Meet Customers with Messaging
“Using messaging apps for customer support is gaining traction rapidly in the West, yet it’s a model that has its roots in the East. WeChat launched in 2011 and quickly became known as a super app, where users could connect not just with friends and family but with businesses of any size—from street vendors to large retail chains. To put it in perspective, WeChat lets you message your friends, order food from restaurants, book a rideshare, buy groceries, and purchase movie tickets, all without leaving the app,” Vis adds.
Because of that, WeChat today is one of the world’s largest stand-alone mobile apps by monthly active users, with more than 1 billion of them. And despite the ongoing trade war between China and the United States, Tencent has made no secret about its plans to aggressively expand into the U.S. market.
Even without WeChat, though, messaging with businesses has been quickly catching on in the United States. “Messaging apps for customer support are still relatively new in the United States, but growing rapidly,” Martin says. “With significant investments in business-to-consumer chat being made by Apple and Facebook, customer support messaging will grow significantly in popularity moving forward. In the coming years, messaging is likely to emerge as the most popular method of communication between brands and customers, especially younger customers.”
Meredith Flynn-Ripley, vice president of mobile messaging at Salesforce.com, agrees. “WeChat showed the world that messaging can be used by businesses,” she says. “Messaging is the dominant form of personal communications today, so it’s only natural that it extends into the business communications space.”
Going forward, experts predict a shift to an asynchronous communication style in customer service interactions that use messaging apps. Martin notes that although conversations that take place on messaging apps can occur in real time, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. A customer can ask a company a question before leaving for work, for example, read the answer during his commute, and reply during his lunch break, he says.
Bell envisions a similar scenario. “Going forward, customers can expect to have many more asynchronous conversations—contacting and responding to companies on customers’ timetables and when it suits their needs. The convenience of that type of conversation is wonderful and one reason why messaging is taking off,” he says.
And Flynn-Ripley agrees. “Asynchronous messaging will become equal to, if not greater than, the voice channel for customer service within the next two years,” she asserts. “We’re in a period of profound innovation and change, and companies that start adopting these channels today will leapfrog the competition when it comes to building amazing customer relationships. It’s an exciting time for messaging and customer service.”
Experts predict that messaging apps will continue to be preferred by customers, prompting the communications between them and companies to evolve. “We’re all consumers who have had a frustrating experience of subpar customer care. Messaging provides a more seamless way for brands and customers to interact and can ultimately help mitigate some of these frustrations, leading to an overall more positive brand experience,” says Mike Betzer, chief product officer at Lithium, a provider of software that enables businesses to connect with their customers on social media and digital channels.
“The reality is that messaging has already begun to change everything. Customers want it because it’s so much easier to connect when the brand is needed, and the big brands love it because it reduces cost and improves Net Promoter Scores. Expect the traditional call center technology to fade away as customers supplant this experience with personalized and prompt messaging,” he continues.
BIG BENEFITS FOR CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Experts agree that messaging apps are beneficial for customers and agents alike. For customers, they assert that the main benefits are convenience and ease of use. “Messaging apps are a natural extension of how customers are already communicating every day, so it’s an effortless and seamless experience from their perspective,” Flynn-Ripley says.