Facebook (News - Alert) recently announced that it will soon enable businesses to communicate with customers using its “Businesses on Messenger” service. This will allow businesses to send information ranging from simple delivery tracking updates to changing previously placed orders as messages to Facebook Messenger users.
Facebook’s announcement isn’t surprising, given that messaging is the number one activity on mobile phones today – and a majority of customers have been saying for a while that they would prefer to text with the companies they do business with rather than call, email or chat with them (52 percent preferred texting over other communication channels in a 2014 survey).
It’s clear that companies who care about meeting today’s mobile-first customer and building strong customer experiences need to acknowledge this customer demand for messaging, but they should also realize that there are other ways to accomplish this through an emerging category of mobile messaging services that includes secure texting. These are “open” solutions that allow for conversations with every phone, not the “closed” approach of most of today’s mobile messaging apps, which require customers to download a proprietary app like Facebook Messenger.
Businesses on Messenger also presents some potential privacy issues for both consumers and businesses, a topic that’s been raised by a number of publications, including Troy Wolverton of the San Jose Mercury News, who cites two consumer issues – opening up the Messenger channel to “unsolicited promotional messages,” and “giving Facebook the right to listen in” on business conversations. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has also raised ongoing questions about Facebook’s changing privacy policies.
Businesses Demand Customer Privacy
Do businesses want to include Facebook in their customer conversations? Do they want Facebook listening in on customer buy-sell transaction details? Or trending service questions about product issues? Or capturing customer suggestions about competitive feature improvements? Imagine customers being served advertisements for a competitive product after they contacted a company’s help desk.
There are mobile messaging options available today that protect both businesses’ and customers’ privacy and take advantage of the power of texting to reach more than four billion of the world’s consumers. This is a new category of mobile messaging that uses text/SMS and is NOT the shortcodes, automated alerting or marketing promotional offers that are typically used today in the business world.
It’s true – two-way messaging conversations between customers and company employees can actually occur, in which customers use their standard text messaging app to simply text the 1-800 and other business numbers they typically call, and then engage in text conversations with company employees.
New Genre of Mobile Messaging with Text
Mobile messaging cloud platforms are available that embrace and add security, storage and synchronization of messaging across devices, but that incorporate texting “in the last mile,” making it easy for customers to reach them without any new apps to download. These are cloud platforms and apps for employees that easily add texting as a natural extension of phone calls and emails with customers, ensuring that information is handled with strict privacy policies and full business ownership of the conversation.
These are apps that separate personal and business texting (an important employee benefit), while retaining conversations per a company’s own archiving policies (an important company benefit), and don’t incorporate email as a way to reach customers without a special app.
We welcome Facebook to the business messaging conversation, and for helping to raise broader awareness of this growing customer need that’s only going to continue to skyrocket. But this awareness also needs to include the understanding that there’s not just one type of mobile messaging solution for businesses to consider.
About the Author: Meredith Flynn-Ripley (News - Alert) is CEO of HeyWire, a leading cloud messaging company that enables secure text messaging conversations for companies that care about customer experience.