On Wednesday, Facebook held its F8 developer conference. At the conference, ‘Messenger for Business’ was revealed. Soon, customers will be able to communicate with retailers through Facebook Messenger, whether that be to chat about a general query, view the shipping progress of an item, or actually place an order.
Image courtesy of Facebook, Inc.
The emergence of this news story really made me think about two situations I encountered over the past few weeks.
Is Facebook losing its grip on younger generations?
At Clearsilver, we are heavily involved with local young enterprise charity, Leeds Enterprise Action Programme (LEAP). During the LEAP process, the students taking part have to present the businesses they have created to Board members, which they did last weekend. As part of this, I spoke to each company, to ask some questions about their social media progress. As part of the one-to-one conversations I had with over twenty groups of teenagers, mostly aged somewhere between sixteen and eighteen, over half told me that ‘nobody’s on Facebook anymore.’ To me, this was surprising. My peer group are still very much active on Facebook, as are the UK generations older than me, with Facebook constantly coming top in polls of the most popular social media platform in the UK. However, it seems to be, that as the generations are getting younger, interest in Facebook is declining, with social networks Twitter and Instagram preferred by this age group.
As well as Messenger for Business, Facebook announced a number of other developments, the aim clearly being to make Facebook a one-stop-shop for all of our digital communication needs. If these young people reflect the opinions of this generation as a whole, and Facebook has documented this decline in interest, these developments could re-engage with this demographic that live a large majority of their lives through a mobile phone, by adding new, exciting features, and creating more reasons to keep people coming back to Facebook.
Will people prioritise Facebook Messenger over physical conversation?
For Mother’s Day this year, I ordered my step-mum some flowers from an online florist. Ordered in February, with numerous order confirmations saying that they would be delivered on this date, I started to panic when it got to 3 o’clock, and they still hadn’t arrived.
This particular florist doesn’t have a physical store. So, I went to the website to find an alternative method of getting in touch. On my hunt for a phone number, I found nothing, which is strange for such a large company. The only way to get in touch was by contact form, and it’s no secret that these forms are a no-go area if you require a fast response. With no store to visit, and no phone number, I was stuck. So, I decided to try their social media. In a bit of a panic, and not sure if the flowers were actually going to arrive on time, Twitter’s 140 character limit required too much thought when all I wanted was a quick answer. So, I sent them a Facebook message. The glorious factor here, being that I could see when they’d read the message. To my surprise, I got an instant reply. I sent the customer service adviser my order number, he tracked it, and sent me all the details back through Facebook Messenger. The whole interaction was seamless, and easy, and my problem was solved, because I was given the information I needed in a very convenient manner.
Although it wasn’t the communication channel I considered first, the result was a very positive, and easy experience, which would encourage me to use Facebook Messenger for this kind of query again.
So, do I think it’ll work?
Yes, but only for certain queries. Delivery options, general questions about items, and tracking orders, like the above, are easy to solve over Facebook Messenger. However, when dealing with more complex enquiries or complaints, there will still be a need for physical conversation.
In my opinion, Facebook are going to have to roll out a very clever advertising campaign, to change customer reaction from ‘I have an issue, I want to speak to somebody on the phone’, to ‘I have an issue, I want to speak to somebody on Facebook Messenger’. For people that conduct most of their day on mobile phones, however, streamlining conversation to Facebook Messenger makes sense. Personally, for ad-hoc, general enquiries and notifications, I think that Messenger for Business has the following advantages:
- It’s free. You don’t have to rack up mobile phone bills by being on hold to obscure numbers.
- It’s convenient. You can have a functional conversation, without it requiring as much attention and time as a phone call.
- It’s streamlined. For people that regularly message friends via Facebook, this function will bring all of these conversations into one place.
- It isn’t limited. Messenger for Business won’t have a limit of 140 characters, and it enables you to see when the retailer has read your message.
After the roll-out of using Facebook Messenger for mobile payments in the US, and now the announcement of Messenger for Business, I think that Facebook’s chat platform will certainly be one to watch during 2015.
Follow Eve on Twitter @EveEastwood
Cover image courtesy of referenceur.be