Meet Customers with Messaging

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Ajit Ghuman, director of product marketing at customer support software company Helpshift, says that for the consumer, “the benefits boil down to the user-friendliness of the channel. Consumers can easily converse back and forth with an agent without having to either go through lengthy email exchanges or complex web portals, resulting in quicker response times.”

Martin agrees and adds that the way messaging platforms preserve conversations is also valuable. “The advantage for customers is largely the freedom it gives them to carry on a conversation on their own time and terms. Few things are more frustrating than using up time on a precious lunch hour to wait on hold because the contact center is experiencing a high volume of calls. It’s just not efficient,” he says. “Messaging allows customers to carry on a conversation at their own pace throughout the day without having to wait on hold or find a block of time to make a phone call, and creates a record of their inquiries so they don’t have to repeat themselves when their need requires a different agent.”

For agents, experts say that the main benefit is the ability to manage multiple inquiries simultaneously and receive assistance from chatbots.

“Agents can better handle and resolve customer support issues quickly. Asynchronous messaging allows agents to handle seven to 10 conversations at the same time from one console that houses key customer information and background so agents can provide a direct, personalized, and responsive interaction,” Flynn-Ripley says.

“If you bring chatbots into the fold, 30 [percent] to 60 percent of top use cases can be automated and handled entirely by a chatbot, freeing up the agent’s time to handle other high-value work,” she adds.

Martin points out that chatbots can act as personal assistants to agents, surfacing suggested answers, taking on basic tasks like updating payment information, or pulling up the relevant information to answer a customer’s question.

“There is no putting customers on hold to look up information only to have to then navigate back to that irate customer frustrated about being on hold,” Martin says.

He adds that the preservation of conversations provided by messaging platforms is also beneficial to agents. “The permanent messaging structure creates a historical transcript of the conversation that never disappears and can be referenced by both the customer and agent so questions and informative details don’t have to be repeated,” he explains.

“Agents love the messaging channels…and companies love the increased agent productivity,” Flynn-Ripley asserts.

Vis reiterates the sheer reach of messaging apps. “The success of any business hinges on the quality and speed of communication, especially when it comes to customer support. WeChat, [Facebook] Messenger, and WhatsApp have more than a billion users apiece. That’s an incredible opportunity for businesses of any size to expand their customer base and their reach. Offering support through messaging apps…is a no-brainer,” he says.

ADVICE FOR ADOPTION

With so many mobile devices, messaging apps, and services providers available, though, it is crucial to choose the right ones. Flynn-Ripley advises companies to conduct a “channel check” where they evaluate the combinations of devices and channels that their customers are using and then adopt the most common ones. “This could also include a comparison of the number of customers using mobile browsers compared to desktop browsers. Key insights like these help businesses focus and prioritize,” she says.

“If only 2 percent of [customers] are using a specific messaging app, but 40 percent are using another, it will dictate your priorities,” she adds.

Experts also advise that messaging apps need to be part of a broader omnichannel customer service strategy. “Messaging apps are fantastic as a customer support channel,” Bell says. “However, just as message threads with friends still require a voice call for a dedicated, tone-rich conversation to occur, other integrated contact channels, like voice, email, and video, are critical tools to ensure total customer care.”

Martin agrees. “[Messaging apps are] where customers are communicating already, so it is an imperative for companies to meet customers where they are or they risk being edged out,” he says. “Most companies struggle to integrate disparate communication channels, and it is imperative that they think through their overall objective or they will not be effectively leveraging the incredible power of this emerging medium.”

Messaging also needs to be integrated into companies’ overall customer service strategies, according to Flynn-Ripley and others.

“Messaging apps themselves don’t track or record conversations, which is a huge gap in effectively connecting with customers and providing a delightful experience,” Flynn-Ripley says. “Messaging needs consolidation with larger real-time channel platform infrastructure, integrated with CRM and [artificial intelligence] to deliver a complete, consolidated customer view, enabling agents or bots to act quickly and appropriately, in real time, on support channels.”

Associate Editor Sam Del Rowe can be reached at sdelrowe@infotoday.com.

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