How messaging is revolutionizing customer service
Author: Ido Bornstein HaCohen
Source: Retail Customer Experience
August 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the first item ever sold online. An album by English rock artist Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales, was sold for just $12.48 plus shipping.
Fast forward a quarter of a century to present day, and 63% of US consumers now shop online at least once per month.
Now more than ever, consumers make the vast majority of their purchasing decisions online. And, for the most part, retailers have adapted their customer experience accordingly.
But when it comes to service inquiries, there’s still a tendency to force customers to traditional support channels. Is there anything more outdated than ordering something online, only to find out that the only way to contact the retailer is by dialing a number and then waiting on hold for an answer?
Some retailers have decided to cut the cord on phone and invest in live-chat and in-app messaging instead. In theory, it sounds like a good move, but in practice, it’s far from an ideal customer experience. Customers get timed out of conversations if they’re idle for too long and when they come back, they’ve got to start all over again.
With changing consumer expectations and technological advancements propelling us further into a digital world, retailers must embrace messaging as a service channel and begin to deliver friction-free customer experiences.
The untapped potential of messaging channels
The next industry winners are being determined by which retailers successfully build meaningful 1:1 relationships with customers on their preferred communication channel — messaging. In 2017, two billion messages per month were sent between consumers and businesses via Facebook Messenger. Fast-forward to now, just two years later, and that figure has grown ten-fold to a staggering 20 billion messages per month. Messaging allows consumers to communicate with brands on their own terms, not the other way around. The customer can send a message, head out for lunch, come back, and a response is waiting for them.
Messaging also makes commercial sense. Human agents can handle multiple inquiries at once and take a shorter amount of time to resolve a case compared to more archaic channels such as phone. The customer gets a better service experience and retailers can operate more efficiently – it’s win-win.
The future of bots + human support
The rise of AI and bots is one of the biggest shifts in customer experience in years. With the continuing shift into digital and the rise of messaging, brands are struggling to keep on top of the volume of digital interactions — and bots, if combined with humans in the right way, can help brands deliver a faster and more effortless experience.
For example, if a customer wants to know when they can expect their order to arrive, a bot is able to pull the tracking number and provide an update. The customer may then follow up with a more complex request at which point the bot is intelligent enough to hand off to a human agent. The conversation history is also made available to the agent to ensure they’re equipped to provide a seamless customer experience.
Linking the old to the new
Pretty much everyone has used IVR at some point in their life. You call customer support and after a recorded welcome message you hear: «Press 1 for…» This kind of support had its time but, luckily, that time is no longer. Some consumers still prefer to use legacy support channels such as phone but, for those who don’t, you can reroute them to your shiny new messaging channels. «Press 2 to continue this conversation over Whatsapp.» The customer presses #2 on their cell phone and a message is pushed through to their device. They are then free to communicate over their preferred messaging channel, at their own convenience, rather than keeping their phone glued to their ear. Not only does this improve the customer experience, it’s also diverting customers from a costly service channel — phone — to a more cost-effective solution – messaging.
We’re in the middle of a pivotal time for retailers. Messaging channels have become the dominant means for consumers to engage with each other, and are now the fastest-growing channels for retailers to connect with their customers.
This trend is set to continue this year as Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp Business, Google, and Instagram are expected to open up business messaging for brands. And with Apple Pay, Google pay and Instagram Checkout, these platforms are becoming powerful commerce engines as well — each built from the ground up to enable bots and interactive experiences to be at the core of the customer experience.
This gives retailers a huge opportunity; new, powerful engagement channels that can reach customers where they already are, offer automated solutions, and help drive real revenue. As brands take strides to help future-proof their businesses, we’ll continue to see more and more tapping into the latest digital customer experiences.