Nidhin Varghese (NV)
I am sure you are familiar with the feeling of leaving the house and realizing that you left your phone at home. You feel disconnected from the world, perhaps even incomplete. Without even realizing it, these devices have become our constant companions.
If you think about it, our lives are a collection of mobile moments. Irrespective of where we are, we pull out our phones to get things done. Not only are phones our go-to-tool for basic aspects of our lives, but companies like Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Amazon are redefining or rather have already redefined our expectations as consumers.
Of all the activities that we do on our mobile device, a recent analysis showed that 25% of the time is spent on messaging apps. Clearly today’s economy is driven by digital natives, who are mobile-first, chat-first, and social-first.
Despite this obvious preference for digital, if you look at call volumes and the cost to provide customer service … messaging has barely made a dent. So, what is the solution? That is where the technology giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have stepped in. We, as consumers, have given these companies the permission to be in our pockets, and in turn these companies are enabling businesses to contact us on these channels. That is going to allow consumers to message businesses, instead of calling, at our convenience and at our own time. That is business messaging.
We’ve all had experiences with businesses contacting us through SMS, for shipping notifications, marketing offers, promotional campaigns, and appointment reminders. Traditionally text message systems for business is associated with just SMS or texting. However, business messaging isn’t just SMS or texting and it definitely isn’t just one-way communication. It can and should be a two way dialog that offers a richer experience than SMS, one where you can send images, emojis, and videos, and use it to conduct transactions (making payments etc.).
Let’s take a common scenario such as contacting an Internet provider or a bank. Today, you would have to set aside 30 – 45 minutes for a phone call or online chat (if they offer it). The interaction almost always starts with waiting for an agent to become available. Once the session is established, you send a message, the agent responds, and this goes back and forth a few turns. Then, let’s say you had to step away or take too long to reply. The agent waits for you to respond, and most likely they will check in at regular intervals in to see if you are still online. From a contact center perspective, this results in a loss of productivity. On the flip side, if the agent has to do some research, you are put on hold resulting in a waste of your time.
Personally, I have had a number of experiences where while waiting for the agent to respond, I step away to grab a cup of coffee and return to find that the agent has left the conversation. It goes without saying that restarting that conversation is almost equally frustrating as waiting, if not more so. Adding to the distress, sometimes the previous interaction disappears completely. Other times, I get connected to a new agent and have to re-explain the whole problem from the beginning.
As consumers, our lifestyles demand more flexibility that what businesses provide. That flexibility is exactly what business messaging provides by shifting the consumer and the agent to an asynchronous mode of communication.
First off, asynchronous messaging eliminates the ”wait in queue” concept. The customer can send the message at their convenience and the underlying platform takes into account the nature of the query, the customer profile, past engagements, other business parameters and assigns it to the right agent. If the customer ever gets distracted, the agent is notified of the status of the customer, and instead of having to keep waiting for the customer’s response, the agent can now cater to other active customers. The same is the case for the customer, rather than needing to wait next to their computer or staying on hold on a voice call, they can continue with their lives and get back to the interaction when they get a response or when it is suitable for them.
The best part of asynchronous interactions is that the choice is in the hands of the customer. As a customer, I can choose to stay with the interaction and complete it or choose to drop in and out of the conversation and spread it throughout the day.
Now that we have established what business messaging is, the question then is where do I use business messaging? Simply put - start with the customer. That’s almost always the right way to begin, and it certainly applies to business messaging. If a customer wants information or service, then that is your moment to shine. Meet them where they are, and your customer will come to depend on you, deepening their loyalty. On the flip side, if you are absent in those moments, those customers are going to turn to someone else who is providing a better experience.
The best way to figure out where to use messaging is to create a catalog of the relevant messaging moments. And the best way to come up with that catalog is to answer these three questions:
From my experience, there are three fundamental pillars to making asynchronous communication channels successful:
To sum it all up, business messaging is no longer a luxury but a necessity. However, deploying a successful asynchronous communication channel requires careful deliberation, and a well-crafted strategy!
NV, Director of Strategic Alliances at 7.ai., is very passionate about driving the adoption of business messaging and for the last 2 years have been working very closely with Apple, Google & Facebook. He has been consulting with many enterprises as they embarked on the transformation journey from synchronous to asynchronous mode of customer engagement.