Not every quarantine trend has had a long shelf life—if you abandoned your sourdough starter eons ago, you’re not alone. But when it comes to customer service, some habits born out of the pandemic are here to stay.
The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021 found that 64 percent of customers started using a new support channel last year. Among them, 73 percent say they plan to continue using that channel this year and beyond.
Our CX Trends Report also revealed that messaging apps saw the biggest surge in first-time users, rising faster than any other channel in 2020. Since last year, the percentage of customers who cite social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger as their favorite channel has grown 110 percent.
Facebook Messenger customer service interactions may have spiked in 2020 because of the pandemic, but customers have clearly grown attached to the channel—meaning businesses should learn to love it, too.
Why you should use Facebook Messenger for customer service
Even before COVID-19 transformed customer service, there were already plenty of compelling reasons to use messaging channels for support.
Live chat, in-app messaging, and social media channels like Facebook Messenger are usually less expensive to manage than traditional channels, such as the phone. They’re also easier to automate and connect to any self-service options you offer. And support agents can field multiple messaging conversations at once, allowing for a level of multitasking that’s impossible over the phone.
From the customer perspective, messaging is a relatively quick and painless way to contact customer service. It represents convenience—both in terms of speed and accessibility.
“Messaging is a great way of reaching your customers where they already are,” explains Paul Lalonde, a product expert at Zendesk. “Social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger have so much reach. And your customers are already using it in their personal lives, so it’s pretty natural for them to start messaging your business that way, too.”
Facebook Messenger is the most popular messaging app in North America and is second only to WhatsApp worldwide. It’s a platform that over a billion people use to talk to friends and family members, so why not their favorite brands, too?
In comparison to public social media channels, Messenger also creates room for more direct, personal support interactions.
“Oftentimes, you don’t want to have customer service issues being litigated in a public space,” Lalonde cautions. “You ideally want to be able to bring those issues into a private space like Messenger.”
"Social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger have so much reach. And your customers are already using it in their personal lives, so it’s pretty natural for them to start messaging your business that way, too.”Paul Lalonde, Zendesk product expert
How to set up a Facebook Messenger customer service channel
It’s important to remember that there’s a difference between Facebook Chat and Facebook Messenger. Messenger is Facebook’s own flagship messaging feature. Chat, on the other hand, is basically a tool for embedding Messenger onto your company’s website.
A customer doesn’t need to visit your site in order to connect with you through Facebook Messenger. They can do it when they’re on Facebook or using the Messenger app on their phone.
But that doesn’t mean your support agents need 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
Using Messenger for customer service has gotten a lot easier in recent years.
“There was a time when you’d have to log in to Facebook’s portal and use Facebook’s business messenger to reply to your customers,” explains Lalonde. “But things have since opened up, to where Facebook now has an open platform that can connect with any CRM system.”
Displaying every channel in one spot saves agents from having to switch between dashboards, enabling them to provide a faster support experience.
The Zendesk Agent Workspace also shows everything a business knows about a customer. Having that customer context—like contact information, preferred language, and customer status—allows agents to tackle tickets right away.
“There are benefits for everybody involved,” Lalonde says. “There are benefits for the customer because we’re able to provide a more seamless experience for them. And there are benefits for the agents because everything funnels into one place—they’re not working through 10 different tools in the backend.”
Step 2: Use automation to further streamline the channel
If you really want to maximize the efficiency of your Facebook Messenger customer service channel, the next step is automation.
“Messaging channels are a great medium through which you can bring automation into the customer service equation,” says Lalonde. “With messaging channels, everybody’s come to expect some level of interaction with a bot.”
Chatbots can be programmed to answer common questions or recommend knowledge base articles that address the customer’s issue. If the bot fails to resolve the issue, the ticket can be transferred to a live agent. The agent can then read through the Facebook Messenger thread and seamlessly take over the conversation.
Lalonde explains, “Bots are the first line of defense in terms of getting customers to, hopefully, answer their own questions or engage with some level of self-service before reaching out to your team for help. That way, your agents have fewer tickets to resolve and can focus their attention on more complex issues. And if a human does need to get involved in the conversation, bots are still useful for gathering the context that’s necessary to resolve the issue.”
Automation can make the entire customer service experience quicker, faster, and more efficient—for both the consumer and the support agent.
4 Facebook Messenger customer service tips for support teams
Every support channel comes with its own set of best practices. Some of the soft skills needed to engage with a customer over the phone, for example, don’t apply when responding over email.
If your support agents are using Facebook Messenger as a customer service channel, they should do the following:
Acknowledge the context of the conversation
When a customer reaches out through a messaging channel, their first interaction will likely be with a bot. If an agent is needed, the transition from automation to live conversation should be handled smoothly.
“If you’re an agent, the customer is expecting you to already know what they’ve been chatting about with the bot,” says Lalonde. “So when you greet the customer, you shouldn’t begin with, ‘Hi, how can I help you?’ You should review the interaction and start with, ‘Hi, I see you’re having an issue with...’”
The introduction of an agent should feel like a continuation of the conversation, not the start of a new one. After all, customers hate repeating themselves. And a support interaction should always feel like a seamless conversational experience, even if it shifts from a bot to a human.
Be quick to respond (even when customers aren’t)
Customers often use messaging as a tool for asynchronous conversations. If they're busy, they don’t want to call customer service and waste time listening to classical music. They’d probably rather fire off a question on Facebook Messenger and then get back to their life. But support agents shouldn’t assume that customers who use messaging don’t want prompt responses.
“If the customer is asking you a question, then you should still be responding to it in real time,” Lalonde advises. “If the customer goes silent and disappears for 20 minutes, that’s okay. But it’s not okay for your agents to disappear for 20 minutes after the customer asks their question.”
“There are benefits for everybody involved. There are benefits for the customer because we’re able to provide a more seamless experience for them. And there are benefits for the agents because everything funnels into one place.”Paul Lalonde, Zendesk product expert
Set expectations upfront
Automated messaging channels can allow businesses to offer a form of 24/7 customer service. But if your brand doesn’t have round-the-clock agents to provide live human support at all times, then you should be honest about it.
If a customer uses Facebook Messenger to contact your company after-hours, bots should let them know when live agents will be available. In the meantime, automated messaging should still recommend articles and other self-service options that might help the customer.
When agents can’t respond right away, it’s polite to let a customer know, “We typically respond within X minutes.” Setting timeframes and expectations can help customers feel less anxious as they wait for an answer.
Take full advantage of Messenger’s capabilities
“Messaging is a great vehicle to deliver a more personalized experience than you could on other channels,” says Lalonde. “Facebook Messenger is a channel that has a lot of rich messaging features and options.”
The visual component of Messenger makes it ideal for support. For example, customers can send photos or videos of a faulty product, rather than just describing the issue. And agents can use visual aids, such as screenshots or graphics, to illustrate the solution.
Agents can also send Facebook carousels that allow customers to choose from a range of options, such as a selection of relevant knowledge base articles. You can even use emojis and stickers to inject a little more personality into support interactions.
“A lot of things can get lost in translation on other channels—quite literally—when you don't have all the context that a channel like messaging can bring,” Lalonde says. “Agents like using messaging because it helps them provide a more contextual customer experience, in a way that customers appreciate as well.”
Make messaging a bigger part of your customer service experience
Facebook Messenger is a great (and increasingly popular) way to provide convenient, personalized, and simple customer support experiences. The same is true of many other messaging channels, from web or in-app messaging to social channels like Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Zendesk can support as many messaging channels as you need while funneling them all into a single agent workspace. Start meeting your customers wherever they are and deliver richer conversational experiences.