Ever since Mark Zuckerberg made his F8 presentation and demonstrated the soon-to-be-released Facebook Timeline, News Ticker and other assorted Facebook changes, marketing teams have been dissecting his words for hints of new opportunities, and perhaps lost ones.
But what does it all mean for customer services?
I’m diligently researching the topic in preparation for Social CRM 2011 in New York next month, so I attended the excellent Chinwag event London on Weds which included a presentation from Facebook. This highlighted a couple of critical changes for any business that uses Facebook as one of their customer communication channels.
Firstly we have the demise of the Discussion tab. This was a surprise to many, but not to those who’ve tried to manage customer engagement through the limited, linear interface they offer. In spite of it’s limitations, companies tended to like the Discussion tab because it channelled dissenters into a manageable space and acted, to an extent, like a feedback forum. The problem was, Facebook users never really took to them. Consequently, they will be phased out at the end of the month.
Facebook is, rightly, responding to its users and focusing on enabling discussion in the here and now, on the Timeline, in the News Ticker and on status updates, rather than in a silo off your main page. In this sense, it’s a positive move, yet it does raise issues for customer services… Expect to have more negative comments front-of-house, right in your timeline. Expect off-topic comments coming at you from all angles. Experienced community managers are used to dealing with dispersed conversations across multiple channels, but it won’t make their jobs any easier.
The other big change is that, shortly, people will no longer need to Like your Page in order to comment on it. Most customer service teams would say the current setup, whereby a user Like’s your page and, in doing so, is both enabled to post and provides permission for the company to reply to them privately, has worked adequately well.
The new change raises a big question: if users don’t need to Like your page to comment, do they still grant you permission to contact them privately, or do you have to reply publicly? (Not ideal for sensitive issues). Gavin Sathianathan from Facebook’s UK Partnerships team, who spoke yesterday (pictured above), explained that this isn’t the case. The act of granting permission will now happen when a person writes a comment on your page, rather than when they Like it.
This shaking up of a system that, after some teething problems, people have come to understand raises a whole new set of privacy and usability issues. I guess we’ll just have to see how it works out.