Facebook’s ambition to become a key business platform has once again fixated on customer service, with a revelation that the social media company is acquiring customer relationship management firm Kustomer.
In a blog post published Monday, the tech giant explained that its motivation is “to give businesses access to best-in-class tools that deliver excellent service and support.” Facebook did not disclose the value of the deal, though some estimates put it at around $1 billion.
Courting businesses has become a crucial priority for Facebook. That’s been clear from the moment Facebook turned Messenger into a major arena for service chatbots in 2016 and its expansion of shopping and communications tools on Instagram, Facebook’s main platform and WhatsApp this year, among other features.
The company’s not done yet. In a major clue that Kustomer — which manages customer interactions across channels — will spread far and wide across the Facebook family of apps, the announcement post was penned by Dan Levy, vice president of ads and business products, and Matt Idema, chief operating officer of WhatsApp.
Facebook is far from alone in trying to own online customer service and business chat using human and automated tools. Both Apple and Google have unleashed features aimed at retailers and other businesses, through tools such as Apple Business Chat for Messages and Google’s Business Messages, which connect through its maps and search features.
The latter expanded to cover all types of businesses this summer, generating new interest among retailers. Last month, H&M partnered with Nuance Communications — one of the major speech recognition and artificial intelligence-driven voice platforms — and Google’s Business Messages to connect the fast-fashion company’s virtual and live chat agents to Google Maps and Search.
Meanwhile, as social media continues morphing into the digital era’s version of shopping malls, rival companies are increasingly recognizing the fundamental need to pin down the customer service factor.
Snap Inc. seems to have signaled as much with its own acquisition of Voca.ai, an AI and voice developer that caters to call centers, earlier this month.
What complicates things for Facebook is that it encompasses more than a single channel or platform. But that’s what makes Kustomer so attractive. Its specialty is wrangling so-called “omnichannel” customer communications, as Levy and Idema described it.
According to the post’s authors, this acquisition is just the beginning. “Kustomer is one of many solutions in this arena,” they wrote, “and we’ll continue to support the numerous options that businesses have to integrate their CRM platform of choice with our messaging services.”