On November the 6th, Facebook announced the launch of beta tests of their new customer chat plugin. This plugin will allow customers to chat with businesses not only on Facebook pages but also on these businesses’ own websites.
As you might imagine, these thrilling news shook the ecommerce industry. It wasn’t just a new big player joining live chat market; it was THE big player joining the market. Some of live chat CEOs became anxious, asking themselves how this news would affect their businesses. Some investors panicked.
But frankly, is there a reason to be nervous?
Is the new offer so tempting that suddenly all customers will leave their live chat providers and start using Facebook Chat Plugin?
We don’t think so, and here’s why.
Facebook stopped being just a social media channel long time ago. What started as a simple picture & opinion sharing network has turned into a full-fledged communication platform. Messenger quickly became one of the most popular communicators, so Facebook decided to release it as a standalone app in August 2011.
Another big step towards communication was made in February 2014 when Facebook acquired WhatsApp, the fastest-growing company in history, for whopping $19 billion. People argued whether it was a brilliant or a moronic move, but although it wasn’t the best decision in terms of money, the company has just eliminated the biggest competitor on the communication market.
But Zuckerberg didn’t stop there. In April 2016 Facebook introduced chatbots and in July 2017 they released Messenger Platform 2.1 (with Natural Language Processing and easier in-app payments).
And shortly after that, in November 2017, Facebook announced beta tests of their Messenger Platform 2.2: the Chat Plugin.
To understand why Facebook decided to release a chat platform is simple: live chatting is the main communication channel for online users. Posting on social media, talking through a live chat app, contacting through a social media messenger – it’s all live chatting. No wonder that live chat became such an important tool for ecommerce businesses.
Now, let’s consider the fact that over 60 million businesses have their Facebook page. 3 million companies actively advertise on Facebook (bringing about $8 billion of advertising revenue per quarter).
The majority of companies that are present on Facebook engages their customers and provides real-time support via Messenger. The ability to engage customers on Facebook and to continue conversations outside it seemed to be a natural move.
Staying in touch with Facebook customers means higher conversions for business owners. And that translates into more Facebook business users, more Facebook advertisers and more Facebook’s cold, hard cash.
Now that we know the business reasons behind introducing Facebook Chat, we can discuss its real value. Facebook Chat is currently (November 2017) in the closed beta stage, so its full scope is yet unknown to the general public. However, we can already name some concerns which may be the deal-breakers.
As mentioned above, Facebook is constantly expanding their portfolio and the chat plugin is only one of their services. Running after many hares, however, can quickly drain any company: it’s highly unlikely that Facebook decides to maintain the chat plugin if they find it unprofitable for any reason.
We have already seen this happen to Parse: a mobile development platform powering 600,000 mobile apps was suddenly shut down to the surprise and discontent of its users. Will the business chat plugin last? Who knows. Putting your trust in a service that may be discontinued at any time can cost you dear.
The chat plugin is one of many Facebook’s children. Therefore, it’s unlikely that the company will put years of effort in researching the needs of the target group to deliver a better-tailored product. Perhaps, then, instead of going for one-size-fits-all solutions it’s better to rely on the specialists in the field, especially when it comes to business and professional communication?
Anything can go wrong and if it does, it’s better to have a trusted support team at hand. Smaller companies focusing on one product generally tend to provide a better and more personal customer service. If, however, you are one of 2 billion customers, the experience may vary.
Any of you who had a problem with the passport or a blocked account, know that Facebook support is as slow as molasses in January. In case of any problems, we would rather rely on a company that offers support 24/7.
Facebook, next to Google, is one of the world’s infamous Big Brothers. It’s literally everywhere, lurking at you from behind every corner, collecting and processing the personal data behind the scenes.
The Facebook Chat Plugin is powered by Messenger, so in order to chat it’s necessary to have a Facebook account. It’s doubtful that the visitors who haven’t created a Facebook account this far will be willing to sign up just to chat.
And what with those who don’t feel comfortable with sharing their Facebook identity? In the era of omnipresent tracking bots, it’s perhaps wiser to select a company which provides at least some degree of anonymity.
Having said all that, let’s have a quick look at what we really get with the Facebook Chat Plugin. The table below compares Facebook Chat, tawk.to (a popular free live chat software) and LiveChat (our premium app).
We have selected the features that we consider important from a support team’s point of view: the ones that, from our experience, help deliver the best customer experience. Solid data, no marketing jargon:
Note: Before jumping to any conclusions, let’s make a caveat here: the Facebook Chat is still in the beta stage. Facebook may or may not add more advanced features in the future. If they decide to develop the product, we will be happy to revisit the comparison.
Moreover, Facebook Chat comes with an in-built bot integration, which can be used to add more advanced features to the chat window. The configuration, though, may be challenging for less experienced users.
You might think that comparing a live chat application with Facebook Chat is not entirely fair. A fresh and simple app shouldn’t be compared to a robust communication platform with 15 years of experience, right?
But since people go crazy prophesying a quick end of all live chat solutions, there’s probably a need to educate some them about how basic the Facebook chat product is.
So yes, the reports of the death of all Facebook competition are greatly exaggerated. Facebook targets the market of free live chat solutions and the premium business models aren’t threatened.
What’s more, people don’t seem to notice that the whole live chat market will benefit from Facebook’s participation in it.
The first thing is that it will change the perception of live chat in business. Many companies still haven’t discovered the benefits of live chatting and giving them the ability to test it for free is beneficial in terms of spreading the awareness about this software.
And the other benefit is that once these companies taste in live chatting, they will quickly grow out of the basic Facebook product. It means that all these companies will sooner or later become an obvious target group for the professional premium solutions.
Hooray for that!
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