable experience for customers than they currently have with many corporate chat systems by allowing conversations to start on a website and continue through the Facebook Messenger app.
“However, it will be interesting to see how customers resolve the challenge of dealing with multiple chat/messaging platforms, as Apple has already embarked on a similar approach with its iMessage for business offering. There is also the question of trust and privacy. Will customers trust Facebook to protect their identity, and can they be sure that Facebook isn’t just hoovering up more data from all your website visits and conversations?”
Whilst the tool is seen as primarily for customer service requests, Neil Weston, general manager EMEA at Lithium Technologies says marketers will be equally intrigued by Customer Chat.
“The digital customer experience is much bigger than marketing or technology alone. Delivering a brilliant digital customer experience requires both marketing and technology working together seamlessly.
“Digital customer experience is a marketer’s playing field and, as such, marketers have no choice but to harness the power of technology to win both the attention and, more importantly, the loyalty of today’s digital-first consumers. Within this context it is clear to see how valuable the new Facebook Chat tool could be to increasing the digital customer experience and ultimately creating a happy customer.
And as Ed Creasey, consulting director for NICE explains, this could mean chat tools like Facebook Messenger become central to whether customers stay loyal with a brand.
“Brands with strong data analytics capabilities can also integrate this new chat capability into their customer experience platform, enabling the sort of highly personalised experience that breeds satisfaction and loyalty.
“Our experience tells us that when customers are able to easily connect with customer service representatives via online chat or video and website interactions, they are more likely to continue doing business with the company and recommend it to others.”
Whilst currently in beta, adoption of Facebook’s plugin is likely to be high.
“Customers and small businesses will like this as they’ll be working in an environment they’re already familiar with, but Facebook will face challenges in getting enterprise-size businesses to adopt this,” says Weston.
“Big brands will almost invariably have existing enterprise chat products in place and will likely be under contract, and web chat is often run by a different team than that which would run Facebook (typically social). So, while it may be useful, internal silos and legacy processes may well slow adoption for big enterprises (which, unfortunately, may not be in the customers’ best interests).”
And as Stuart Dorman adds: "For today’s customer experience teams the focus is all about reducing effort and creating seamless customer journeys. The Messenger business chat plug-in, with its proven portability across websites, mobiles and tablets, is likely to prove a valuable addition to corporate messaging strategies.
“From a customer perspective, Facebook has already been working hard to add value to Messenger, with features such as chatbot integration and the recent addition of payments for UK users. We suspect the ability to continue and manage chats with multiple brands across multiple devices will prove a winning choice for customers – providing they feel comfortable with entrusting yet more of their life to the Facebook platform.”
About Chris Ward
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.