Not all lockdown trends stick – if your sourdough expired weeks ago, you're not alone. But there are some new habits in customer service that are here to stay.
The Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021 found that 64% of customers used a new support channel last year. And 73% plan to continue using this channel this year and beyond.
Our CX Trends Report also revealed that messaging apps have seen the biggest increase in first-time users, rising more than any other channel in 2020. The percentage of customers that label social media messaging apps like Facebook Messenger as their preferred channel has increased by 110% from last year.
Although customer service interactions on Facebook Messenger surged in 2020 because of the pandemic, it seems customers have grown to like it. So, businesses should also learn to love it.
Why you should use Facebook Messenger for customer service
There were plenty of compelling reasons to use messaging channels for support even before the pandemic reshaped customer service.
Live chat, in-app messaging and social media channels like Facebook Messenger are generally less expensive to operate than traditional channels such as the phone. What's more, they’re easier to automate and connect to any self-service options you provide. And agents can manage several messaging conversations at the same time, allowing for a level of multitasking that's simply impossible on the telephone.
From the customer’s perspective, messaging customer service is much quicker and easier. It’s far more convenient – both in terms of speed and accessibility.
“Messaging is brilliant for meeting your customers where they already are”, explains Paul Lalonde, a product expert at Zendesk. “Social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger have incredible reach. And your customers are already using them in their private lives, so it’s perfectly natural for them to contact your business in this way, too.”
Facebook Messenger is the most popular messaging app in North America and is second only to WhatsApp globally. More than a billion people use the platform to communicate with friends and family. So why shouldn’t they use it to contact their favourite brands, too?
In comparison to public social media channels, Messenger also allows for support interactions that are more direct and personal.
“You don't usually want customer service issues being discussed publicly”, Lalonde notes. “Ideally, you want to resolve these issues in private, as you can with Messenger.”
“Social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger have incredible reach. And your customers are already using them in their private lives, so it’s perfectly natural for them to contact your business in this way, too.” Paul Lalonde, Zendesk product expert
How to set Facebook Messenger up as a customer service channel
It’s important to understand the difference between Facebook Chat and Facebook Messenger. Messenger is Facebook’s flagship messaging service. Chat, on the other hand, is a tool for embedding Messenger onto your company’s website.
Customers don't need to visit your site to communicate with you on Facebook Messenger though. They can do it when they’re using Facebook on PC or the Messenger app on their smartphone.
But that doesn't mean your agents have to be logged in to your company's Facebook page all day. At least, not anymore...
Step 1: Connect Facebook Messenger to a unified workspace
It’s become a lot easier to use Messenger for customer service over the last few years.
“There was a time when you had to log in to Facebook and use Facebook’s Business Messenger to respond to customers”, Lalonde explains. “But things have changed since and Facebook is now an open platform that can connect to any CRM system.”
Being able to view all channels in a single place saves agents from switching between dashboards, which allows them to provide faster support.
The Zendesk Agent Workspace also displays everything a company knows about a customer. Agents can react to tickets immediately thanks to customer context – contact information, preferred language and customer status.
“Everyone benefits”, Lalonde says. “Customers benefit because we're able to provide a more seamless experience. And agents benefit because everything comes together in one place and they don’t have to mess around with 10 different tools on the backend.”
Step 2: Use automation to enhance the experience
If you want to maximise the efficiency of your Facebook Messenger customer service channel, automation is the next step.
“Messaging channels are great way to bring automation to customer service”, says Lalonde. “Everyone expects some kind of interaction with a bot on messaging channels.”
Chatbots can be programmed to answer frequently asked questions or suggest knowledge base articles that address the customer’s issue. If the bot fails to resolve the issue, the ticket can be passed on to an agent. They can then read through the conversation in Facebook Messenger and pick up where it left off.
Lalonde explains: “Bots are the first point of contact in prompting customers to answer their own questions or use a certain amount of self-service before getting in touch with your team. This ensures that your agents have fewer tickets to deal with and can focus on the more complicated issues. And if a human does need to intervene, bots are still useful in gathering the context that's needed to solve the problem.”
Automation can make the entire customer service experience faster and more efficient – both for customers and agents.
4 Facebook Messenger tips for customer service teams
Every support channel has its own best practices. Some of the soft skills that are needed to communicate with customers over the phone don't apply when responding via email.
If your support agents are using Facebook Messenger as a customer service channel, they should keep the following points in mind:
Acknowledge the context of the conversation
When a customer gets in touch through a messaging channel, their first interaction is likely to be with a bot. If an agent is needed, the transition from automation to a live conversation should happen smoothly.
“If you're an agent, the customer expects you to know what they’ve already been chatting about with the bot”, says Lalonde. “So, you shouldn’t greet the customer by asking ‘how can I help you’. Instead, look back over the conversation and lead with: ‘Hi, I see you’re having an issue with...”
When an agent steps in, it should feel like a continuation of the conversation, not the beginning of a new one. After all, customers hate repeating themselves. And support interactions should always feel like a seamless conversational experience, even if they switch from a bot to a person.
Respond quickly (even if customers don't)
Customers often use messaging for asynchronous conversations. If they’re busy, they don't want to call customer service and spend ages listening to classical music. They’d much rather send a simple question on Facebook Messenger and get back to their day. But support agents shouldn’t assume that customers using messaging are not expecting quick replies.
“If the customer asks you a question, you should still respond in real time”, Lalonde advises. “If the customer doesn’t write back and disappears for 20 minutes, that's okay. But it’s not okay for agents to disappear for 20 minutes after the customer asks a question.”
“Everyone benefits. Customers benefit because we're able to provide a more seamless experience. And agents benefit because everything comes together in one place.” Paul Lalonde, Zendesk product expert
Set expectations upfront
Automated messaging channels allow businesses to offer 24/7 customer service. But if your company doesn’t have agents available 24/7, you should also be honest about it.
If a customer uses Facebook Messenger to contact your company after hours, bots should let them know when agents will be available. In the meantime, automated messaging should still recommend articles and other self-service options that might help the customer.
You should politely inform the customer if agents are not able to respond straight away. “We typically respond within X minutes.” Openly clarifying expectations and timeframes helps reassure customers waiting for a response.
Take full advantage of Messenger’s capabilities
“Messaging is better than any other channel for offering a personalised experience”, says Lalonde. “Facebook Messenger has countless features and options.”
The visual component of Messenger makes it ideal for support. For example, customers can send photos and videos of a faulty product instead of simply describing the issue. And agents can use visual aids like screenshots and graphics to illustrate the solution.
What's more, agents can send Facebook carousels that allow customers to choose from a range of options, e.g. a selection of relevant knowledge base articles. You can even use emojis and stickers to add a more personal touch to the support interaction.
“A lot of things fall through the cracks on other channels when you don't have all the context that a channel like messaging can provide”, Lalonde says. “Agents like using messaging because it helps them provide a more contextual customer experience, which customers appreciate.
Improve your customer service experience with messaging
Facebook Messenger is a great (and increasingly popular) way to provide convenient, personalised and simple customer support. The same is true of many other messaging channels, from web or in-app messaging to social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Zendesk supports all the messaging channels you need and brings them together into a single agent workspace. Start meeting your customers wherever they are and deliver more rewarding conversational experiences.