The following is an excerpt of a chapter from my new book, Message Me, coming out soon. To sign up for updates, click here.
Imagine this. You’re on a work trip. Your flight was delayed, you’re tired, and are walking through the airport about to book a Lyft to your hotel. You open the confirmation email to get the hotel address and see there’s been a mess-up—you’re booked to stay *tomorrow*, not *today*. Nightmare. You’re going to have to phone them, wait on hold, repeat to the agent all of your booking details from the email while you’re on the phone—all while trying to walk, flustered and tired, through the airport.
It would be different if you were the customer of a major global hotel brand we work with. On all of their contact pages—website, email, mobile app—there’s a direct link to start a chat with their agents over Messenger (or Twitter DM). They’ve integrated Conversocial with their loyalty system, so as soon as you message them, they know exactly who you are and which hotel you’re staying at. You can just send them a simple message saying that you’ve been booked to stay tomorrow instead of tonight. They don’t need to ask you for any other details, and they’ll get back to you in minutes. That’s an incredible experience, and completely effortless. And it’s possible because they’ve leaned in to the power of messaging.
Social messaging is a revolution in service
As a customer, the convenience of having a service conversation over messaging, in the same mobile app you’re in with your friends, is huge. This ease of use is one of the biggest drivers of why consumers prefer them. In the Conversocial report The State of Social Customer Service, over half of respondents (54.4%) preferred new messaging channels as their primary form of brand communication over legacy channels such as email, phone, and web chat.
There a few key factors that make messaging such a revolutionary channel for customer service:
- Messaging combines real-time chat with asynchronous communication, giving customers and brands the best of both worlds: in-the-moment service, without requiring full attention at all times.
- Messaging apps are platforms where interactive experiences, automated self-help, and transactions (e.g., making a reservation) can all be built and delivered to customers whenever they need it, without the need to download any other applications.
- The messaging paradigm enables AI to work seamlessly alongside human agents in the same conversation, increasing the speed of response for consumers and making messaging more efficient to manage than any other service channel.
Asynchronicity is one of the key factors that makes social messaging apps like Messenger and WeChat so convenient and powerful. A consumer can start a conversation with a brand, do something else more important and then pick up the same conversation right where he left off 10 or 30 minutes later. Gone are the days of waiting on hold. Gone are the days of being 100% engaged in a webchat and nothing else. Now you can order a coffee, talk to a friend, and have your service issue resolved all at the same time.
Delivering customer service over messaging
While the 1:1, private nature of messaging is in some ways very similar to live chat, there are a few key ways it is different—and this has an impact on workflow, KPIs, and agent training:
- The asynchronous nature means that conversations can pause and resume between messages. Agents need to be able to have a real-time conversation while the customer is present, but be able to seamlessly shift to the next conversation if they are waiting on the customer.
- Waiting on the customer can sometimes take days. This means the agent picking up that conversation needs to be able to quickly read up on the background of the conversation and continue where it was left off.
- Although some messaging apps are standalone (e.g., WhatsApp), some are closely intertwined with a public social presence (e.g., Facebook and Twitter). In those cases, conversations can switch between public and private posts—so agents need to be able to track conversations as they switch, and understand how to respond differently in the public vs private spheres.
Promoting messaging to your customers
Most companies didn’t ask their customers to start complaining over social media. Customers realized that it was a powerful channel to get attention and get issues resolved when they weren’t getting the level of service they expected from other channels. From there it continued to grow. But there’s a limit to this natural growth. Social will always be there as an escalation channel, but to turn private, 1:1 messaging into a primary service channel requires that your customers know that they can contact you on messaging for a serious service issue, that it will be resolved fully (without deflecting to other channels), and that they’ll get a response in minutes, not hours
Without customers being aware of these elements, they are more likely to phone with an urgent or serious issue—costing more money to resolve, and taking more effort by the customer (decreasing their NPS).
There are a number of different ways you can promote messaging:
- Add “Message us” and “DM us” buttons to the contact pages of your website and mobile app
- Promote social and messaging channels offline (signs, posters, company magazines etc)
- Use Facebook and Twitter business functionality to be clear you provide support and respond to messages
- Route from other service channels (for example, prompting customers on hold to message you instead)
Delta promoting Twitter customer service in their in-flight magazine
Twitter now enable you to define a business account as “providing support,” which is shown when a customer searches for your handle.
Of all of these, adding Message Us buttons to your contact us pages is the fastest and most effective method to starting shifting volumes away from traditional channels and into social messaging. Companies who do this can quickly see social messaging rise to account for 20-25% of all inbound service volume, with big reductions in email and chat volumes.
How quickly do you need to respond?
Messaging sits at the intersection of real-time, in-the-moment chat and asynchronous conversations that can be responded to at any time in the future. Although it may be convenient to think of messaging more like email (that can have a response time in hours or days) this would be a huge mistake. Messaging has the potential to replace phone calls—but only if customers know they will get a quick response. Although this doesn’t have to be in seconds like in webchat, the goal should be to respond in minutes—then to keep the conversation close to real time while the customer is present and typing. It’s the customer who can choose to leave the conversation and come back tomorrow—not your agents.
To deliver this level of service, you need to resource your social and messaging team in the same way you resource chat—carefully tracking utilization over the course of a day, and ensuring you have enough agents to always have a very small amount of slack.
The only time an agent should be coming back days later is when they are checking up on an unresolved issue (e.g., to see if a replacement part was delivered and installed OK). In this situation, agents can make use of the continuous nature of messaging conversations (and notifications) to ensure no case gets left unresolved.
Message Me is about the future of customer service, examining the major forces impacting organizations today and in the future, including the rise of messaging, bots and AI, coming soon. To be the first to hear when it's available, click here.
This is the second excerpt. You can read the first, "We Live in an Effortless World… Almost", here.