Facebook Lets Small Businesses Quickly Contact Its Customer Support Via Chat To Cut Call Center Costs

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Understanding Facebook marketing and ads can be tough for small businesses. To address the issue, Facebook’s customer-service department has been quietly testing a Salesforce-powered system that lets businesses contact it over Facebook Chat rather than with a phone call. This gives merchants a quick and convenient way to get answers while they run their businesses, and it keeps call-center costs down for Facebook.

The program has been running for a few months but isn’t widely known about; a business owner tipped us off today. Facebook confirmed the program’s existence to me and said that it’s built on the company’s Salesforce license — not through a partnership. It’s different from the customer support Facebook added for Pages in February that lets their fans private message them instead of blowing up a business’ wall with complaints.

One tipster was confused and thought Facebook was starting to show ads in the Messages inbox, but Facebook confirms that’s not happening. However, I don’t rule out that Facebook could try monetizing Messaging more directly in the future.

Customer support chat is another way Facebook is trying to make it easier for small businesses to reach their customers…oh and spend money on its ad products. Enterprises have the resources to hire dedicated social marketers, but small business owners often end up tackling the challenge themselves. If they aren’t confident on how Pages or Promoted Posts work, they’re not going to invest time, energy, and marketing spend on them.

Most people dread customer service calls, with their automated menus and hold times, and the fact that it’s tough to multi-task during them. Small business owners don’t have time to waste, so customer service Chat could fit well into their routines. They could ask a question, then ring up a customer or train an employee while waiting to hear back from Facebook. Chat provides more personal attention than email, but without the annoyance of being on the phone.

This meshes well with Facebook’s other business education programs, such as FastTrack, its marketing webinars, and in-person Small Business Boost consulting sessions through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business. They seem to be working. Facebook now hosts Pages for 12.8 million small businesses, 8 million of which are active every month. As of Facebook’s last earnings call in October, more than 300,000 businesses had tried its Promoted Post ads and 100,000 SMBs have posted Offers coupons.

If Facebook wants to grow revenue to more comfortably align with its valuation, it can’t just court the world’s biggest brands. It needs brick-and-mortar mom-and-pops making their businesses social.

[Image Credit: American Gaming Systems]