• May 29, 2015

Zendesk Readies Facebook Messenger for Customer Service

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Facebook in March unveiled a partnership with Zendesk to connect Zendesk's Zopim chat platform to Facebook's Messenger app. The goal is to enable brands to better connect with customers. Already, Everlane and Zulily, two online retailers, have partnered with Facebook to use its Messenger app for customer service.

Chat platforms present many potential uses for brands. With Messenger, businesses can send customers updates regarding order status or answer questions they might normally have had to ask over the phone. This is an important alternative, considering that a survey from Aspect Software found that one-third of consumers would rather clean a toilet than talk on the phone to a customer service representative.

An undeniable benefit of the chat platform is that it enables companies to keep a better record of their dialogues with customers. It also enables them to have multiple simultaneous discussions without having to put customers on hold.

Another benefit is the sheer number of people who are already using it. As of March, Facebook Messenger had 600 million monthly active mobile users worldwide, according to The Statistics Portal.

Chat can also go a few steps further than SMS with regards to customer engagement, Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials, points out. "SMS is meant for quick, short communications," he says, whereas a "full-blown messenger lends itself to deepened interactions, [and] being able to do more as the interactions take place."

On a mobile app, companies can send more sophisticated messages that could also include video, files, or video chat sessions, for instance.

But the revolution will probably not take place overnight. Millennials are more likely to take to it than Baby Boomers, at least at first. But, experts agree, Boomers will adopt a technology if they can see a benefit. "Millennials create the massive tidal wave of change," says Joe Gagnon, senior vice president and general manager of Aspect's Cloud Solutions. "Baby Boomers have the same needs, [but they] just haven’t been as inclined to act as quickly."

One thing brands need to focus on is managing how they come across through the new channel. While Messenger will present a new opportunity for companies to connect with customers, it also represents another way to make a lasting bad impression.

Although it makes sense to engage customers on a channel they are familiar with and might even prefer, experts advise businesses to exercise caution and discipline. "When you start tapping into a private channel that was not originally meant for commercial engagement, so to speak," Leary says, "you have to tread lightly and be sure about the way you approach that type of engagement."

A way to limit these blunders, he says, is by giving sufficient consideration to how each communication is adding value for the people on the other end of the conversation. Each interaction should to be crafted with that end goal in mind, or customers will feel they're being taken advantage of.

"You can't start flooding [the customer] with stuff," Leary says. "You have to make sure you've earned the right to use that private channel, and every interaction has to be well thought out." —Oren Smilansky

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