Social commerce has grown significantly over the last few years, especially with the advent of Shopify, which allows almost anyone to become a social commerce retailer. Major social platforms have adapted to offer products to users through concepts such as shoppable videos, business pages and influencers. However, when it comes to customer service on social platforms, brands have taken many different approaches, and without standardisation, customers can often become frustrated.
Traditionally, brands have used APIs (application programming interfaces), which act as intermediary software between two applications. Often these end up being in the form of chatbots. With new APIs being released from Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, we look at how these social channels improve their customer service offerings for both brands and customers.
How to use these channels for Customer Service
It has been estimated that 90% of people on Instagram chose to follow at least one business. With Facebook-owned Instagram already being a place where customers frequently interact with brands, the new API aims to increase communication by integrating brands’ current messaging systems with the social platform. The new model is one of “business messaging”, where customers are encouraged to message businesses directly rather than using other telephone calls or email forms.
The new API allows businesses to manage all of their customer interactions in one place by integrating their current digital communication systems with Instagram. This system will increase convenience for both customers and businesses and significantly improve time management for customer service teams. By choosing to integrate customer services with the Instagram platform, brands can respond more efficiently and engage with customers in real-time. One way in which the new API can streamline customer service is by allowing brands to create automated replies.
These responses are beneficial for frequently asked questions that don’t require detailed answers. However, whilst automated chatbots can be efficient, the new API allows customer service teams to switch quickly from chatbots to live agents who can provide personalised answers to queries. By enabling teams to identify when users would best benefit from live conversations, brands become more relatable and humanised. Furthermore, using direct messages to respond to queries and offer other information such as product or service recommendations can drive more high-quality traffic to businesses’ e-commerce websites.
Facebooks’ new Login Connect will allow customers to connect easily with businesses on the platform. The aim is to create a single space where customers can receive conveniently and personalised communications from brands instead of going through segmented systems across e-commerce websites and outsourced customer services.
One feature of Login Connect is that users can opt in to a business messaging through the Facebook Login link on brands’ e-commerce websites. This opens up customer services and business communications to all e-commerce users rather than isolating only those who frequently use the Facebook platform. Furthermore, this could lead to increased followers and other interactions for brand accounts using the site as more consumers are driven to their social content. It is hoped that by relying more on direct business messaging, customers will find brand communications to be less obtrusive and more personalised.
This is already backed up by one study which found that brands reported over 70% of users chose to opt into messaging with Login Connect enabled. However, one of the most significant features that will directly benefit brands is Facebook’s new feedback template. Customer feedback on services and products can be invaluable to businesses. This is why Facebook has created an automated customer feedback template, which can be tailored and presented to users through the messenger chat window. By introducing a more conversational way of generating user feedback, customers are more likely to participate without inconveniencing.
Despite being limited to messaging compared with other social platforms that offer businesses pages, stories and other features, WhatsApp has become a key channel for e-commerce brands. It has been estimated that over 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account per day. Additionally, with WhatsApp Pay gaining momentum, there is an increased opportunity for e-commerce brands to integrate more of their b2c operations on the platform. So, with customers potentially making purchases through WhatsApp, how will the new businesses API streamline consumer experiences?
Utilise the same technologies to send users timely notifications regarding new products, back in stock updates, special offers and more. Similarly to Facebook and Instagram, WhatsApp can set up automated responses for common questions using chatbots. However, there is a risk that customers may become overwhelmed with unwanted messages and notifications after connecting with a business account. This is why WhatsApp will limit brands as well as monitoring their activity on the platform.
Additionally, users will be able to block or report businesses and will be encouraged to provide a reason for this which can then be given as feedback to that brand. Giving control back to the consumers will generate confidence in the platform and ultimately encourage more B2C interactions. Some unique features of the WhatsApp API include lists and buttons. Lists allow brands to customise a list of up to 10 questions which users can automatically select without having to type out a message themselves. Similarly, buttons allow brands to customise up to 3 quick responses, which users can choose from. These tools increase accessibility to the customer service offered by businesses as well as streamlining the communications process.
Integrating customer service features with social media platforms has many advantages. Customers are offered a convenient way to connect with businesses, and brands gain content exposure and the opportunity to streamline their customer service through chatbots and reliance on single platforms. In fact, one study claimed that 64% of consumers prefer messaging to email or phone communications.
While some users may find this too intrusive, the new APIs have built-in opt-out options, thus allowing customers control over their social channels. However, for many, the ability to interact with brands on platforms where they feel comfortable can help build trust between businesses and consumers, making future brand conversations more meaningful.
Written and researched by Paige Elford, Digital Marketing Graduate