October 20, 2019

Riding the Messenger Customer Service Wave

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By Javier Gonzalez Helly, Co-Founder @Botfuel

Facebook Messenger chatbots are creating a more efficient, engaging, and conversational customer service experience

Facebook Messenger chatbots are creating a more efficient, engaging, and conversational customer service experience

Technology has evolved the customer service industry in big ways. Once predominantly analog, customer service can now take place seamlessly across all digital and non-digital channels. In other words, when customers need help, they don’t have to go very far to get it.

Innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and natural language processing have propelled this even further, leading to increased customer service automation and more effective, real-time customer service experiences.

Chatbots are a great example of this evolution. Every conversation creates new opportunities for them to learn, adapt, and provide more relevant customer support. This helps explain why it’s believed that 85% of customer service interactions will be automated by 2020.

This has laid the groundwork for messaging apps to play an even bigger role in the customer service ecosystem. In fact, messenger customer care (via Facebook Messenger chatbots, for example) is seen as the biggest innovation in customer service since the 1-800 number.

Not only is messaging-as-a-customer-service-channel rapidly changing the definition of what customer service can be the digital age, but it’s also setting new service and efficiency standards that will undoubtedly improve customer experiences over time.

However, just because messaging is a big part of consumer culture doesn’t automatically make it a turnkey customer service solution for businesses. There are a number of things to keep in mind as you tackle this new customer service frontier.

Here, we’ll discuss:

  • Why conversations matter in customer service;
  • How they are positively impacting the customer (service) experience; and
  • What pitfalls to avoid as you deploy your own messenger customer care strategies.

Messaging as the new conversational norm

Today, over five billion people around the world are equipped with mobile phones. Over the years, messaging has virtually become omnipresent in people’s daily lives. So, it should come as no surprise that many consumers today have started to use their favorite messaging apps to engage with businesses directly: to ask questions, receive timely notifications, get exclusive access to promotions, or simply request help.

Facebook Messenger has, in many ways, led the messenger customer service revolution. Its platform allows 20+ million businesses to exchange over eight billion messages with consumers per month. And taking a cue from its more established “sibling,” Whatsapp, with its over 1.5 billion users worldwide, has also recently opened up its platform to allow 3+ million businesses to engage with customers in real-time via SMS and text.

The truth is, humans are conversational by nature. Messaging simply gives people a way to stay connected to the world around them — including the businesses they engage with.

Consumers already send messages en masse daily. Engaging with businesses in this way is a mere extension of this daily behavior. That technology gives people quicker and easier ways to connect with businesses in real-time is a perfect example of how messaging is quickly becoming the hottest trend in customer service. Done right, messaging apps can enhance, streamline, and accelerate service-based communications in more relevant and meaningful ways.

On a daily basis, people around the world send upwards of 145 billion messages via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp combined, 40 billion messages on iMessage, and 80 billion messages on Android. In the United States, around 26+ billion SMS texts are sent daily.

Why mention these stats at all? First, the pervasiveness of messaging apps, in general, points to the impact of messaging on how we all communicate today. Second, and building on that, it helps explain why messaging has transformed as a primary medium for peer-to-peer (personal) communications into a powerful B2C communications channel. All of this suggests that messaging has essentially become the new conversational norm for practically everything.

Conversations still matter

David Marcus, Head of Facebook Messenger, put it simply:

“For so long, doing business was always conversational. Web (e-commerce) is truly an anomaly. It feels good to have a more human relationship when you’re buying things.”

The same can be said for when asking for help or trying to find useful information. People just like knowing that someone’s listening — whether it’s a living, breathing human being on the other side of that conversations or an intelligent chatbot. Either way, messaging apps have proven to be a great for adding this conversational layer to customer service interactions.

For this reason alone, chatbots have become a rising star in customer service. They leverage AI and machine learning to personalize service-based conversations to each and every customer. And when they get a question they haven’t been trained to answer, they know when to pass it off to a human who can. Facebook Messenger chatbots take this to a whole new level. Not only are they embedded in the messaging apps that people use every day, but they are also asynchronous across devices.

