Friends are easy to message because there’s an existing relationship and context. If your agents have that, it can do wonders for retaining customers. But does that type of one-to-one personalization scale? Can you achieve it while still using chatbots and automated messaging?
Yes, lots of brands are doing it, and in this blog, we’ll explain the proper balance.
Messaging is now standard
Messaging apps now account for the bulk of communication and are second only to in-person conversations. In 2015, the number of users engaging with social chat apps surpassed social media users and in 2018, people traded over 1 billion messages with businesses over Facebook Messenger.
Millennials and younger cohorts gravitate to messaging partly out of an aversion to talking on the phone. Their work day exists on Slack. They make dinner plans via Whatsapp. They’re used to talking with friends on Messenger, expect the same simple app-based communication with brands, and their preferences are bleeding over into middle-aged and older generations.
By 2020 every business will need to be ready to offer messaging as a customer service channel from within their contact center and the stats speak for themselves:
- Facebook Messenger: With 1.3 billion monthly users and growing, and 20 Billion messages exchanged every month (10x growth in 2 years) between consumers and businesses Messenger is at the forefront of customer service.
- WhatsApp: WhatsApp is one of the biggest messaging platforms in the world, with over 1.5 billion users. The quantity of messages sent daily is over 3x peak global SMS volume. In the UK, Europe, LATAM, and India, it completely dominates other methods of communication.
- Apple Business Chat: There are more than 1.4 billion monthly active Apple devices worldwide. Although Apple's Business Chat feature was first launched in March 2018 giving iMessage users the option to contact and interact with businesses directly in the Messages app, it is a sleeping messaging giant. In BETA still, be sure to look for further developments coming in 2019.
So why should be interacting with a brand be the same as if you were to engage with a friend? Here’s a primer on what friend-to-friend communication is like in these environments:
- Friends are attentive. They don’t interrupt without reason. They don’t ask you to repeat yourself over and over (just like Live Chat) and they (usually) aren’t holding five other conversations, jumping in and out, forcing you to ask, “Hey, are you still there?”
- Friends are responsive. They aren’t overtly selling something. They don’t answer questions that you didn’t ask or leap to conclusions about what you want. Friends confirm they’re listening with monosyllabic utterances like “mhmm” and if you say you want Mexican food for dinner, they don’t reply, “Did you say Mexican? Say yes or press one.”
- Friends know you. They come to the conversation with a rich understanding and a shared history, and don’t begin by asking for your name or account number. If you called them last week, they know. If that call didn’t go well, they know why.
Customer communications fail when they fail to adhere to these dynamics. One study in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication showed that customers could tell when a representative was dealing with multiple customers at once, creating latency in the conversation. The delays signaled to the customer that they didn’t have the full attention of the customer service agent.
Messaging and automation delivers friend-like experiences
Agents have the power to create friend-like experiences because on messaging, it’s finally possible to blend 1:1 connections with powerful automation. In chat, bots and agents work together to get customers what they need. For the consumer, it’s:
Easy: Brands that can reply to customers via the messaging apps lower the barrier to communication. Messaging them is no different than messaging a friend - always keeping within their preferred channel of communication.
Fast: Brands with a customer care platform can rely on an algorithm to triage and route incoming messages so each gets the proper attention from the proper agent. An upset outburst deserves a swifter response than a casual question.
Efficient: Agents using messaging support are 167% more efficient than agents using legacy channels like phone or email. They can handle more simultaneous conversations, and thanks to chatbots, which can handle 80% of inbound queries, it doesn’t feel like it.
Personal: Integrated, 360-degree consumer profiles allow messaging agents to view omnichannel customer data. They know what’s happened, even if it occurred on a different channel.
Ongoing: To the customer, there are no tickets or ‘sessions.’ Just an ongoing, secure messaging thread with the brand where they get answers they need, and where both can pick up the conversation even after months of inactivity.
In a messaging environment, algorithms can lead to more humanity. It means instant, empathetic responses at scale, but friend-like efficiency of a shared history and context. And here’s the balance: Automation shouldn’t be applied to deflect support traffic, which is a company-centric mentality, and what lead to customer-hostile interactive phone trees. Automation should be used to guide it to the right agent for the quickest possible empathetic response, so messaging your brand doesn’t feel like solving a puzzle. It feels like messaging a friend.