When was the last time you left home without your smartphone? In today’s always-on world, most of us have phones in our pockets wherever we go. We use them for everything from ordering food and buying movie tickets to checking emails, refilling prescriptions, and paying bills. And we spend as much as 25% of phone time using messaging apps to stay in touch with friends and family.1
But in the realm of customer service, the old-fashioned phone call still reigns supreme. Businesses around the world spend a whopping $1.3 trillion dollars handling 265 billion customer service calls each year. With 40-60% of these calls originating from a web search,2 business messaging offers companies an incredible opportunity to change the way consumers interact with them. It’s time to meet your customers where they are and empower them with asynchronous communication.
Traditional customer service interactions go something like this. A consumer has an issue with or question about their account, so they set aside a block of time to call. They do a web search to find the company’s phone number, then call and answer automated questions before being put in the queue. If they’re using live chat, they go through a similar process to reach an agent. Depending on the issue and agent availability, the interaction could take minutes or hours. And if they get distracted or cut off, they have to start all over which is frustrating and annoying.
With messaging, the same interaction can be totally transformed. When the consumer does a web search, they see the option to message the company instead of calling. They click on the link, which opens up a messaging app. The consumer can then send a message at their convenience, stating the issue or asking their question. They don’t have to wait for an agent or for a response. Instead, they’ll be notified when an agent responds and can jump back into the conversation whenever they have time. Because messaging conversations don’t have to begin and end within a continuous timeframe, consumers don’t have to carve time out of their day. And they don’t have to worry about starting over if they get interrupted. The result is a whole new breed of service interactions, where the customer is always in control.
This is a common misconception that can lead companies to think they don’t need to add yet another channel to their customer support strategy. While both chat and messaging take place in a digital interface, that’s where the similarities end. Chat takes place in real time, so the consumer has to stay engaged in the conversation. If they get distracted, they will time out and have to start over. (And let’s be honest, it’s easy to get distracted when you're online.) Messaging lets customers “park” a message at their convenience and return to the conversation minutes, hours, or even days later, picking up right where they left off.
With 7 Messaging, our AI-powered platform looks at the nature of the inquiry, customer’s account history, and so on, and assigns the query to the right agent. It also shows the agent the customer’s status (active or inactive) which helps with prioritization. Shifting to asynchronous communication has the potential to greatly reduce the pressure on contact center agents. They’re able to juggle multiple interactions concurrently, boosting productivity—no more idle waiting while customers type responses or do what they need to do. It’s a game changer on both sides of the conversation.
“Higher concurrency combined with better resolution rates makes business messaging more cost effective than calls or live chat.” – Nidhin Varghese, Strategic Alliances Director 7.ai
Another advantage of messaging is that it has many entry points. In addition to web search or native messaging apps, you can connect with customers via social media ads that allow them to ask about a specific promotional offer. Or you can send out flyers with a QR code that does the same thing. Consumers may be surprised (and delighted) that they can even place orders and complete transactions without leaving the messaging channel.
Any stage of the customer lifecycle where customers need help is an opportunity to shine. Make it easy to resolve their issue and you’ll also deepen their loyalty, driving longtime revenue and increasing customer lifetime value. On the flip side, if you fail to provide support in these crucial moments, you risk losing their business to a company that delivers a better experience.
As with any new initiative, success starts with strategic planning. Start by identifying which messaging platforms your customers are using. When you’re ready to launch, run an awareness campaign to make sure your customers know they can use the new channel to contact you. 7.ai has partnered with messaging leaders Apple Messages for Business, Google Messenger, and FaceBook Messenger to make integration seamless. All the work takes place between our customer service platform and the messaging service provider, reducing IT dependency for our clients.
Crafting your CX is also vital to success. Don’t just add the channel to check the box—make sure once they do reach out to you, every customer has an excellent experience. This means ensuring they can resolve their issue without leaving the channel. If they end up having to call the contact center anyway, they won't try messaging next time they need help. Leverage all the possible entry points to drive adoption, and arm agents to deal with specific use cases.
You also need to prepare your contact centers for a significant mindset shift. Synchronous communication has always been the rule of thumb for both voice and digital agents, and that’s perhaps the biggest change. Agents who are used to “owning” conversations need to re-learn how to interact with customers and share the conversation with other agents. This may require a new approach, new skills, and new language. Shift your metrics to reflect the new approach, too—for example, instead of measuring average handle time (AHT), you might look at how many conversations agents handle in the day. Give them the technology and tools they need to succeed, and you’ll make things better for everyone.
US satellite TV provider Dish Network was an early adopter and has seen great success since launching messaging in 2018. The company took a hybrid approach, giving customers the option to reach out via Apple Messages for Business, Google Messenger, and Facebook Messenger. Each channel offers unique advantages. And connecting all three to the 7.ai platform allows Dish to create a consistent, familiar experience on any channel. Agents use the same console for both asynchronous and synchronous communication, such as live chat or calls.
To ensure a smooth roll out, the company started with selective entry points and funneled a percentage of contacts through messaging. They trained a small local team of agents on the new mechanics of juggling multiple interactions, as well as the new philosophy centered around sharing conversations. They had to learn to say “we” instead of “I” and adopt a more casual, friendly tone to match the context. The team leaders also relaxed performance evaluation criteria during the transition.
Dish learned that their customers love to use messaging to troubleshoot issues, with the ability to share photos being a huge plus. While they were aiming for an initial adoption rate of 3-4%, they actually achieved 30-40%, with that number still rising more than a year later. They discovered a roadblock that was preventing PII/PCI information from being passed from one agent to the next, and worked with 7.ai to solve it using collaborative tagging. They learned that little changes, like giving agent permission to type, “LOL” made a big difference to CSAT. And they realized that bringing about the cultural shift required for agents to stop hanging on to conversations would not happen overnight, but it would happen with time.
To learn more about transforming your customer support strategy with messaging, schedule a demo today.
1 Source: 7.ai internal data
2 Source: Google