Facebook Messenger @ F8: The right approach to messaging

Every year, Facebook holds its F8 conference for its developer community, featuring product releases, exhibits, demos, technology discussions and all sorts of tantalizing announcements. The 2016 conference, held April 12-13 in San Francisco, has been even more enlightening than usual with its focus on messaging. Mark Zuckerberg touted the immense potential that messaging platforms bring to businesses – extending the realm of personal conversation to conversational commerce.

The concept of moving messaging beyond simple one-way alerts and notifications into messaging-based conversations between businesses and their customers is finally beginning to receive the attention it deserves, with more than a little help from Facebook’s announcement this week.

The value proposition is easy to see: Customers want to text instead of call the companies with which they do business. When most business executives understand the value of adding conversational text messaging channel to their multi-channel mix, the response is typically, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” The answer is simple: because the technology bridging messaging successfully into an enterprise’s existing systems wasn’t available until now. Not only is Facebook’s announcement is evidence of that, along with KLM’s adoption of Messenger and Salesforce, but also HeyWire’s fully-integrated Salesforce apps – LiveText Agent and Business Messenger – which enable customers and contact centers to text each other over existing 800 and business numbers for 2-way messaging conversations.

Mobile first customers will demand all mobile messaging channels
As businesses seek faster, more efficient and more personal ways to connect with their customers, conversational messaging is in the midst of its watershed moment. Mark Zuckerberg’s endorsement is welcome and will definitely raise awareness but there is more to messaging than FB Messenger and WhatsApp. Mobile messaging is a combination of traditional texting (messaging with your friends) and messaging apps including WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE, Viber and others, not instead of text. The opportunity is even larger with access to even more people globally.

“Conversational messaging is in the midst of its watershed moment.”

Mark Zuckerberg sends a message
Whether he intended it or not, when the Facebook co-founder invoked commercial messaging as something Facebook is paying attention to, the rest of the world took notice. As the founder of a website with over a billion active users, Mark Zuckerberg’s word has significant pull within the social media, Internet and digital platform communities – not to mention the public at large.

On F8’s first day, it was also announced that Facebook Messenger will begin using chatbots to engage in “automated customer support, e-commerce guidance, content and interactive experiences,” according to TechCrunch. In other words, FB Messenger can be a proxy for a company’s customer service representatives.

Some companies will want to maintain a personal touch throughout, providing an immediate connection to live text messaging conversations between Agents and Customers, while others will use chatbots for the initial experience before transferring to a human for a live text conversation that is more efficient. Still others may complete the conversation without ever moving to an Agent.

The boundless power of conversational text messaging is that it brings a significant ROI to the table even without chatbot automation. Businesses using conversational messaging today without any chatbots report their costs are a fraction – 25 percent on average – of what a voice interaction typically costs. Additionally, conversational messaging boosts customer satisfaction at the same time – a valuable and differentiating combination in the business communications space.

Conversational commerce is changing the conversation
Facebook’s interest in messaging highlights two important things: It adds them to the growing field of players and it brings attention to the level of consumer demand for interacting over their preferred communication channel – i.e. messaging, not voice.

The era of conversational Commerce comes at the perfect time. More and more companies are searching for new ways to engage and they are finding conversational messaging to be the perfect answer – increasing customer satisfaction while simultaneously reducing costs.

The bottom line: More companies in the conversational messaging and commerce sector is beneficial for businesses and, more importantly, their customers.

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