Waiting for customer support or wading through phone menus to talk to the right person is a hassle no one wants to deal with. Companies have added online chat to their mix of support services, but typically that service is used on desktop or laptop computers, not a mobile phone.
Enter Salesforce.com’s LiveMessage for Service Cloud, which became available Dec. 13. The service aims to enhance the call center and simplify customer interactions by enabling customers to use familiar mobile services such as text messaging and Facebook Messenger.
Bobby Amezaga, senior director of Service Cloud at Salesforce, said messaging had been a key missing ingredient in companies’ plans to offer a true omnichannel solution to communicating with customers.
“Messaging is far and away the most popular way consumers communicate. Every day there are 80 billion messages sent using various apps,” Amezaga told eWEEK.
Salesforce calls LiveMessage a conversational service that is different than traditional phone support. “With the phone the idea in the call center has been to get them (the customer) off the phone as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next call. But in real life, the way we communicate with friends is to have a conversation. That’s what we’re after here,” Amezaga said.
But in the case of LiveMessage, that “friend” you’re chatting with won’t even be human, at least initially. The service uses bots to analyze and respond to requests. The bot or online agent can handle simple requests such as returning an item or getting more information on a product or service. At any point in the exchange, a customer can type A and have a human agent join the conversation.
“It’s completely configurable. What we’re showing is that you can seamlessly move between the two, from the bot to the agent,” said Meredith Flynn-Ripley, vice president of product for Messaging and Service Cloud at Salesforce. She formerly was CEO of Heywire, a company Salesforce acquired in September that provides the conversational messaging technology behind the new service.
In a demo, Salesforce showed a customer with a broken slow cooker getting online with the LiveMessage Bot, which pulls up the order and offers a link for a replacement option. It gets a bit more complicated when the customer then realizes he wants to replace it with a different model, the WiFi-enabled slow cooker. A human agent then joins the conversation to complete the transaction.
Flynn-Ripley said a human agent typically has seven tabs open at a time monitoring different LiveMessage exchanges, and this technology makes far more efficient use of the agent’s time than answering calls in a call center. “We are seeing LiveMessage becoming 15 [percent] to 20 percent of all inbound communications in our customer call centers and proportionally reducing calls,” she said.
“We expect LiveMessage to equal or be more than the voice channel in call centers in two to three years,” she added. “The whole category of messaging will become dominant and LiveMessage has a unique solution for the call center—not just for millennials, but we’re finding that people of all ages are using it.”
Analyst Rebecca Wettemann agrees that LiveMessage has a first-mover advantage.
“Salesforce LiveMessage is the first solution that makes messaging a viable and scalable channel for service contact centers of all sizes,” Wettemann, who is vice president of Research at Nucleus Research, said in a statement. “As bots get smarter and can do more, we will see more companies deploy messaging and provide better, faster and more personalized customer service while driving down service costs.”
In addition to what LiveMessage provides, Salesforce offers a “Bring Your Own Bot” (BYO Bot) option, wherein customers can integrate bots developed internally or by third parties that perform tasks such as troubleshoot common product problems or answer basic questions about store location and hours.