Customer Service

Salesforce Releases Texting Customer Service Chatbot

Salesforce on Tuesday released LiveMessage, a chatbot that lets enterprises users engage customers through messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, SMS or MMS directly within its Service Cloud.

Service agents can respond to customers on Facebook Messenger after accessing their records, for example, and the conversation automatically is appended and can be resumed later if necessary.

Businesses can add messaging capabilities to their existing toll-free customer service phone numbers and be up and running on Facebook Messenger and SMS, or both, within a day, Salesforce said.

Salesforce also introduced Service Cloud Bots, which automate data gathering and connect to relevant account records and service cases in its Service Cloud.

Its enterprise customers can use the bots to streamline information-gathering processes, or integrate third-party bots through the Service Cloud’s Bring Your Own Bot feature.

For example, retailers can use a Service Cloud Bot to obtain customers’ information and the issues they want to bring up.

The bot can send a link automatically to customers who have simple questions, such as how to exchange an item.

For more complicated requests, Service Cloud’s omnichannel intelligent engine automatically will escalate the case to an appropriate agent.

“We see a lot of potential for bots to drive greater productivity — getting customers to the right agent and bringing the agent up to speed so they can accelerate issue resolution,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

Particularly impressive is the way LiveMessage is integrated into the overall Salesforce Service Console “so an agent sees a customer’s texting history and can begin any in-person engagement with that knowledge,” she told CRM Buyer.

Bring Your Own Bot

There’s a thriving ecosystem of bots built by third-party companies to do things like troubleshoot common product problems, or answer basic questions about store locations and hours, Salesforce said.

Its open, API-first platform lets companies easily connect existing bots using the LiveMessage API for a third-party bot.

Third-party bots are similar to Service Cloud Bots: Simple requests are handled automatically through the customer’s preferred messaging app, and complicated requests are sent to the agent best able to respond.

The Lure of the Chatbot

Consumers are adopting messaging at an unprecedented pace, reported Forrester, which opens the door for the introduction of chatbots.

Facebook, Oracle and Microsoft all have released tools that let enterprises build chatbots that communicate with customers through messaging apps.

LiveMessage “is a good example of the consumerization of IT affecting a corporate application,” noted Natalie Petouhoff, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.

LiveMessage will resolve consumer frustration caused by corporate solutions that limit two-way communications through text, which they’re accustomed to, she told CRM Buyer.

LiveMessage Benefits

“The upside for customer loyalty, particularly for an increasingly texting-heavy customer base, is an additional channel that’s integrated and transparent from other channels,” Wettemann said.

For enterprises, “this is a cheaper channel than traditional phone or even live chat,” she observed, “so they provide a better customer experience and lower costs.”

However, chatbots “only do part of the job,” remarked Denis Pombriant, principal at Beagle Research.

“At some point, you’ll need to involve humans to do what machines or bots still can’t,” he told CRM Buyer.

LiveMessage both uses chatbots and enables human interaction when needed, Pombriant said. In some cases, LiveMessage chatbots “might be all that a customer needs.”

Customers don’t want to “go through an elaborate experience when they just need a simple answer,” Pombriant said, based on his own research.

Chatbots aren’t ready yet to meet consumer expectations, suggested Forrester, but enterprises should still lay the groundwork for them.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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