The Big Reason Brands Shouldn’t Use Facebook Messenger for Customer Service

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Ah, Facebook Messenger. The latest great white hope for connecting brands and customers. According to Marketing Week, brands are hoping Facebook Messenger can redefine customer service. No pressure or anything.

There are many good reasons for brands to add Facebook Messenger to their multichannel customer experience arsenal. First, there’s the fact that your customers are already there.

The Facebook Messenger app was the fastest growing app of 2015, Nielsen reports. And it now boasts 900 million monthly users.

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And as Steve Parker, Managing Director at agency AllTogetherNowBrands, put it,
“Brands will also drool at the prospect of taking complaints off their public-facing pages and into more discreet private channels.”

But there’s one great big reason for them not to.

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The truth is that there’s always been a way for individual customers to use the channel they’re already on constantly to quickly reach out to your brand for one-on-one attention. It’s called email.

Brands would be stupid to direct their customers to use Facebook Messenger instead of email for one big reason. When someone emails you, you own that email address. When someone reaches out to you on Facebook, Facebook owns the only way to get in touch with them. So it’s only a matter of time until Facebook starts charging you to talk to customers who’ve already opted in to communicate with you, just like they charge you to reach the people who’ve already liked your Page.

Okay, so, now that I’ve given away the ending, let’s talk about the other pros and cons to using Facebook Messenger for customer service.

Pros

Well, it’s good enough for a few big brands. Hyatt Hotels is using Facebook Messenger to listen to their customers. “Anyone can send Hyatt a message,” Jessi Hempel writes. “A blue dot indicates Hyatt is online and available (the same blue dot that indicates a friend is available to chat). Three gray dots pop up, indicating someone is reading the message. Within minutes, a customer service rep answers your question, initialing it so you know an actual person responded.”

Last year Walmart also experimented with connecting in-store shoppers directly with staff through Facebook Messenger.

One brand is even using Messenger as a newsletter delivery vehicle. Digiday reports that German tabloid site Bild has been testing sending news updates through Messenger with help from Berlin-based startup Spectrm.

One great source of pros and cons on using Messenger for customer service is this Inbound.org thread. In it, contributor Ed Fry writes, “Given the huge proportion of internet users using Facebook, who are logged in, and will probably see notifications for any messages/replies you send, this could be a really interesting tool for keeping people even more engaged. A highly personal, one-to-one channel which leverages a strong, existing human behaviour.”

There’s one thing Facebook has in spades over both live chat software and email, and that’s data. An email address doesn’t tell you much about a customer, especially compared with the wealth of behavioral and demographic data Facebook contains. As the original poster put it on Inbound.org, “With [the] Facebook chat plugin you can get more accurate data about who you are talking to whereas live chat software you just get some details.”

And as Urska put it on the Inbound thread, “Beside collecting users’ insights, the first thing that pops to my mind are webinars, live streaming … or any other events where it would be useful if users could engage their network to create larger engagement.”

Cons

The thread contains more reasons not to use it, however. Aditya gives three main reasons she’s not planning to use it on her company’s website.

First, she prefers live chat software built for customer service, such as Intercom.io, Zopim, and Nudgespot Messenger.

Second, she’s unsure about the level of support Facebook will offer to brands. I think this is a really compelling point. It’s certainly true that great vendor support is one of the most underappreciated features software can have. And for customer service especially, a software glitch with no patch can lead to huge problems.

What brands don’t want is to promise customers immediate support and not be able to deliver due to a software failure. While issues always arise, responsive customer service can make it apparent that it’s not the brand’s fault. I don’t trust Facebook to respond immediately to brands any more than Aditya does. Samuel Jefferies agrees, saying “Support from Facebook would also be my biggest concern. I’ve had big issues with it for paid ads.”

Third, she’s worried brands will invest a lot into Messenger, only to have Facebook kill it quickly. I think that’s certainly possible, but the least problematic of the concerns.

The biggest problem with Facebook Messenger is that Facebook owns the customers.

Conclusion

Customer Experience expert and Forbes writer Blake Morgan wrote: “Your customers are on Facebook throughout the day—especially those that work with the internet, so it’s only natural they would much rather stay on the same website rather than switch or pick up the phone to call you.”

As Morgan pointed out, many of your customers are on Facebook throughout the day. But guess what all of your customers are on throughout the day? Email. Morgan’s tips for turning Facebook Messenger into your best customer service tool are truly excellent. And brands can and should apply them to email right now.

Because as Ed Fry asked on the Inbound thread, “Will Facebook try and sell you your own customers and prospects who you’re talking to back to you?” Of course they will.

Brands should absolutely NOT teach their customers to use Facebook to get in touch with them. Instead, they should teach their customers to email them. Brands should let Facebook teach them how to respond to their customers: Immediately, personally, and on their own terms.

If your customers do use Facebook Messenger, brands should also ask for or require an email address.

What do you think? Am I being too hard on Messenger? Are there benefits I’ve overlooked? Let me know in the comments.

Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.

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About the Author

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Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a former Capterra analyst.

Comments

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Great writeup and I agree with a few of these points. FB Messenger doesn’t have a lot of the features that Intercom has, but will probably steal them not too far in the future.
For websites they have already stolen the smart ,discreet (while still eye-catching) placing of the chat window down right on the website. And also have good automated templates&autoresponders. So look for FB to go in and steal anything they want from Intercom.
I’m using Intercom for my own sites and client’s sites but when something free comes around it is always tempting and I need to stay up to date with what is happening on the market.

But I saw more than a few small businesses that went bankrupt when Facebook changed its algorithms and you suddenly had to pay to reach the people who had already liked your Page. They had built their whole business around their Facebook Page and suddenly neither their current customer nor new customers could find their products. So very good point about that in this article. Thanks Cathy!

[…] I wrote another thing for work that I’m proud of: The Big Reason Brands Shouldn’t Use Facebook Messenger for Customer Service. […]

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I disagree.
Messaging apps are becoming the big thing these days while email is dying.
People want quick answers and messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger would make responding to customers quicker and easier for companies.

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