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Interactive mobile apps: Live Chat or Instant messaging ?


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RingCentral Engage recently launched a new product for the digital customer relations market: instant messaging integrated into mobile apps, or In-App Mobile Messaging.

With Engage Mobile, companies can make their mobile apps interactive by offering users an intuitive way to communicate with customer service reps that is similar to using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or SMS.
Some of our clients have made comments like these:
•    “What is the difference between this and a live chat solution?
•    “I already have a live chat solution in my mobile app, how is your solution an improvement?”

The main thing to remember is that with instant messaging, there is no wait time, which has a very positive impact on user experience, as well as resource management at the contact center.

Live chat: real-time exchanges

Before comparing the two solutions, it’s useful to define live chat, which is a solution that can be integrated into a website enabling the synchronous (real-time) exchange of text messages with a customer service representative.

How does it work?

It can be integrated into a site by adding a chunk of Javascript code to one or more HTML pages on the site. Of course, it could also be used on a mobile version of the website, or integrated into an iOS/Android mobile app using a “WebView.”
In general, this code opens a small pop-up window (widget) that lets the user visiting the website initiate a text message exchange with a customer service rep. This widget is linked to the company website, and closing the window ends the conversation with the rep.
The exchange with the rep is synchronous, which means a live channel, or “session” is opened between the widget and the rep’s management software in the same way that a “circuit” is opened during a phone call between a caller and a rep.

The risks of synchronous solutions

A session cannot be created if an agent is not available, in which case the user is put on hold, as he or she would be when calling in to a call center.
What this means is that the user must wait until an agent is available and remain on the company website.
Therefore, the company must ensure that there are enough reps available to minimize customer wait time. During high-volume periods, the risk, of course, is “no answer” or, in other words, the customer’s request gets no response, which is very frustrating for your clients.

Instant messaging: synchronous and asynchronous exchanges

You have undoubtedly used an instant messaging service: an early version, like ICQ and MSN Messenger, the more recent WhatsApp, Hangout or Facebook Messenger, or perhaps Skype, SMS/MMS messages, Microsoft Lync or Orange Libon. There are numerous technological solutions for this same purpose.

How does it work?

Instant messaging allows synchronous or asynchronous exchanges of text or multimedia messages through an application (a “rich client” in computer speak).
Because it is an application, the instant messaging app has access to the features of the underlying operating system: on the desktop it can access file browsers, for example, and on mobile devices it can access photos or location data.
Instant messaging does not necessarily require a session to be created. Even if the message recipient is not available, the user can send a message. The recipient will be notified of the message by the application and will respond as soon as possible.

The advantages of instant messaging

The user might, therefore, receive either a response in real time, or a notification that the message has been received by a rep. The user can then go on about his business and is not forced to sit and wait for a response.
For the company, the flexibility of the synchronous/asynchronous exchange also streamlines the customer service rep’s job. During high-volume contact periods, user messages will receive responses less quickly, but that will not have a negative effect on the conversation.

Comparison in the mobile app context

Although live chat and instant messaging are primarily used for exchanging text messages, the two solutions are very different.
The table below compares their usage in a mobile app context:


Conclusion: Which option is best?

Instant messaging on mobile apps offers numerous, significant advantages compared to live chat. It is no coincidence that it is an overwhelmingly popular method for personal communication among the general public.
With Engage Mobile, companies can now capitalize on this trend with a fast, simple, efficient and professional solution.
Where does it fit in the context of desktop or mobile websites? That will be the subject of another post…

Originally published Oct 27, 2015, updated Dec 30, 2022

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