Instant messaging and its place in the customer experience
Today's always-connected, mobile-savvy consumers have high expectations about the experience they want brands to deliver. They want to be able to make contact at any time, day or night, through their smartphone and receive a fast, comprehensive and consistent response.
The increasing popularity of instant messaging is an important part of this trend. For example both WhatsApp and Facebook messenger have over 1.3 billion monthly users, while late last year WeChat was closing in on 1 billion users. And research suggests two out of three consumers prefer to interact with brands using messaging apps because messaging is such an integral part of their daily lives.
Given this trend, brands are increasingly making instant messaging part of the customer experience. Airline KLM lets people manage their booking and make service requests through Facebook Messenger, while hotel group Hyatt was one of the first brands to start using the solution to help guests with customer service needs. Additionally, a growing number of organizations are creating chatbots that deliver automated service to consumers through messaging platforms.
There are five key advantages of offering customer service through messaging apps:
1. Closer to the consumer
The huge penetration of messaging apps means that a large proportion of people have them on their phones, and that they are checking them regularly to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues, as well as using them as a gateway to other services. Therefore allowing consumers to contact your brand through messaging apps makes perfect sense – it means they don’t need to change channels or pick up the phone to get in touch. Additionally as mobile devices allow messaging apps to alert consumers about news or offers using push notifications brands can keep consumers engaged and informed exactly when it is most relevant.
2. Single flow
Due to their design, the entire conversation between a brand and a consumer is kept in a single place, and can be easily accessed and referenced. There is no need to check other systems for information on previous interactions – it is all in one flow.
3. Permanent link
When you end a phone call or chat session, the connection ends, and the history of the conversation disappears. With messaging apps, brands have a permanent link to a consumer that can be used to build a lasting relationship.
4. Distributing workload
Consumers are frequently on their messaging apps, meaning that questions and requests are likely to come in on a constant basis. This means there are less of the peaks that you get on other channels (such as phone calls at lunchtime or emails on the way to work), allowing brands to plan their resources more effectively. Also, given how often they check their messaging apps, consumers can be happy to wait for a response, rather than expecting an instant answer such as when using chat.
5. Entering the world of conversational commerce
Due to the amount of time people spend on messaging apps, and their ease of use, they provide an increasing opportunity for brands to deliver a full customer experience, all the way through to purchase. This concept, dubbed conversational commerce, relies on chatbots that have the ability to hold a conversation with the user and then perform tasks such as booking flights, changing fares or suggesting a room upgrade. The whole process – from selecting a product or service, to paying for it, is all carried out within the messaging app. Consumers have a full record of the transaction within their app, while the brand benefits from the operational efficiencies of delivering support in a scalable, automated way.
Given these five factors, brands need to understand which messaging apps their customers are using, and then build a presence on the right platforms in order to deliver the service they demand. However, it is vital that this is part of a consistent strategy – otherwise they risk creating an additional silo within customer service that adds to costs and complexity. Look at how you can share centralized knowledge that is used with other channels across messaging platforms, and investigate how artificial intelligence and chatbots can automate routine conversations to ensure speed and efficiency. Overall, for any brand, messaging apps should be a central part of their customer experience strategy if they want to get closer to customers and build lasting, loyal relationships.