Facebook messaging or live chat software?

Facebook has announced a (free) version of Messenger for use by businesses on their websites. Talk goes that this add-on will swallow the live chat market whole and spell the end for all rival web chat solutions.

There are, however, big differences between live chat software and Messenger when it comes to connecting with customers.

Those who are already predicting the demise of traditional chat channels may wish to take these differences into account before ringing the death knell.

Trust and longevity

Messenger may be a tempting option, but is it a long-term one?

There is fear among businesses that the website app is likely to be dropped by Facebook, leaving companies that use it out in the cold. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time that Facebook has dropped an unprofitable app. Parse – Facebook’s mobile app development platform – was discontinued in just three years after they bought it for $85 million.

this wouldn’t be the first time that Facebook has dropped an unprofitable app

These longevity doubts create customer service risks. Do you really want to get customers familiar with an app, spend time setting it up and getting used to it, just to have it discontinued and unsupported?

Traditional web chat, on the other hand, is a tried and tested service channel. A company that deals in live chat software is going to be much less likely to discontinue their product. That’s their sole area of focus, while Facebook has its fingers in many proverbial pies.

Control

With GDPR on the horizon, today’s consumers are increasingly protective of their data. The use of the Messenger app on your website means that Facebook will own the contact information of your customers, and there is little to stop them from withholding contact details until you pay them.

In short, you are handing over some of the control you have over your customer relations. Live chat software gives no risk of this happening. The monetary costs of the software are upfront, and any contacts that come seeking support belong to you: not Facebook, and not the chat provider.

Privacy

Sometimes you need your customers to send information to you via chat that could be considered sensitive. It might be a confirmation of address, a password or even payment details. With live chat software, security is guaranteed. You are in control of the data, and you can be certain of your customer’s privacy.

When using the free Messenger app, everything sent is potentially monitored and stored by Facebook.  Facebook Messenger has always been able to gather and use your data for advertising purposes, and this is unlikely to change any time soon. So, do you really want to make your customers send sensitive data via a Facebook-owned app? Many out there will be uncomfortable with the idea, and this could translate into lost contact and lost customers

Convenience and accessibility

It’s worth remembering that despite its popularity, Facebook is not universal. Not everyone has a profile, and those that do may not want to share it. The use of Facebook Messenger on your website could force some customers to make a profile just to talk to you, or compel them to give you a glimpse into their protected personal lives.

not everyone has a profile, and those that do may not want to share it

Yes, Facebook is full of data about your customers, and this information could well be useful. But what about the numerous people that don’t want to share their social profiles with businesses? For those people, Messenger could feel like a pushy way to pry into their lives they don’t want to share.

Live chat software offers an accessible alternative. It can be used by anyone that visits your site, not just the ones with a profile on a separate social channel. Live chat software can use IP addresses to identify your customers, along with any information they want to give you. What it doesn’t do is force them to share personal information with your business just to talk to you.

Customer service, your business

Many live chat software packages include key help desk features such as screen sharing, remote desktop control, and ticketing as standard.

Facebook Messenger, on the other hand, is unlikely to provide you with the option to screen share, co-browse or transfer your chats to a more suitable agent. This could easily hinder the efficiency of your customer service and even leave customers feeling annoyed. It may be free to use, but Messenger as a web chat alternative could cost you in terms of customer service scope.

Customer service: you’re the customer

Many companies that sell live chat software as a service pride themselves on excellent customer support. So, should anything go wrong with the software, a dedicated support team is in place to get it fixed as soon as possible. Should you or your employees have any queries, there is a human representative ready to help you.

Facebook is unlikely to supply quality customer service or tech support to you when you need it. Have you ever tried getting customer support from Facebook? There are no accessible contact details, no live support channels – only a sprawling help centre to navigate alone.

If anything goes wrong with the website app, you’re by yourself. Plus, the sub-par (if any) customer service you are likely to get from Facebook will have a knock-on effect on your own customers. If a problem arises with the contact channel, you have to find a way to explain that you can’t fix the problem, inevitably letting them down.

What is it good for?

Now, this isn’t to say that Messenger is worthless – far from it. There are many things that Facebook Messenger could be good for, especially when used alongside more established customer contact channels.

it can be used as a channel for new customer acquisition

For example, Facebook Messenger can supply you with a permanent thread between customers, allowing you to go back at any time and view or pick up past conversations. Not all live chat software programs provide this style of data retention.

Facebook also has a huge source of customer data in the form of personal profiles, which could help you interact better with each customer, and provide a bespoke service for each person that messages you. Also, because Facebook does have such a large number of users (about 1.5 billion), having Messenger as one option of many could mean that it can be used as a channel for new customer acquisition.

Therefore, Facebook Messenger could be added to complement an omni-channel approach — you’d get the benefits of Messenger, without the risks of relying on it entirely

Use with caution

As with any communication channel, there are pros and cons involved with a website Messenger app. While it may be a viable option for many small businesses, it will never offer the scale, security and support that comes with a dedicated live chat solution.

Think of Messenger as an addition, like a rug to a room. It can add a splash of variety, but it can also be pulled from underneath your feet at any moment. Bear that in mind before you become reliant on it for your customer service.

Realistically, you can do more to help your customers with other methods of chat, which are more widely accessible. You’d probably be better off going for a product you know is going to last, with no hidden costs and great service from live chat specialists.

That doesn’t mean that you mustn’t use Facebook Messenger altogether. After all, you should never put all your eggs in one basket, right?

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