One thing I’ve learned in my career is that you never know when a learning moment might arise. I had one recently at our ConnectCentral event. As part of demonstrating the messaging capabilities of our digital customer engagement solution, I asked attendees if they had Facebook’s Messenger app. I’d expected many to say yes, but definitely didn’t expect that every single person would.
Messaging: The Key to a Successful Digital Customer Experience?
In that moment, I suddenly began to understand just how profoundly messaging can redraw the landscape for customer service. Spurred by my experience at ConnectCentral, I did a little research. Today, the top four messaging platforms boast five billion users.
While startling, I suppose the messaging explosion shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. After all, messaging apps have quickly become our most dominant personal communications tool. The extent to which we’re using messaging to reach out to businesses, however, truly caught me off guard. Gartner has predicted that support requests using consumer messaging apps will surpass those coming from social media by 2019.
Can Messaging Transform the Digital Customer Experience?
The Gartner stat convinced me that messaging apps will redefine digital customer engagement for years to come. Here’s why:
- Messaging apps are everywhere: The list below shows the popularity of the top four messaging apps:
- WhatsApp: 1.5 billion users
- Facebook Messenger: 1.3 billion users
- Apple iMessage: 1.2 billion users
- WeChat: 1 billion users
*Source: Statista, October 2018. Apple data from Apple reporting in Q1 2018
When it comes to customer engagement, it’s no longer enough for companies to say, “We use email, chat, and voice.” As those modes decrease in popularity, consumers now expect to use messaging. The friction of moving from their messaging app to an online chat or any other mode is simply too disruptive. Forcing customers to use a brand’s preferred channel is a recipe for disaster.
- Messaging apps are a simple way to communicate with customers: The top messaging platforms didn’t surpass a billion users with unproven, insecure, or unreliable technology. Messaging vendors have made multimillion-dollar investments to ensure reliability. And they’re easy to use, too. Your company doesn’t need to own anything more than a basic internet connection to use them.
- Conversations in messaging apps are persistent: Messaging apps have additional benefits. For example, they store conversation histories. For many customer interactions, particularly those with many touch points (like buying a home), this persistence can be very valuable. For example, customers and agents in the home appraisal process can use their message history to keep a record of important details.
- The high cost of customer service failure: With the power of social media, poor customer experiences can have severe consequences for your brand, including lost revenue. With over 18 million views on YouTube, United Breaks Guitars launched Dave Carroll from an obscure musician to a social media icon and contact center consultant. When he used social media to share his customer service nightmare, the result severely damaged the United Airlines brand. And don’t forget the Comcast Cancellation Call Kerfuffle. If you’re not on top of customer experiences in the digital world, life—and business—will move past you in the worst sort of way.
- Messaging vendors already see the potential: The top messaging vendors already see that consumers want to use messaging for more than personal communication. As a result, they’re now starting to deliver solutions to help companies meet their customers where they are. Their approaches vary:
- Apple introduced Apple Business Chat in March 2017. Companies had to jump through a number of hoops to sign up for the system. In the end, though, they can take comfort in knowing it delivers a reliable customer experience. Apple Messages currently delivers 28,000 messages per second.
- Facebook is encouraging companies to use Messenger to engage with customers. They claim it can help find new customers, enable transactions, drive awareness, and provide improved service.
Messaging as Part of a Broader Digital Customer Engagement Strategy
Messaging apps can certainly help build deep connections with customers. It’s important, however, to build flexible customer engagement strategies for all channels. Customers want you to meet them where they are, but “where they are” is constantly changing. A new startup working in a garage could soon deliver capabilities we can’t imagine today—and can’t live without tomorrow. And we shouldn’t ignore customers who prefer more traditional tools, such as email, phone, chat, and social media.
What is an Omnichannel Customer Engagement Strategy?
Businesses today need powerful omnichannel solutions that unite all these modes of communication. RingCentral’s digital customer engagement platform, Engage, connects with customers across all digital channels, including messaging apps, chat, email, social media, and more. By integrating these channels and providing truly omnichannel customer service, customer engagement becomes much more than the sum of the parts. Engage uses an AI-based smart-routing engine to manage customer engagement with a single interface.
Agents can also use messaging and video to include agents and experts from across the organization in real-time customer conversations, resulting in quicker resolutions.