MessageBird launches an ‘omni-channel’ Intercom competitor

Following the launch of in March — its “Slack for external communications” — Amsterdam-headquartered MessageBird is continuing to place big bets on a messaging-first future.

Not content with building a platform for customer service teams that lets them communicate with customers on a channel of their choosing, including all of the most popular messaging apps, today the company is bringing the same tech to a new live chat widget that it hopes will give Intercom a run for its money.

Called “Omnichannel Chat Widget,” MessageBird’s new embeddable live chat widget also includes support for WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Twitter, SMS, Email and voice right out of the box. This enables customers to start online but move their support request or query over to a more convenient channel, such as their favourite mobile messaging app, which, of course, can go with them. Put simply, the idea is to eliminate the painful experience of starting a web chat with a company, only to be placed in a queue until you decide to close your web browser and try again later or elect to give up entirely.

“People think of live chat as a ‘live’ channel, but [there’s] no ability to jump to other channels,” MessageBird founder and CEO Robert Vis tells me. “People still have to wait with a browser window open for a response during peak times. With the launch of the first-ever omni-channel widget, customers can now opt to have a business get back to them on WhatsApp, Messenger or the messaging platform of their choice. This means no more customers waiting in line, online, and agents don’t get flooded with tickets and can better manage customer relationships and response times.”

At launch, Omnichannel Chat Widget integrates with all major e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and Magento, as well as a number of on-demand and logistics platforms. And just like Inbox, the chat widget it built on top of the company’s “Flow Builder” software and therefore includes optional AI-powered chatbots, FAQ bots and various other third-party integrations. It also includes a channel-agnostic chat history so that handovers can happen efficiently.

In addition, Omnichannel Chat Widget syncs seamlessly with Inbox, meaning every message, across every channel, is aggregated in one Inbox window internally on the business side, “while the customer enjoys flexibility to use their preferred channels at their convenience,” explains Vis. Noteworthy, MessageBird has filed for a provisional patent for the technology behind the widget.

Also similar to Inbox, small businesses will be able to use the widget for free while larger businesses pay for add-ons. More broadly, MessageBird is attempting to drag the external communications software industry away from a per-seat model to conversation-based pricing. Vis says this is partly because MessageBird has already seen Inbox used by customer-facing staff far beyond just support agents, and argues a per-seat model penalises companies that want to a adopt a more collaborative approach to customer service.

“I’m just tired of this world of waiting on hold on the phone, waiting for response to an email or especially waiting for live-chat customer support to get back to me,” adds the MessageBird founder. “I want to message with a business in the same way that I message my friends, but I also want those businesses to be able to get back to me via message so I can get on with my day. Stop wasting my time keeping me on hold with bad customer service. Time is the most precious thing we all have in this world and MessageBird won’t stop till we fix this problem.”

Zooming out further, Vis says the launch of Omnichannel Chat Widget sees MessageBird complete its pivot from a Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) to the world’s “first and only Omni-channel Platform as a Service (OPaaS).” In a messaging-first world, where big tech such as Facebook, Apple and Google are doubling down on messaging, companies will need to operate seamlessly across channels.

“This is not trivial,” adds Vis. “As a CPaaS platform, MessageBird was opening up legacy communication channels by turning them into APIs for other companies to use… With the launch of this product, we have pivoted into building new omni-channel products on top of a fully integrated platform. Because to really be at the forefront of driving omni-channel into the mainstream, you ultimately need to reach consumers directly and Omnichannel Chat Widget is the first product to do that.”