Latest 26 May 2020 | Customer Service | 5 min read

This Week: How COVID has Changed Contact Centers and Facebook's Big Move to Ecommerce

Hello and welcome to The Conversation Round-Up where I sift through the latest news and trends in messaging, automation and customer experience to bring you the stories that matter.

How COVID-19 has accelerated a change in contact centers that will last forever

When countries around the world started entering lockdown, contact centers had two huge problems.

  1. They had to figure out how to operate with a reduced workforce
  2. They had to handle a huge increase in contact volume

Essentially, how do you serve more customers than ever before while employing fewer people?

This story of how the IT Director of Ostego County reacted to COVID-19 shares some similarities with what we’ve seen happening with our partners. 

Systems for phone calls are failing customers. The numbers just don’t add up. It is impossible to have more phone calls with fewer people. 

The number one reason for messaging one of the brands we work for was to complain about the service over the phone.

The solution? Move people to text-based conversations. Here, you can layer in automation that helps you serve more customers without having to increase the number of agents.

We’ve already gone into great detail on the process for identifying your most common customer queries and using a chatbot to automate the necessary conversation. 

This is a process we encouraged all brands to undertake even before the current crisis. The pandemic has merely accelerated the need for contact centers to embrace automation and place it at the heart of their customer experience.

Brands who are able to adapt quickly will continue to reap the benefits for a long time to come.

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  3. This Week: Google Adds Business Messages to Maps and Search

Has Google got competition in the race for the world’s best chatbot?

Back in February, I wrote about Meena, Google’s latest attempt to build a true conversational AI. A few months on and Facebook has now entered the AI arms race. Meena, meet Blender.

Blender was first trained on 1.5 billion Reddit conversations (I’ll let you decide if that sounds like a good idea or not), and then tweaked with additional data sets to improve empathy, knowledge and personality.

Facebook’s own tests revealed that people preferred conversations handled by Blender over those conducted by Meena but best to take that with a pinch of salt.

Although Blender was able to fool human evaluators 49% of the time into thinking that its conversation logs were more human than the conversation logs between real people, for now, we’re some way off brands plugging a one-size-fits-all conversational AI into their customer experience. Despite advances in natural language processing (NLP), the best automated conversations are still built by humans rather than being unscripted. 

What Facebook’s acquisition of GIPHY means for the future of memes

Memes are big business. So, naturally, Facebook wants a slice. Its $400m acquisition of GIPHY has raised a few eyebrows about third-party integrations but it’s fair to say this makes a lot of sense when you look at the data.

50% of all of GIPHY’s traffic comes from Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, with Instagram making up 50% of that volume.

Facebook has stated that GIPHY’s API partners will continue to have the same access but we may soon see the likes of Apple, Twitter and Slack look for alternative integrations. 

"...we may soon see the likes of Apple, Twitter and Slack look for alternative integrations."

Facebook’s big move - introducing Shops 

Following its $5.7b investment in Jio earlier this month, Facebook has now launched an ecommerce service of its own - Facebook Shops. Aimed primarily at SMEs, the platform allows brands to create fully-functioning stores on Facebook and Instagram.


Facebook is becoming one of the go-to apps for anything ecommerce - from browsing and buying used products from the community over Marketplace, to shopping directly on an ecommerce store on Instagram. 

Being supported by Messenger means that consumers are able to explore, find products and engage with sellers within the platform without ever leaving the Facebook app. This creates a seamless shopping experience that's much more connected and informed. 

What will this mean for online shopping as it is today? First and foremost, it means that our buying and exploring experiences are going to be much more engaged and connected. This move is bound to change the way we buy online and the entire retail ecosystem and supply chain, going as far as even omitting the need to have a website and relying on Facebook and Instagram pages instead. 

I’ll be following this interesting move from Facebook as it continues to evolve. 


Let’s keep the conversation going

Thanks for swinging by again. You can carry on the conversation at @conversocial or @idohacohen

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