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Have you ever used “live customer service chat” on a website and got the sense you’re probably talking to a robot? A strange lack of sense of humour? An inability to realise how inconvenient the problem you have is? Whether it actually IS a robot, or someone acting like one (!) the proliferation of automated customer service across social platforms is inevitable. But what does that mean for teams right now, today?

With close to 1 billion users, Facebook Messenger is one of the biggest messaging apps on the planet, and in recent weeks the ambition to transform it from a peer-to-peer service to all encompassing place to interact with brands has intensified.

A key part of this is the introduction of “bots for fb-messMessenger” which, amongst other things, presents businesses with all sorts of customer service related opportunities.

Customer care is undoubtedly one of the THE use-cases for how organisations use social media… yet one of the funny things is that it’s becoming increasing “un-social”. Direct messages (Twitter) and Private messages (Facebook) are nothing new, and have never actually been social… they exist within social networks but are one-to-one in nature.

The rise of messaging apps (which yes, can be social in a “group chat” scenario) is putting the emphasis strongly on these one-to-one interactions, providing a convenient all-in-one-place service for customers. Whether it’s a booking reference, a previous order or a complaint, it’s far less cumbersome that trying to navigate email to find it.  Messenger

From a brand’s perspective however, this shift towards messaging brings with it, I’d argue, a growing expectation for real-time response. People already expect a rapid response to questions they post on Twitter, and messaging apps by their very nature are even more real-time. As always the experiences people have in their personal use of technology (e.g. instant chat) are being pulled through to their interaction with brands.

Funnily enough I’d suggest that many of the benefits of messaging apps for customer care don’t actually rely on it being real-time, like the example I mentioned above.

But, as the pressure to respond more rapidly increases, organisations are left with a few options:

  • limit the hours when you will respond
  • employs lots of people
  • use more intelligent technology (namely bots)

Note: I’m going to be talking about Facebook specifically here, but I’m sure similar services will become available across many other platforms in due course.

The premise is ultimately straightforward, and is really just an iteration of the telephone IVRs that I worked on many moons ago.

  1. Lots of customers contact you about similar issues (i.e. FAQs).
  2. Those issues can be codified and decision trees created to provide a resolution to most scenarios?
  3. Bots can be used to manage those interactions with a customer.

(Of course not forgetting the long tail of questions and sensitive issues which only a human brain, in the foreseeable future, can rationalise and provide the best response to).

So that’s all fine, but for me the really interesting point is how businesses will differentiate their customer services bots…

  • How empathetic can they be? Can they quickly tell when someone’s really pissed off?
  • Can it have a little fun with the customer and show some personality.
  • How does it strike a balance of resolving a query, with adding extra value to the customer and ideally cross-sell?
  • When is the optimum point to transfer seamlessly to a real agent?
  • How quickly can it be setup to manage a forecast spike in queries? After all, those times when lots of people contact you are crucial in shaping perception about your brand… Black Friday springs to mind as a good example.

This is all looking a way into the future, but that doesn’t mean brands can’t be laying some foundations today…

Is your tech in place?

Most large organisations use a social media management tool which handles Facebook “private messages”. But is it optimised for people only using Facebook Messenger? Can customers seamlessly contact you on Messenger via your website?

Did you know you can do this already using (e.g. or through a scan code (right)? messenger_code_781842871857595

What expectations are you setting?

Will customers receive a quicker response on Messenger versus a standard Facebook comment or a tweet? Is it clear how quickly you aim to respond? Do you have the people in place to deliver against that?

Automating without bots

Are you using the automation tools that Facebook (and many social media management tools) already provide, such as a pre-defined greeting when someone first opens a conversation with you on messenger, or saved replies?

This forms yet another instance of technology driving opportunity, change and potential disruption for customer service teams… so no change there then!

I’d love to know if you’ve interacted with any Facebook Messenger bots, or even plan to use one yourself.


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