Salesforce LiveMessage brings messaging to Service Cloud

As more and more people use SMS and messaging apps like Facebook Messenger to interact with friends, it’s only logical that they want to interact with business that way too — and today Salesforce launched LiveMessage, a tool that helps customer service reps manage messaging traffic just like any customer interactions in Service Cloud.

For starters, it supports SMS/MMS and Facebook Messenger, but over the next year the company expects to add support for other message apps, as well.

Service Cloud customers can set up an SMS messaging interaction in less than a day through a company’s 800 number. This new functionality is built with technology that came from the HeyWire acquisition in September. All of the message traffic, regardless of the tool, appears in a tabbed view in Service Cloud, just as it does with phone or web chats.

The new functionality involves a couple of different approaches to messaging: talking to a human and communicating using bots. Companies could use a combination of the two, starting with bots for simple interactions, then transferring to humans for more complex questions.

conversational-service_livemessage_fb-msgSalesforce is offering Service Cloud bots, or customers can plug in a third-party bot to communicate via automated interactions in messenger clients. The key here, though, is to provide avenues for two-way communication between the company and the customer via a message interface.

We’ve all had the experience of getting a text that an item has shipped or our appointment is confirmed from a company or service provider, but without the ability to text back. Consumers used to having two-way communication are often frustrated by these limited interactions.

Service Cloud is offering a way to give that two-way interactions between consumers and companies that we are used to having with our friends. When we get a text, we expect to be able to respond — and this new functionality allows us to do that — whether we are interacting with an automated response bot or a human.

“We don’t view this as bots [versus human] agents. This can be bots for simple rules-based approaches, or it could be a real-time conversation or a combination of both,” said Meredith Flynn-Ripley, VP of product messaging at Service Cloud, who came to the company via the HeyWire acquisition.

Flynn-Ripley indicated one of the advantages of going with messaging is that companies see a sharp drop-off in phone traffic when customers open a messaging channel in Service Cloud. Customers seem to prefer to interact using messaging over picking up a phone. “Live messaging becomes 15-20 percent of [customer service] interactions in a matter of weeks,” she says. What’s more, customers are seeing voice calls dropping by numbers directly proportional to the rising messaging traffic.

Agents can manage up to 7 message channels at a time in the Service Cloud interface — and customer service agents who are already using web chat technology should be able to get up and running with the new messaging capabilities without any additional training.

Flynn-Ripley says what it comes down to is that customers want to communicate on their terms, and texting is proving to be a popular way to contact companies with customer service issues.