When Karen Korr wanted to change part of her European itinerary, she didn’t call Travelocity, her online travel agency. She didn’t send an email or a text message, either.
Instead, Korr, who works for a nonprofit organization in San Diego, clicked on Travelocity’s Facebook page and sent the company an instant message. She asked if she could make arrangements to stay in Lagos, Portugal, for a few extra days.
“I knew it was past the hotel cancellation deadline,” she remembers. “I reached out to see if there was any way to adjust the dates, and Travelocity took care of it within a few hours with no charge or cancellation fees. I’m a lifelong fan.”
Using a social network to contact a travel company may sound counterintuitive, especially if you remember a time before social media or don’t use it at all. But companies are quietly allocating customer-service resources to handling queries received via Facebook, and it may offer a shortcut to better service.
Messenger, originally known as Facebook Chat, is Facebook’s instant-messaging platform. You can access it through your browser, or use a stand-alone smartphone app. Some larger travel-company apps have similar instant-messaging platforms. But what’s the appeal?
“It drives personal connections at scale,” says Elka Looks, a Facebook spokeswoman. “Businesses are able to gather inputs from people and reroute them accordingly. With other marketing channels – even marketing channels that are incredibly targeted – you don’t have the kind of back-and-forth that you have with messaging.”
In other words, the Messenger platform lets companies resolve customer queries in a more efficient and personalized way.
At an airline customer-service conference a few months ago, people couldn’t stop talking about Messenger. When I finally cornered some of the delegates, who worked for major air carriers, they told me their secret: If you want faster, better service, try Messenger. Some of their most senior customer-service representatives are staffing dedicated Messenger desks, and like Korr, you’ll get a quicker resolution to your problem if you contact the carriers that way.