Here are the main reasons that we don’t think customer service is the right place to start for Facebook Messenger - at least at this stage in the market’s evolution. Instead, companies should deliver a new and delightful experience to consumers, capitalize on that early customer engagement, and eventually incorporate customer service later into the experience.
- Most consumers don't know they can talk with brands on Messenger. Even though consumer adoption of Facebook Messenger is through the roof (over 1.2 billion registered users and counting), the vast majority of those users are sending messages to their friends and family, not to businesses. Of the users who do turn to social media for customer service, most are trying to publicly shame the company into providing a higher level of service than they've been able to achieve through other service channels.
- There's a negative ROI promoting customer service to consumers. Obviously one way to solve the consumer awareness issue is to promote the new customer service channel to consumers via Facebook advertising, social media, email campaigns, etc. But who wants to spend money promoting customer service bots that will only drive more cost within in the company if actively used? There's simply no ROI there.
- There's nothing inherently different about messaging and bots compared to other channels when it comes to customer service. Making matters worse, despite the initial hype around bots and their natural language capabilities, those same capabilities have been available for other customer service channels for a long time. We should know. We developed them over the last 20 years at Nuance, Tellme, and other companies. When you dig under the covers of contact centers, what you see is that the larger constraint that you have is the inability of various systems to talk to each other, data that simply doesn't exist or isn't in an actionable format, or policies that require human representatives or managers approve certain actions (like a refund) rather than leaving that up to an algorithm to decide. As a result, consumers aren't going to get any more satisfaction via Messenger than they will from live chat on a web site or a call into the call center. So there's no compelling reason for consumers to shift their channel preference even if they knew service were available via Messenger in the first place. And, worse, if you are successful shifting users to messaging, you’ll also inadvertently train them to only think to interact with you on Messenger when they have a problem or complaint and, therefore, squander a much larger opportunity to use this new channel in the future to build customer relationships.
- You need to be careful with personally identifiable information (PII) and account security. Customer service applications often require access to sensitive account information that can potentially be used for fraudulent purposes if it gets into the wrong hands. While the Automat platform is highly secure (and has passed bank-level security audits) and Facebook has features like account linking that can be used, many companies are not yet comfortable with the end-to-end security and data privacy in Messenger for certain use cases that involve PII or other sensitive customer information. This will surely continue to improve and Facebook is committed to adding necessary features to their Messenger platform based on customer demand but we’re not there yet - at least for some of the more interesting customer service use cases.