Over the past six months, you may have noticed a little blue Messenger widget appearing on brands websites. From Volaris Airlines to Argos, brands are leaning into the power of Messenger Customer Chat as customer care channel.


But this has raised a new question, that needs answering, for enterprises everywhere: Does Messenger Customer Chat have the potential to replace live chat?

Yes. There is a strong case to say that it will.

Messenger is a fusion of both real-time chat (and all of the accompanying functionalities such as typing indicators) as well as asynchronous messages with notifications.

Asynchronicity is one of the key factors that makes Messenger so convenient and powerful. Customers can start a conversation with brands, do something else more important and then pick up the same conversation right where they left off 30 minutes later. Gone are the days of being 100% engaged in a webchat and nothing else. Now you can order a coffee, talk to a friend, and have your service issue resolved all at the same time.

Messenger offers a unique opportunity for brands that are willing to embrace it as a scalable care channel. However, while the 1:1 private nature of messaging is in some ways very similar to live chat, there are a few key ways it is different—and this has an impact on workflow, KPIs, and agent training.

Here are five questions you can ask yourself to decide which comes out ahead. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each:

1. How important is conversation continuity?

While there are no public numbers, it’s fair to assume that conversation abandonment on live chat is high. Customers engage, get distracted, and frequently meander away. With most live chat vendors today, if that customer returns just a few hours later and renews the chat, everything starts over. That’s because live chat systems don’t have a way of validating individuals and resuming conversations. Messenger solves that problem.

Most live chat systems don’t have a way of resuming conversations. Messenger solves this problem.

Messenger conversations are both real-time and, if customers abandon the conversation, asynchronous. Because customers must be logged into Facebook to use Messenger for support, brands can save the conversation and pick it up where they left off for a faster, more pleasing support experience.

Winner: Messenger

2. How important is agent/team productivity?

From website bubbles to typing indicators, live chat and Messenger function very similarly. But for social care agents there are a few clear differences:

  • The asynchronous nature means that conversations can pause and resume between messages. Agents need to be able to have a real-time conversation while the customer is present, but be able to seamlessly shift to the next conversation if they are waiting on the customer.
  • Waiting on the customer can sometimes take days. This means the agent picking up that conversation needs to be able to quickly read up on the background of the conversation and continue where it was left off.
  • Conversations on Messenger can be closely intertwined with a public social presence on Facebook. In those cases, conversations can switch between public and private posts—so agents need to be able to track conversations as they switch, and understand how to respond differently in the public vs private spheres.
  • Messaging channels were built with automation in mind. The result is that they are much more productive than the traditional channels in intertwining human and bot interactions. But agents must be aware of this sometimes complex workflow.

A digital support tool built for social messaging addresses these workflow hurdles and turns them into advantages. Conversocial, for instance, gives agents a single view of all of a customers’ interactions across channels and allows agents to easily cache and resume conversations, or bring new agents up to speed. The Conversocial platform also allows conversations started on Messenger to be prioritized, agents therefore can treat the inquiry as a live chat conversation initially.

Winner: Messenger

3. Do you want to deploy chatbots?

So what about support automation? Chatbots seem to have passed through Gartner’s trough of disillusionment and are finally proving their worth. Accenture estimates that they can now handle as many as 80 percent of all support interactions and can escalate the remainder to a real agent.

Here, Facebook holds an advantage. The world’s largest social media site was among the first to plant the flag on the AI chatbot revolution and, despite setbacks, the Messenger platform is well ahead of most competitors, with over 100,000 chatbots. Facebook provides extensive developer documentation and has a thriving ecosystem of partners to help companies build chatbots that really work.

Previously, in the customer service domain, it was much harder to automate full conversations—there are just too many variables for what a customer could ask. But these changes to Messenger results in a different outcome. Humans and automation can sit side by side in a way that’s never been possible before.

Done right, the Social Messaging advantage for bot-augmented interactions has clear business impact:

  • Bots help brands drive a higher customer experience
    • Optimization for common inquiries results in quicker response times and faster time to resolution for customers.
  • Bots help brands drive a lower cost-to-serve
    • Bot-ready platforms that combine both bot and agent assisted service result in fewer inquiries needing a human response.

Winner: Messenger

4. Do you want to customize the chat window?

When it comes to customization, live chat has more to offer. Facebook’s great strength – its simple, intuitive interface – is also, partly, a weakness. While customers may be enticed to try Messenger support because of the social proof and brand equity they already feel with Facebook, its logo is permanently pasted on your site. Many live chat options are less strict and allow brands to inject custom CSS to brand the chat experience. Messenger has also recently released some creative ways to customize Customer Chat, including greeting text and color themes.

Winner: Live chat

5. Does your brand value data privacy?

There’s no discussing Facebook these days without talking about data use. Some publications have voiced concerns about allowing Facebook access to their customer support information. But the fear may be overblown. “Let me shut this down right here,” Facebook Messenger’s Head of Product Stan Chudnovsky told CNN. “No, we are not using anyone’s microphone to target ads, nor are we using the context of your Messenger conversations.” Facebook insists that the data is only used to increase the service’s utility and nothing more.

Brands will have to decide for themselves whether the added utility of asynchronous conversations, better customer experiences, and more intelligent chatbots that come with Messenger are worth trusting Facebook. But, given the Cambridge Analytica scandal, few brands now have greater reason or resources to protect their users’ data than Facebook, which is now on high alert.

However, for companies that operate in regulated industries, live chat current security status still wins out (it allows brands to validate their customers PPI behind owned firewall and tech infrastructure). This is a big draw for financial institutions due to regulations. However, there are workarounds both in the Messenger platform and Conversocial’s Social Bind offering. And it’s not like live chat vendors are immune to data breaches either, with both Delta and Sears being targeted last year.

to data it’s not like live chat vendors aren’t subject to data breaches also

Winner: Tie

Messenger will only get better and better

If we had to bet on a horse in this race, only Messenger is backed by a Fortune 100 company with thousands of developers and a deep commitment to conquering the business support market. Expect Messenger’s functionality – already at an advantage – to get better and better. So yes, for most companies, Facebook Messenger is a replacement for live chat. And a pretty good one at that.

Fundamentally, what is clear, is that your business needs to be ready to offer Messenger as a Social Messaging channel.