Salesforce and Zendesk want to help brands manage Facebook Messenger traffic

No sooner had Facebook announced it was opening up Messenger for developers to build bots, when two players with an eye on sales and service in the enterprise — Salesforce and Zendesk — announced new products to manage Messenger traffic on their respective platforms.

Salesforce announced Salesforce Messenger, a way for customers to communicate directly with brands through the Salesforce platform. As an example, a person who knows they are going to miss their flight, could message the airline and get a new booking in a familiar way, just by chatting in Messenger.

The company sees this as a way to enhance communication across all its areas of business — sales, marketing and service. The fact is the lines between these three areas which used to be crystal clear are blurring for both brands and customers alike, Rob Begg, VP of product marketing for social products at Salesforce explained.

He doesn’t see rolling out another communication platform as a problem for companies already used to dealing with customers through multiple channels, whether that’s through an app, social, email, phone or web chat client. As Salesforce sees it, this is just another channel to manage and they will incorporate it into the full view of the customer that could include a record when you called, emailed or messaged the company.

Zendesk also announced a new Messenger product today called Zendesk Message that will fit in with its customer service focus. When customers interact with a brand via Messenger, they may get an automated response if that’s appropriate or they may hear from a human. From a CSR perspective, they can see the Messenger interactions on a timeline and recognize the nature of the interaction, while moving between message threads quickly.

“Today’s businesses must meet customers wherever they are and combine the personal touch of human interactions with the convenience of automated activities through bots,” Royston Tay, general manager of messaging at Zendesk said in a statement.

While chat bots may seem exotic now, in short order it’s very likely they will become as common as using social channels like Twitter and Facebook to engage with brands. Like those social channels, there will be rules of engagement that define the proper way to approach customers without spamming them and companies will need to learn what types of interactions are appropriate.

Just as you recognize when someone is spamming you by email or on Twitter, it will become readily apparent what the best practices are in chat soon enough. As with any new channel, brands must feel their way and learn how to use this channel as another way to communicate and interact with customers.