Facebook Is Testing "Saved Replies" Feature for Business Users

True to form, Facebook has quietly rolled out another new feature without much warning, but this time, the tool is a welcome addition for some business users. Saved Replies, which Facebook is still testing among a select group of users, is primarily a customer service resource for small businesses that aren't ready to invest in a full-fledged customer support platform. Companies can create and save message templates—or canned responses—and use them to save time when communicating with customers through Facebook and Facebook Messenger. The canned responses can still be customized using a customer's name or other information, but the aim is to cut down handling time and speed up response rate.

Though Saved Replies is not a revolutionary concept, analysts are applauding Facebook's move to make this feature available. There is a caveat, however—relying too heavily on canned responses jeopardizes a brand's ability to deliver a personalized experience. "While this can save reps time, it's important to ensure that the reply is not too generic, as customers want to feel like they are being responded to personally, not just treated like a ticket number," Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research, says. "Facebook has become an important customer engagement point for many brands. If this new feature can make work easier for Page Admins while at the same time allow customers to feel like they are getting personalized attention, then it should be a hit," he adds.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, principal analyst at Constellation Research, has similar concerns. According to Petouhoff, Facebook's Saved Replies has the potential to go down the same route as traditional chat bots, which gave the chat channel "a bad name." Now that chat platforms have evolved to facilitate real conversations between consumers and service representatives and deliver more sophisticated automated conversations, the channel is re-emerging after a long exile. To avoid robotic relationships with customers, Petouhoff recommends using Saved Replies as a routing mechanism or an interactive FAQ tool. "Brands could use [Saved Replies] to say, 'We heard you and are looking into it,' or supply answers to super-simple issues," she suggests.

Saved Replies isn't Facebook's first effort to build out Messenger as a customer service offering. In May, the company entered into a partnership with customer service platform provider Zendesk to offer customer service support during and after the checkout process. To use the feature, consumers can simply opt in to receive order information through Messenger and then use the app to directly contact the companies for answers and customer service. On the company side, customer service agents can use Zendesk's Zopim chat tool to manage multiple Messenger chats at once, collaborate with other agents to solve a customer's issue, and access chat history. "Brands like Zulily and Everlane have already begun using the Zendesk integration for Facebook Messenger and have been very successful," says Jason Smale, director of product strategy at Zendesk. "The reason it works so well," he adds, "is that it lets companies make business communications with consumers really personal, and makes the experience just like talking to their friends."

Despite some of its recent moves, Facebook still has plenty of work to do when it comes to positioning Facebook Messenger as a customer service resource, analysts agree. "Messenger is missing some things it needs to really be a customer service application, and it stuns me that Facebook would try to build their own thing versus looking at the vast array of options that do social customer service so well," Petouhoff says. Making a strategic acquisition of a company such as Get Satisfaction would have been a better route, and though Get Satisfaction is no longer on the market after being bought up by Sprinklr, it's not too late to consider other similar providers, she says. 

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