Why is this distinction important? People typically have a lot of messaging apps loaded onto their devices: phone, tablet, laptop, wearable, or otherwise. As a result, messenger customer service interactions can essentially take place anywhere, following customers throughout their day on all the devices they use. A conversation with an on-site chatbot, on the other hand, will simply stay on a business’s website. (There are benefits to this, too — especially around security and privacy.)

That being said, whether customers follow up on a service inquiry, order a pizza (we’ll get to that in a second), or receive a flight delay notification, it can now all take place in a “frictionless” environment that many consumers are simply comfortable with. This both minimizes the (perceived) hassle of searching for help and also gives consumers more control over how, where, and when they choose to engage with brands — for customer support or otherwise. (Long gone are the days of waiting on the phone for hours to get help!)

It also gives businesses a huge opportunity to “surprise and delight” customers by proactively anticipating customer needs with timely push notifications, relevant content, access to exclusive promotions, and so much more. Businesses can use messaging apps in powerful and creative ways to build personal relationships with customers that drive long-term loyalty.

Facebook Messenger chatbots for service and support are changing both customer care and the overall customer experience. Putting conversations at the heart of messenger customer service interactions is a win for both consumers and businesses.

Facebook Messenger chatbots improve the customer experience

As more brands tap into the power of messaging apps to engage with customers for service and support, we’re seeing some interesting new use cases arise. Here are a few of our favorite examples of Facebook Messenger chatbots that really stand out.

Domino’s Pizza: “Dom the Pizza Bot”

Who knew that ordering and tracking a pizza could be so easy and fun? Domino’s crack the code on that when it launched “Dom,” its one-of-a-kind pizza ordering bot. Whether via the company’s Facebook Messenger chatbot, chatbots across 15 different platforms, or via SMS text, Dom uses AI and natural language processing — with a playful, irreverent tone — to help customers (re)order pizzas and track orders directly within the messaging app itself.

How does this impact the customer service experience?

First, it’s fun, engaging, and makes the pizza ordering and tracking process really easy. Second, it allows customers to handle this kind of transaction directly via their messaging app of choice without having to navigate to a website or other ordering service. Third, and most important, it helps restaurants reduce phone call volume — for calling in orders or tracking order status — helping employees stay focused on getting the orders done correctly and delivered on time.

Lufthansa: “Elisa”

The German airline introduced its first chatbot (“Mildred”) to customers in 2016. Then it expanded its around-the-clock Facebook Messenger chatbot offering to its network partners as well, bringing “Elisa” (Lufthansa), “Nelly” (Swiss), and “Maria” (Austrian) in direct contact with travelers. Customers can engage with these Facebook Messenger chatbots, all fueled by natural language processing, to book flights, find the best prices, confirm flight status, identify departure gates, and pretty much manage all aspects of flight bookings. They can proactively give customers a head’s up when there are flight delays and, in the case of cancellations, even allow travelers to rebook their flights on the spot. In other words, you can think of these chatbots as a personal travel concierge, ready to help customers at any stage of their journey.

How does this impact the customer service experience?

Traveling is stressful all on its own. These Facebook Messenger chatbots help take (a bit of) the stress out of traveling by serving as a useful-information-providing companion that follows them along their journey: from booking through baggage claim. Because this lives in a familiar messenger-based environment, these Facebook Messenger chatbots allow consumers to take immediate action on their inquiries and make on-the-spot purchases with as little friction as possible. The end result: happier customers who feel supported throughout every part of their journey, which, as we all know, can go a long way towards building long-term loyalty.

Banque Casino: “Facebook Messenger Chatbot”

Banque Casino has been a pioneer in France for using technology to enhance the customer (service) experience. Their new Facebook Messenger chatbot takes this to an entirely new level. Fueled by natural language processing and a knowledge base designed to tackle even the most challenging customer inquiries — like applying for a loan — the chatbot helps customers find the banking offers or information they need, so they can take action on it immediately. This all happens via simple, efficient, friendly, and, most importantly, short chat-based conversations.

How does this impact the customer service experience?

