Facebook changes tack with Messenger for Business tool

Facebook has bolstered its online supremacy by offering businesses a tool to vastly improve their customer service capabilities

  • By Elizabeth Matsangou | Monday, October 5th, 2015

Facebook’s new service allows businesses to communicate with consumers through its popular Messenger platform

As businesses fully embrace the social media frenzy of the 21st century, Facebook has again upped its game in the world of commercialisation. The latest tool offered by the social media giant is Messenger for Business. As Facebook’s over one billion monthly users will know too well, Messenger is a live chat mechanism that was introduced in order to allow ‘friends’ to exchange messages in real time, for free.

Messenger for Business lets companies interact with consumers quickly and efficiently, allowing them to bolster their customer service offerings, and is estimated to require around half the cost of operating a phone centre. Through the app, communication history between the individual and the company is easily recorded and can be reread by both parties each time a conversation restarts, offering a smoother experience.

The service will be particularly useful for customers who need to ask a question about a product they are viewing online, saving them the lengthy wait for an email response or an expensive phone call. In fact, Craig Borowski, Market Researcher for CRM research and evaluation firm Software Advice said: “From what we’ve seen in our surveys, consumers prefer live chat because it’s very easy to use and it provides immediate answers to their questions. These qualities really can’t be matched by other service channels.”

Quick time
Consumers demand high-quality customer service and greater levels of engagement from companies than ever before, regardless of size or industry, while on social media immediate responses and instant communication have become the norm.

Customer satisfaction with service channels

77%

Live chat

61%

Email

44%

Smartphones

“Consumers can communicate and engage with businesses within the same messaging app they already use every day with friends and contacts, on their own terms”, said Nick Peart, EMEA Marketing Director for Zendesk, a cloud-based customer service platform that has partnered with Facebook to help businesses communicate with the messaging app. “This allows consumers to have a more personal and ongoing conversation with the business.”

Companies are getting better at meeting these evolving consumer expectations, but the lag itself causes its own reaction. “Even if the business in question answers emails immediately and always has phone operators standing by, that’s somewhat secondary, because most consumers expect that an email will take time to answer and that calling a company nearly always requires waiting on hold or some other inconvenience”, said Borowski. “These expectations determine consumer behaviour, even if they’re not correct for every situation.”

According to a consumer survey carried out by eDigital’s Customer Service Benchmark, live chat has the highest level of satisfaction for any customer service channel, at 77 percent (followed by email with 61 percent, and smartphones with 44 percent). As a result, it is reasonable to assume more companies will adopt the service in the near future, particularly if and when a live chat option becomes a determining factor in which sites customers choose to shop on.

“Right off the bat, they’re engaging better with the customers by meeting their preferences”, said Borowski. “With live chat, more of those questions will get asked and answered, and more customers will move beyond that purchase barrier. The end result is that the business offering live chat will have more purchasing customers.”

Facebook era
What makes Messenger for Business so smart and also so promising is the fact Facebook is the second most visited website in the world; according to the company’s Q2 2014 report, on average, users spend around 40 minutes a day on the site. By using tit as a commercial platform, companies can harness some of its mammoth user base and highly frequent patronage. “It also offers powerful analytics and reporting capabilities, so a business can identify customer satisfaction ratings, customer service agent performance, and help identify problems before they escalate”, said Peart.

That being said, it is not enough for companies to simply employ Messenger or alternative live chat tools – they must do so effectively. Implementation will be a challenge; particularly deciding on which web pages and in which situations the service will be offered. This will require in depth research to clearly define what customers are trying to achieve at various points on the site(s), while also ensuring they are not frustrated by overzealous and intrusive pop ups.

Borowski advised companies “map out the various customer journeys, understand where customers are more apt to have difficulty or questions. Then use live chat to help them along their journey, towards their goal – whether that’s making a purchase, comparing products, or getting general customer service questions answered. The more strategically live chat is implemented, the more success it will bring”. It is also crucial to train agents to effectively handle multiple conversations simultaneously.

In time, companies will improve the service they offer through Messenger as they develop the tools and personnel needed to provide more helpful and efficient assistance, while also bolstering the number of direct communications that can take place at the same time. As Borowski explained, this may involve a first tier level of support consisting of automated responses for frequently asked questions, and then a second tier in which an agent steps in to deal with more complex queries.

The transition may not take all that long, particularly as an increasing number of consumers turn to Facebook for their needs. Messenger for Business just adds another facet to Facebook as a platform for e-commerce; it is already used by some of the world’s biggest brands, including Disney, Coca-Cola and Starbucks. Through the continued development of its platform for commercial activities, the site is able to offer a far more integrated online experience for users – a new norm that can be expected to progress in the coming years. In the meantime, Messenger is actually a great tool that will benefit consumers and businesses alike.