Welcome to the second post in a blog series sharing insights from a panel discussion I recently hosted, titled "Why Customers and Companies are Embracing Asynchronous Business Messaging.”
The panel comprised three customer experience (CX) experts:
If you prefer to go right to the source, here’s where to watch the on-demand webcast.
CX leaders who’ve added asynchronous business messaging to their customer service mix are reaping many benefits—some unexpected.
The proof is in the numbers. Traditional metrics show text messaging for business improves agent efficiency, cuts operational costs, enhances the customer experience, and more.
Customers have moved past many older engagement channels. Email and voice calls feel, to some, like they’re being forced to use yesterday’s technology. Businesses must connect with customers the way customers communicate every day—that’s messaging.
Asynchronous text messaging for business also gives customers the freedom to use whatever platform is best for them at the time. Customers want to deal with businesses when it suits them, to initiate a conversation any time—and then pause and resume at their leisure—not sit on hold waiting for an agent or navigating an IVR.
Ensuring customer-centricity was a key goal for Columbia Sportswear when it adopted text messaging for business.
“We want customers to go to whatever channel they want, and they want to be able to do it whenever they want,” said Gerry Woodbury, director of customer care at Columbia Sportswear. “That’s the great thing about async messaging. You can connect at any moment. You can stop, come back, and continue the thread when you’re ready.”
“Messaging can also help speed up customer journeys,” said Rob Lawson, who heads up partnerships and advocacy at Google. “Weaving messaging with rich visual content and local services seamlessly exposes them to new products and promotions. And that adds value for them.”
Asynchronous text messaging for business changes the pace of customer service with benefits for agents and customers alike.
When dealing with voice and chat agents, customers expect an immediate response. But anyone who’s used text or direct messaging expects a small, reasonable delay. Agents get the breathing room they need to collect necessary information, more fully understand customer intent, and come back with a more complete, better personalized response.
Within just a few months of adopting asynchronous business messaging, Columbia Sportswear realized the channel’s abandonment rate was near zero. When customers abandon conversations, agents are likely to feel the interaction went poorly, and that the customer may vent their anger using another point of contact. Because asynchronous messaging is a continuous, ongoing conversation flow, this is one less worry for contact center agents.
“I think what’s interesting here is that there's a really great agent experience,” Woodbury said, “but I don't think it's really talked about a lot.”
Business text messaging thus reduces the pressure on contact center agents, while also enabling them to do a better job. Not surprisingly, agent satisfaction goes up, and turnover goes down. This is critical in the contact center industry, where typical longevity is measured in months, not years. Businesses save time and money otherwise spent on recruiting, training, incentives, and more.
And at the end of the day, happier agents lead to happier customers.
Async text messaging for business also elevates the customer journey and fosters conversational commerce.
Given the time to fully understand a customer’s intent and review previous interactions, CX agents can suggest other services and products the customer might need.
“The idea is you can move out of customer care journeys, which are often just a cost to the business, into something of higher value,” Google’s Lawson said. “You can say, ‘Let’s turn this into a shopping channel, or into an appointment channel.’”
“You’re starting to see really interesting user journeys, and across sectors like telco, food, delivery, retail,” Lawson continued. “Agents are starting to move out of customer care and into acquisition and transactions based on the features in the messaging channel, which I think is fascinating, and helpful to both users and the business.”
Asynchronous business messaging also reduces product returns and service cancelations. Why? Agents have the time and context for making better, more customized suggestions, and when customers are better informed and less pressured, they are more satisfied with their purchases.
Although contact center automation is typically used to cut costs, in the asynchronous messaging era it’s also being used to improve agent workflows and better fulfill customer requests.
“Automation enables you to embrace the whole journey from search to consummation to transaction,” said Miller. “You’re looking at intelligent resources that recognize the intent of the caller and do a good job of matching people with other resources that help them finish their task.”
In my next blog, we’ll look at how to measure the benefits of business text messaging.
Until then, check out the following messaging resources:
Blog #1 in the series: Engaging Customers When & How They Want
Web page: The Benefits of Asynchronous Messaging