Currently available in beta, the Messenger platform lets businesses create bots -- automated and intelligent apps -- that can communicate with customers through Facebook's messaging service. Launched in 2011, Messenger now has more than 900 million monthly active users, with more than 1 billion messages exchanged every month between individuals and businesses on Facebook.
By integrating its CRM software with the Messenger platform, Salesforce said it aims to enable businesses to take advantage of Facebook's bot technology to have more seamless conversations with customers throughout the marketing, sales and service processes. The new offering uses Salesforce's Lightning platform for automated scheduling and customer communication. Salesforce for Messenger is expected to launch as a pilot program sometime in the second half of 2016.
While the Messenger platform offers "immense promise," it also creates challenges for businesses that want to take advantage of the new technologies it supports, executive VP of CRM applications Mike Rosenbaum wrote on the Salesforce blog earlier this week.
"Customers engaging on Messenger expect (and deserve) a completely personal experience: instant answers, transparent progress, new personal connections," Rosenbaum said. "If they start a conversation or engagement in Messenger, customers will expect to see it reflected across every other channel (e-mail, Web, phone, etc.) and spanning every department they talk to whether it be sales, service or marketing."
Salesforce for Messenger was developed to help businesses provide such services, Rosenbaum said. "With Salesforce for Messenger, companies will be able to manage each customer interaction, throughout the customer lifecycle, from a single platform that affords a single, cohesive view of each customer across the entire business," he noted.
The new Messenger platform, announced during Facebook's F8 developer conference in San Francisco earlier this week, lets businesses create bots that can have automated, intelligent conversations with customers via the messaging service.
Airlines, for example, can use bots to communicate with passengers who need to rebook connecting flights because they're stuck on airport runways. A retailer could also use the Messenger platform to launch a conversation with a customer who posts a complaint on the business' Facebook page, and arrange for a refund or other solution.
With Messenger, "Facebook is inviting companies to engage their customers in new ways on its platform at scale to allow businesses to provide "deeper, more personalized and 1-to-1 customer journeys within the chat experience," Salesforce president and chief product officer Alex Dayon said in a statement.
Salesforce has also been moving deeper into machine learning and artificial intelligence for customer service. Just last week, for example, it announced its acquisition of MetaMind, a Palo Alto-based startup that develops AI for natural language processing and knowledge base analytics. The acquisition will help both companies provide "real AI solutions with breakthrough capabilities that further automate and personalize customer support, marketing automation, and many other business processes," MetaMind founder and CEO Richard Socher said in a statement.
Pricing for Salesforce's latest offering on Facebook will be announced when Salesforce for Messenger is released for general availability, the company said