Businesses are now able to communicate directly with potential customers from Facebook ads and reply to user comments on their pages privately following the latest changes to the site.
Revealed on Thursday, a new Facebook feature will allow businesses with pages on the social network to privately communicate with customers and other users.
A new ‘send message’ function will appear on local awareness Facebook ads to allow a user to send a business a direct private message to its page.
In the coming weeks, a new ‘message’ function will also appear under user comments on business pages, which will allow businesses to send private messages to the commenter.
All administrators on a business’ page are alerted to the private message, to show someone from the business has responded, while users are also given the option to block private messages from businesses.
According to a statement on the Facebook For Business website, the changes have been created in response to the popularity of private messaging among individual Facebook users.
“There’s a reason many people prefer to communicate with friends and family through private messaging: it’s fast and convenient,” Facebook said.
“And increasingly people want to communicate with businesses in the same efficient way.”
Other features of the update, such as a rating system that will allow users to see how “responsive” pages are to private messages, will also keep businesses on their toes.
The feature will rate the business’s responsiveness to private messages based on the time it has taken the business to respond to such messages in the past.
Pages that respond to 90% of messages, with a median response time of less than five minutes, will be classified as ‘very responsive’.
If a business achieves this high benchmark, the ranking will be on public display for other users to see.
Dionne Lew, chief executive of the Social Executive, told SmartCompany the changes will benefit small businesses.
“I see this as having real potential for small business to manage customer issues fast and privately,”
Lew says there were many examples she could think of where a private interaction between a business and a customer could have helped to stymie public outcry.
“Apart from anything else there’ve been a lot of issues lately where business owners have responded publicly to comments like poor restaurant reviews where the public nature of the reaction has led to blow-ups and lots of people have been drawn in,” she says.
“Providing a place to take this sort of commentary out of the public arena where it can be resolved quickly and privately could benefit both customers and businesses.”
Lew says any business with a customer service channel should be aware of the changes.
“We know people are on mobile and expect immediate responses and are checking into Facebook a lot – so this makes sense – it’s where they are already,” she says.
Lew says the new responsiveness rating feature is aimed at consumers and is yet another incentive to keep businesses on their toes.
“We already know that customers reward businesses for great social media customer service so this would probably reinforce that when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more with the company.”