Salesforce has rolled out LiveMessage, which provides Service Cloud customers with messaging capabilities for SMS and Facebook Messenger, as well as support for both native and third-party chatbots. 

The idea behind LiveMessage is to give service agents a way to communicate with customers the same way many do with friends and family—through various messaging apps on their mobile phones.

Salesforce is promising LiveMessage will deliver tight integration between messaging apps and the Service Cloud console. Companies that want to add messaging would tie SMS or Messenger to their existing 1-800 customer service lines, as Salesforce describes:

For example, a customer who has a question for their financial services firm can text their issue directly to the firm's existing 1-800 number or message them directly on Messenger. A service agent can easily access the customer's records from the Service Cloud Agent Console and respond on Messenger quickly and easily, as though having a conversation with a friend. Once the issue is resolved, the conversation is automatically appended to the customer's record in Service Cloud, and the conversation can be picked up again at a later time if the customer has additional questions.

Meanwhile, chat bots can be used to automatically collect data and join it with customer accounts:

For instance, a Service Cloud Bot could be deployed by a retailer to obtain the customer's name, address, email and issue that they were contacting the store about.

Salesforce says an intelligent rules engine will route more complicated cases picked up by bots to the service rep best qualified to help the customer. Along with a number of native bots, it's providing an API for connecting existing third-party bots to Service Cloud.

Initial customers for LiveMessage include the Wendy's fast food chain, which has tied it into the 1-800 number on its takeout bags. 

LiveMessage is based on technology acquired through the purchase of HeyWire in September. As is often the case with new Salesforce features, LiveMessage comes at an additional cost to Service Cloud customers, and there are important restrictions:

LiveMessage starts at $75 per user, per month for one messaging type. Organizations need to have at least the same number of Service Cloud licenses as LiveMessage licenses.

Also, LiveMessage is only available at this time on Salesforce's Classic edition, with support coming for the Lightning user experience in the second half of next year. A similar release target has been set for the LiveMessage API. 

Service Cloud is currently priced in three editions of varying functionality, ranging from $75 to $150 to $300 per user per month. While an additional $75 for LiveMessage may seem steep to some customers, in a world where 1 billion people are using Messenger and SMS is practically ubiquitous, it could be worth it for customer service organizations, especially if it cuts down on expenses elsewhere, such as for live phone support.

"Consumers are accustomed to having a two-way communication via text are often frustrated by corporate solutions that limit this type of interaction," says Constellation Research VP and principal analyst Dr. Natalie Petouhoff. "The introduction of LiveMessage provides a very modern way to interact with customers in a way that they are familiar with in their everyday life. It’s a good example of the consumerization of IT affecting a corporate application."

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