By: Mandeep Kwatra, HGS Vice President, Solutions and Capabilities This article was published in Contact Babel.
It was the mid to late 90s when web chat made its foray into the business world. For the first time, the concept of talking real time to someone without picking up the phone and getting an answer to your questions was available. And, yes, businesses loved it. Over the years, web chat maintained its stance with all the questions and challenges about the security and data privacy, and it emerged as a fairly strong business communication channel. As the sand in the hourglass shifted, we witnessed telecom, CPG, banking, retail, and many more industries adopting web chat to communicate and engage with their customers. A chat session was usually compared to a phone call session. Ultimately, web chat was credited as a success as a result of these contributors:
- Web chat was a cheaper method of customer communication.
- With web chat, customer service agents are more efficient and able to help more than one customer at a time.
- The customer could get connected to a live-chat agent almost instantly, without a wait.
There have been debates about the truth of these statements. Despite all these concerns, companies still adopted web chat. Why? Because it was the on-trend thing to do, and it made smart commercial sense. But in 2018, when the customer is more connected than ever, more impatient, more demanding, and equipped with more options, is chat still the right way to go? The answer is a resounding yes. After all, we are in the era of the connected consumer. It is no longer about how many different customer touchpoints you have; it is about how well you can deliver an asynchronous service. Chat has seen a rapid transition in the past three years or so with the evolution of mobile devices and almost every brand having an app or a Facebook page or both. Add to that the fact that AI-powered chatbots have made a grand entry into the automated workforce.
Messaging is not just the new trend in customer experience, it is also an effortless method of communicating with your customers. The key driver of the adoption of chat among customers was a need to get the right answer, fast. And that is the same expectation, even today, when customer loyalty is driven by ease of doing business and reduced effort. While, in my view, voice as a service channel will never be extinct, look at the advantages messaging brings to companies, from a business intelligence perspective. Messaging can be used to build real-time customer sentiment analytics that will help drive more meaningful analytics, better customer reporting, and enhanced NPS. And messaging can provide documented evidence of conversations between customer and brand. This will cover security measures and compliance. It just makes good sense to consider messaging a smart service channel shift that benefits customers and companies alike. As per a report from Business Insider, a typical millennial customer exchanges an average 67 text messages per day. In answer to the question of whether messaging is right for customer age demographics, look at a recent ComScore report. These findings show that tracking of June 2015 to June 2016 demonstrated that time spent in a mobile app has grown by 37% among the users in the age group of 55 to64.
Meet Customers Where They Are
As we all are aware, we are in the era of the connected consumer. Therefore, it becomes important for us to understand the right customer touchpoints. For example, your company may sell products or services with support of an app for users to manage their accounts, place orders, check order status, and pay bills. As a result, it becomes important to provide a channel of service within the app, so that customers can talk to someone when they need help. Here’s another example. Your business most likely has a Facebook or Twitter page. Customers visit these social media sites to ask questions, find out about product updates, and review the service. With this social media platform, it makes good sense to add on Facebook or Twitter for holistic, seamless customer experience. To provide this end-to-end service, there are a world of options, including third-party applications like Skype, Whatsapp, and Slack.
The Messaging Differentiators
Continuous connection is the most notable differentiator of messaging. With voice and web chat, post contact closing, the conversation is over—you have the “Big Disconnect.” With messaging, even after you leave a conversation—it’s still there. Think of a scenario where a customer starts a conversation, and instead of looking at a phone screen, waiting for a response, they can carry on with their day. Later, a brand representative responds to the query. And the continuously connected customer has the liberty to respond on a mutually convenient schedule. Additionally, companies don’t need an app to launch messaging. Facebook or WhatsApp, for example, can be used. These platforms demonstrate the easy touchpoint and outreach of asynchronous messaging. To truly differentiate with messaging, remember your future employee: chatbots, those dedicated and tireless employees who do not take a vacation. Here are the best practices to guide integration of these employees of the future:
- Think about what you really want to achieve and understand how to strategize your bot-brain balance.
- Get some coaching on how to best use bots. Good BPO service providers can help bridge the brain-bot gap.
- Monitor and measure bot performance.
What does this all of this say about messaging? It says that messaging isn’t just the future--- it’s the present.