Denny's, at your service.
Denny’s, at your service.

Most brands already use Instagram as a social and marketing tool. But now, they’ve started using it for customer service, too.

Instagram has rolled out a “contact” button for businesses, letting customers reach out with their queries directly on the platform. Several brands — including Nordstrom, Benefit, Delta and Denny’s — have already jumped on board. Customers with a question can tap the button, after which they are prompted to call, text or email the brand.

“Instagram introducing the ‘contact’ button underscores the importance of social media as a customer service channel,” said Kevin Del Rosario, associate director of social media at Huge. “Social, after all, is a brand’s first line of defense — both for reputation management and customer service.”

It is already making life easier for some brands, by helping them streamline their communication and increase their response rates. Garnier U.S., for example, has already seen benefits in using the button. The brand uses it to connect users to its consumer care call center, whereas, previously, it would have to sift through the comments on its posts and manually type in its 1-800 number along with a rote message directing people there, Julia West, its social media assistant manager, said.

Both Benefit and Laura Geller Beauty said that they were getting a few questions a day, but that they expect to get a greater volume of inquiries during the holiday season and when they highlight and promote products on their Instagram posts. The contact button is a part of a suite of recent updates designed to make Instagram more ad and business-friendly, including an insights tool, a “promote” feature and the ability to filter comments.

“With the holiday shopping season coming up, we expect to highlight this feature more in our Instagram captions and receive an increase in inquiries,” said Mila Mendez, executive director of global e-commerce at Laura Geller Beauty. “It is another way for customers to quickly get in contact with us about delivery times, exclusive and limited-edition items, shades and any special holiday deals such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

The button makes it a smoother process for customers to get in touch by making sure everything is in one place and they don’t have to venture out of Instagram. But brands would do well to avoid automated responses, warned Elizabeth Gopaul, head of content and social media strategy at Wunderman. “It is important to make sure that there’s a live person responding to your email on the other end,” she said. “No one wants to talk to a bot and get an automated response.”

To that end, Instagram may also want to take a page out of Twitter’s playbook, said Gary Nix, senior social strategist with iCrossing. Twitter has been able to successfully promote its platform as a customer service channel for major brands, making it easy for them to extract value from every interaction. It allows customers to not only tweet at the brand directly but also for brands to initiate a direct message when private information is needed. Direct messages on Instagram, on the other hand, were forgotten territory, at least before Instagram Stories was launched.

“It’ll be interesting to see if at any point, Instagram will make the contact button open up as a direct message,” said Nix. “That will ensure that brands can keep the personal and human touch alive.”

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