Having to deal with a bank’s customer service is not typically high up on anyone’s list. Banque Casino’s Facebook Messenger chatbot eases the friction — and stress — of getting important information over to customers, fast. And because it lives within a messaging app, it offers the added benefit of putting banking inquiries on a customer’s own terms. Not to mention, it removes the roadblocks of searching websites, calling into customer care, or any other activities that might easily frustrate customers and give them a reason to head to the nearest competitor.

Who’s in charge of these Facebook Messenger chatbot conversations?

When businesses first began leveraging social media channels to handle customer service inquiries, many put their social media teams in charge to respond. Unfortunately, we’re seeing the same dynamic play out as Facebook Messenger chatbot-driven customer care gains steam.

The words “customer service” naturally imply different service-level expectations. When people need help — on any channel — they expect customer service representatives (even in the form of intelligent chatbots) to be ready to answer their questions or address their concerns quickly. Putting social media staffers or community managers in charge of these important interactions can become a recipe for disaster that eventually leaves a bad taste in a customer’s mouth.

The issue here is that many businesses often get blinded by budgets and fail to see the importance of putting the right resourcing model in place. And just because customer service interactions are happening on a Facebook Messenger chatbot (i.e. social media) does not mean the social media team should be responsible for managing those interactions.

The truth is, regardless of channel, at no point should customer service interactions ever be managed without the customer service team’s involvement.

Obviously, there should be a happy coexistence between social media and customer service teams around messenger customer service. But it’s important to keep in mind that both teams play different roles here. Social media teams, for example, aren’t trained in the same way that customer service teams are. They are marketers at their core, not customer service agents. And when left to handle these Facebook Messenger customer service interactions on their own, they get put in the uncomfortable “middle man” position of having to pass customers along to the customer service team anyways. If you haven’t caught on yet, this isn’t efficient at all.

Why create more roadblocks for your customers when you could just give them direct access to your customer service team — or a smart Facebook Messenger chatbot — right from the very start? At a time when customer expectations are at an all-time high, to a point where one out of three customers will admittedly leave a brand they love after having only one bad experience, businesses no longer have room for error.

To avoid this, here are a few tips to get your Facebook Messenger chatbot customer service strategy moving in the right direction from the very start:

  1. Choose the right team: Depending on your business and the kind of customer service inquiries you get, be sure to get both the customer support and/or social media teams involved early on. If the majority of your inquiries are simple, straightforward questions (i.e. hours of operation, order status, return policy, and so on), you may want to consider an automation-first Facebook Messenger chatbot approach. Either way, always have the most qualified resources in place to serve your customers’ needs effectively.
  2. Be honest about automation: If you’ve opted for the automation route, always let customers know when they’re chatting with a bot. This is even more important given how sophisticated Facebook Messenger chatbots have become. It can be hard to tell now whether or not you’re actually talking to a real person. Just remember, when customers need help, they want your business to take their needs seriously. Don’t ever give them a reason to believe that you’ve tricked them somewhere along the way. That’ll only lead to frustration – and won’t win you any loyalty points!
  3. Bring humans into the mix (when appropriate): As smart as chatbots can be — and as great as they are at helping customer service agents stay focused on cases where human intervention is absolutely necessary — there will be a time when they can’t answer a question or inevitably face a customer service issue that’s too complex for them to handle. In these cases, make sure your customers always have the option to connect with a living, breathing human-being during the course of their interaction.
  4. Security is always the priority: If you ever need to verify a customer’s identity by asking them for personal information, it’s best to do this outside of Facebook Messenger and, instead, in a secure, encrypted environment. Simply ask customers if you can move the conversation to a secure chat on your website or even over the phone.

It’s time to ride the Facebook Messenger customer service wave

Messenger customer service is here — and it’s here to stay. Not only can Facebook Messenger chatbots improve the experience that customers have with brands, but it can also give businesses a direct way to build positive relationships with their customers for the long-term.

There are a lot of benefits that go hand-in-hand with deploying a Facebook Messenger chatbot customer care strategy. Just be sure your team is properly resourced to handle the customer inquiries that come your way. Whether you leverage both ynpour customer service and social media teams for this or opt to deploy a chatbot-first customer service experience, your number one priority should always be to help your customers whenever and wherever they need it most. When you do that, the rest will fall into place.cd

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