Salesforce is capitalizing on technology it obtained just three months ago through its acquisition of Heywire, a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of commercial texting services.

It has popped out a product based on Heywire technology via its Service Cloud. Called LiveMessage, the product gives companies a way to let their own clients contact them via messaging apps like SMS or Facebook Messenger without having to set up a dedicated phone line or other telephony support.

Because LiveMessage is part of Salesforce's Service Cloud, its bots can be used to streamline the messaging with customers. Third-party bots are also supported. The information that is exchanged via these messages is then incorporated into the customer file.

2-Way Conversation

LiveMessage is a step beyond the way some — but hardly all — companies are using messaging with their customers. Typically you will see, for example, a delivery company text a client to say a package has been delivered, or a local service shop text a customer to say the repairman is on his way.

However those messages are almost always one way — in the direction of the company. The customer cannot text the delivery service back to report: "I don’t see my package out here, where the heck did you leave it exactly?"

Likewise, the customer who received a message that the service person is en route may like having the ability to quickly text back to say she is running out for 10 minutes and would the repair person please wait? And then get a confirmation that yes, the repair person is happy to wait for ten minutes.

"This two-way interactive messaging has been difficult for contact centers to integrate and support," Meredith Flynn-Ripley, vice president of Product Messaging at Service Cloud and the co-founder of Heywire, told CMSWire.

"What we've developed is a turnkey application that a company can easily download."

Flexible Configurations

LiveMessage can be configured to work in different ways depending on the company’s needs, Flynn-Ripley says.

Simple information gathering can be handled by bots, for instance. If the questions or answers get too complex for the bot, the application can be configured so a live rep can take over the messaging, she said.

"Or the business can configure it so there is never a bot speaking to the customer."

Learning Opportunities

LiveMessage is also applicable for IoT use. In fact, Coca-cola is using a variation of this application in its field service operations, Flynn-Ripley said. "The machines send messages when they need service, which are then transmitted to the field service rep's mobile device."

Here too, a live agent can intercede if there is something wonky about the message.

It makes more sense if you stop thinking about texts as, well, texts and start thinking about them as a generic types of data, Flynn-Ripley said. "The messages are treated just as a phone call or email would be and are fully integrated into the CRM application. The interface is the same, making it easy for the agent to switch from channel to channel."

Indeed, messaging could and should be viewed as the missing piece of most companies' omnichannel customer service approach, she added. Companies have long ago duly established multiple ways for customers to reach out: websites, email addresses, phone numbers and online FAQs (or some other form of self service). Two-way texting though? Not so much.

A Bad Experience Made Right

This channel has the potential to play an important role in customer service and retention, perhaps even more than people currently realize, Flynn-Ripley said as she told a customer story from Wendy’s, which is using the service.

Every bag of food Wendy's uses has a 1-800 number on it that customers can call or text.

This summer, a couple texted the number to report that they realized after leaving one of the drive-throughs that the order was wrong. They couldn't turn back as they were on the highway. After receiving the couple's text, Wendy's customer service contacted a restaurant on the couple's route and directed them there. Their new and correct order was ready to go, Flynn-Ripley said.

Needless to say, the couple was thrilled especially since, as it was later learned, one of them was very sick and they had been driving home from the treatment.

"Devices are just as an important part of the customer conversation as a human agent," Flynn-Ripley said.