On November 7, Facebook announced a slew of new features and upgrades for their Messenger platform. Amongst the changes to Handover Protocols, Message Tags, Insight APIs, Broadcast Interfaces, and Media Templates was news that should perk up the ears of anyone who works in digital care and customer service. From VentureBeat’s Khari Johnson:
“Facebook Messenger now has a plugin that lets visitors to a website engage in live chat with a human or bot without leaving that website. Called Customer Chat, the plugin is one in a series of major changes announced today as part of the release of version 2.2 of the Messenger Platform. The announcement was made by Messenger head of product Stan Chudnovsky on stage at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.
Things like Message Us buttons or a Send to Messenger plugin have been available for websites for a long time, but this appears to be the first native offering for live chat with a human or automated bot.”
Immediately, this is great news for any business that is about to deploy a chat product. Messenger Platform 2.2’s customer chat plugin allows for communication between customers and the brand that implements it.
Currently in a closed beta, the plugin lets a customer initiate their conversation with a business on the company’s website through Messenger, and then continue it across web, mobile or tablet, while retaining the chat context and history, and supports Messenger’s current capabilities, including NLP (natural language processing), rich media, and purchases & payments.
For the enterprise, this may signal the end of dependence on costly, proprietary onsite chat solutions which fail to take advantage of the true power of artificial intelligence. Instead, Messenger lets them simultaneously offer an onsite solution which can talk to their customers where and when they want, and retain all the relevant information to ensure a smooth interaction with current and potential customers.
Another advantage to the Messenger plugin is that businesses can choose whichever powerful AI tools they want to power the chat. Instead of the call-and-answer databases to which chatbots are usually limited, a business can implement a robust, cognitive care solution which learns from its interactions with customers.
Anyone shopping for a chat product today would be safe to go with Facebook’s solution or something quite similar; meanwhile, proprietary chat products will see a serious decrease in sales. If you have already implemented a proprietary chat product then this news might not really have a huge impact.
The only caveat? In past years, some industries have lamented handing over too much power to Facebook for its services in the fear that they can’t gain it back later. Publishers in particular call out the social giant for their financial woes as of late. That said, in this case Messenger seems to act only as a conduit – one of many – that allows the enterprise to connect to their customers using powerful AI-based tools, in the ways their customers prefer.