A few months back, I wrote about email being a dying channel for effective customer support, after hearing how a large consumer electronics company was trying to do exactly that.

Not being someone that remains comfortable with theoretical practices, and also seeing the issues that email caused for us, I decided to speak to some colleagues as well as the C-level, to see how we as a company feel about such a drastic move. After many several positive discussions, we decided that there would be huge benefits for Blacklane should we do the same:

  • Provide a channel that mobile users know and probably have installed
  • A channel/tool that doesn’t require registration (on mobile)
  • A solution that supports collaboration in CS, in a simpler fashion than voice
  • A quick implementation
  • A way for us to gradually implement, to ensure we can handle incoming volumes – this is more of an internal challenge, however extremely relevant

We also looked at web-based solutions, and made sure that any decision made wouldn’t need to be reversed for reasons beyond our control. This was triggered by a large messaging network intentionally stopping businesses from using their system by deleting accounts, as they have a clear focus on C2C.

There was only one choice that filled all requirements, all other options missed at least one. As such, we have gradually been implementing Facebook Messenger over the past weeks and are extremely happy with how it’s being accepted by our customers. So why did we choose Facebook?

  • Facebook is heavily investing in Facebook for Business, as they see it as an ideal complement to the relationships customers and businesses may already have on Facebook
  • Scalability becomes a non-issue for us
  • Cost – in a nutshell, none
  • 89% of all Facebook users access Facebook (and/or Messenger) on a mobile device **
  • Over 1 billion MAU ** – 60 billion messages sent daily *
  • As Facebook made the Messenger functionality available via a link, the hurdle for a customer to use it is extremely low. A simple click on http://m.me/Blacklane gets you in touch with us. This can obviously be added to a button or image, to ensure a design fit depending on the placement.

Although irrelevant for us, since our implementation in September, Facebook has continued to push Facebook Messenger:

  • Further drive of Chat-bots including analytics for the developers
  • A unified inbox for Business users – Instagram, Facebook Messengers as well as Facebook pages can now be responded to from a single place
  • The ability to push ads to FB Messenger users (not a huge fan of this, as I see Messenger as a support & service channel, not a marketing channel

So how did we approach this ourselves, and what limitations did we have?

Our customers are very segmented. We have a high level of transparency around leisure travelers and business travelers, but also a blended segment because we work with DPs (Distribution Partners) and GDS (Global Distribution Systems). As such, there may well be leisure travelers booking through one of these channels, who have an agreement with us around service levels and policies (lead times, cancellations etc). Some of our customers are averse to using Social Media in general, and would not like us to proactively use Facebook Messenger as a channel.

We also know many of our customers are booking airport pickups when traveling abroad. Specifically the leisure travelers may not have roaming enabled when abroad, so they provided us with a good use-case – Most airports offer free wifi, so a live channel for them would be a good scenario should they need our support.

That gave us the initial set up that we would aim for, and here’s what we did:

  • All system generated emails that are sent to leisure travelers were adapted to include a link to Facebook Messenger in the footer.
  • Emails sent to customers requesting flight number details were adapted with a clear CTA button requesting the details. (n.b. this is because we offer waiting time at airports, which takes flight delays into account, ensuring that our customers travels are not disrupted further. This however requires that we have the correct flight number)
  • As we already had our team available 24/7, we trained up more team members on Social Media (tone of voice, the tools etc)

This was mid-September and until then our Social was less than 1% of our incoming volumes, with Voice being predominant with approximately 65% and email 34%. Since then, Facebook Messenger, which accounts for 99% of the Social segment is anywhere between 4% and 6% of total volume, while Voice has remained stable. Email has clearly decreased, reinforcing our belief that we’re moving in the right direction.

Since then, we have decided to push more, clearly showing our Facebook Page visitors that we are available to chat (see the image on this post), and over the next weeks we will attempt to provide more entry points to this channel.

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If you’d like to learn more about our experiences, you can of course message me personally on Facebook messenger


** – source = App Annie, Sept 2016
* – source = Statista, Sept 2016