• February 2, 2016
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Facebook Adds to Customer Service on Pages

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More than 50 million businesses are now using Facebook Pages, up from 40 million in April, Facebook announced in early December. The number of messages sent to companies on Facebook has doubled in the past year, with consumers now sending more than 2.5 billion messages to those pages every month, the social media giant also reported.

To make Pages even more useful as a business tool, Facebook introduced on December 8 a series of messaging updates designed to help companies better manage both their public and private customer communications on the site.

Among the additional features is one that enables businesses to tell customers how quickly they respond to posts. If they don't set their own response-time alerts, Facebook will do it for them, calculating the average time it took for them to respond to posts received in the previous week. Page response times will appear in Messenger threads so that customers know what to expect prior to reaching out to companies. Companies that respond to 90 percent of their messages within five minutes earn a "Very Responsive to Messages" badge that they can display proudly on their Pages.

Facebook is also allowing businesses to set automated away messages to alert consumers to when they're unavailable to respond right away. Companies can also create instant replies to welcome new customers and thank them for their patronage, for example, or to provide information customers might need, in lieu of having them contact an agent.

Facebook also updated the message inbox to display posts in reverse chronological order, similar to how they are shown in an email inbox. When companies exchange messages with customers, they'll also be given greater insight into previous engagements directly within the message inbox. Companies can now see public comments from specific customers, their profile information, and other relevant data that Facebook has about them, such as their locations and occupations. For customers who keep their profiles private, Facebook will only show names and photos.

Customer service representatives and site administrators can also add customer notes—including past and current orders, customer service preferences, and previous problems—to message threads. And they can tag messages for easier sorting and flag messages for immediate response or private replies.

This, Facebook said in a statement, will enable companies to "keep better track of comments in need of response and eliminate the risk of skipping over a customer comment.

"Page admins know that being able to quickly respond to comments from customers plays an important role in helping them to provide great customer service. And now they're better equipped than ever before to respond to comments efficiently."

Though the response to Facebook’s adding more customer service features to Pages has been positive, some analysts wonder why the company didn't do it sooner. In the absence of such functionality available directly from Facebook, "most customer service vendors have already figured out how to triage [requests from social media] to customer service," Natalie Petouhoff, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, told SmartCustomer­Service?.com in the article "Facebook Is Transforming Pages Into a Customer Service Hub."

In the same article, Holger Mueller, also a Constellation Research analyst, said that the additional functionality could be "a game-changer," especially for smaller companies with limited budgets and resources to devote to social media.

Mueller called it an important strategic move for Facebook. "It marks its first foray into classic enterprise software, in this case CRM," he said in the article. 

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