This is my first set of annual predictions for Conversocial. Preparing to write the article, I imagined this would feel a little bit like a sportswriter ahead of the new football season (or NFL/Baseball/Cricket/Quidditch) trying to make grand claims about how it will all unfold - hoping to get at least something right and not completely embarrass yourself.
In my research for this piece, I looked at our 2020 version, and it struck me that making predictions about CX and messaging is precisely nothing like sport. Rather than being a brand new list, this year’s feels like a development of the insights we offered last January. All of them are still true and relevant, but with the events of the past year accelerating the progress of digital solutions vs traditional customer engagement methods.
So after wracking my brain, leaning on expert colleagues for insight and scouring countless reports, I’ve come up with 5 trends of messaging that the world of CX will see in 2021.
1.Nearly 70% of consumers use private messaging to interact with brands
Adding messaging channels to your CX strategy is non-negotiable. The majority of the past year has seen the world spending a lot of time indoors and changing their habits - both socially and as consumers. There’s been a major shift in the way people want to communicate with each other, and brands have to sit up and take notice.
With many people unable to see their loved ones, New Year’s Eve 2020 saw WhatsApp’s busiest ever day, with 1.4bn voice or video calls taking place. According to Facebook, who owns WhatsApp, there are around 100bn daily messages sent on the app. The numbers for other platforms are similarly impressive - Messenger alone boasts 1.3bn monthly active users.
In the context of the pandemic, all this points to the increased uptake of alternative communication channels. Our own research shows 68% of consumers communicated with brands via messaging channels during the pandemic. We also found that many prefer the convenience of digital solutions and messaging channels, and will continue to use them across their buyer journeys in a post-Covid world.
To keep up with this digital transformation, companies should adopt a centralised channel strategy, one that places private messaging at its heart to match the change in consumer behaviour.
2. Only 13% of CX interactions are proactive - brands should be reaching out more
CX is no longer just a reactive medium, primarily focused on the contact center putting out fires. To quote our CEO Ido: “messaging in 2021 is proactive, suggestive and preventive.” This means that engagement happens across a customer’s lifecycle and companies no longer need to wait for customers to come to them.
It’s a theory backed up by Gartner’s research, who found customers were being engaged for a variety of reasons - issue resolution, renewing a purchase or education about a new feature - and gave higher CSAT and NPS ratings as a result.
However, brands appear not to be embracing the full capabilities of messaging channels. Only 13% of those surveyed said they’d received any proactive CX at all. If consumers have moved to messaging, brands not only need to follow suit but also utilize the capabilities of these channels to engage customers and tap into their ability to engage across the buyer journey.
3. Experience will overtake price and quality in importance to consumers
In our State of Customer Experience Trends 2020 report, we found that consumers valued great CX (25%) almost as highly as product quality (29%), and that great CX had actually overtaken preferences in price (22%). Walker’s customer insight report even predicts customer experience will become the most important brand differentiator in 2021.
In an era of brands collecting unprecedented amounts of data about their customers, they must learn how to properly use it. As PWC says, technology isn’t a final solution, it’s an enabler. The key is to use those data points to build exceptional 1:1 relationships, rather than reducing customers to clicks and numbers. At Conversocial, we enable our partners to use bot and human agents in tandem, which works at scale for proactive messaging or seamless automation, but without losing the ability to apply human empathy when required.
4. 67% of consumers prefer automation to human interaction
As I mentioned earlier in the article, introducing private messaging platforms into a centralised channel strategy is vital for brands to address their customers' new habits. Finding the channel that is best suited to your operation opens up a world of possibilities to make CX more efficient and useful for consumers.
The beauty of private messaging apps is that they allow for all customer interactions to be contained within a single channel across their entire lifecycle. This creates the potential for far more personalized experiences.
Zendesk found that 67% of people, if possible, prefer to have their interactions resolved by a bot rather than human interaction, which is something messaging channels are perfectly designed to handle.
Keeping brand/customer interactions within a single channel is also more cost effective at every stage. In the acquisition stage, Click-to-Messenger ads reduce CPL by up to 50x vs other channels. When customers are looking for issue-resolution, self-service within messaging is 800% more cost-effective than a live-contact.
5. 70% of brand/customer interactions are digital - context is key to making them better experiences
All companies have buyer personas - a mystical ‘unicorn’ customer that has certain habits, likes particular brands, and is interested in one aspect of the company’s product. Sadly, keeping customers happy involves a little more nuance than that.
As Brightloom CEO Adam Brotman told us last year, at least 70% of brand/customer relationships play out digitally, potentially more after 10 months of a pandemic, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to great CX. Some customers might like rewards and convenience, while others prefer personalized communication. The key is to map out all digital touchpoints and connect them as much as possible to provide context and prior knowledge when making decisions on how to engage.
“All conversations from the end user's point of view are with your business. Whereas on your side, you feel like there's a pressure to be like ‘we do our sales conversations over here, marketing comes here over here, if it's support, we want it to go that way.’
Imagine if you were checking into a hotel or whatever, and no one would talk to you about anything other than the thing they're there to talk to you about. So as in: 'hey, I'd like to order some room service.' 'Oh, I don't do room service.' - it's a weird experience.”
Des Traynor - Founder, Intercom
By using AI and NLP (natural language processing), Conversocial’s platform gives our partners the ability to store, enhance, and share context between teams, agents, and bots. It creates a ‘memory’ for all the interactions and ensures the experience improves after every conversation.
Having a full view of the entire history of a relationship, while having the tools to effectively use the data to engage customers with the right message at the right time is the road to exceptional CX.
I think all of us would be happy for a slightly less eventful 12 months in 2021, and that our expectations for the year play out as we’d hope (maybe with a little surprise thrown in). You can find more of Conversocial’s vision for the year ahead in our Definitive Guide to CX 2021, which is free to download here.