The use of messaging applications increased by 44% in 2016, while time spent using them went up 394%. Given this change in user behavior, brands may soon have no choice but to incorporate messaging channels into their customer care toolkit.
Messaging is now firmly rooted in consumer behaviors
With 1 billion users of Messenger and WhatsApp, messaging has been growing significantly for several years. This trend will continue to grow, with an anticipated 3.6 billion users of messaging apps in 2018. A figure that represents 90% of Internet users!
The popularity of messaging can be attributed to the many benefits to users compared to text messaging or social networks:
Unlimited messages can be sent for free, anywhere in the world, as long as there is an Internet or 3G/4G connection.
Ease of use
Messaging apps are very easy for anyone with a smartphone to use.
In addition to text messages, users can share multimedia content, emojis, voice messages, and more.
Sending messages to a defined group of people guarantees more privacy than sharing content on social networks. WhatsApp recently further improved this benefit by launching encryption of all conversations.
Messaging and customer care: the WeChat case
Internet users are used to these benefits when communicating with friends and family, and they now expect to be able to interact in the same way with brands. This method of communicating with companies is already very common in China via the WeChat application, used by 93% of the residents of Chinese cities. The app is used in all aspects of daily life: social networking, chat, payment, news, and more.
By adding this channel, which plays a central role in the lives of consumers, brands gain a powerful tool for enhancing customer care. Being able to send messages to followers in a targeted way (segmentation by demographic, interests, new or returning customers, etc.) is one of the many advantages of such a service. Air France, for example, has successfully adopted WeChat. Since 2014, the airline offers Chinese customers customer service through the app, demonstrating that it can adapt to the behaviors of local customers.
As messaging platforms evolve (solutions dedicated to companies, chatbots, payment solutions), this communication method could soon become the norm in Europe as well.
How messaging improves customer care
Adding messaging as a customer service channel offers many advantages for brands:
1. Simplifying management of exchanges
With messaging, conversations can occur synchronously (immediate response) or asynchronously (with a brief delay) depending on the availability of customer care representatives. For example, if a representative has to look up information, he or she can respond to the customer later, and the customer will be notified that a new message has arrived. The history of these exchanges is retained, which is very useful when multiple representatives handle a request, as well as to have a 360° customer view.
2. Easier to share confidential information securely
One of the limitations of exchanges on social networks is that it is difficult to share confidential information. On Twitter, it is common for a public exchange to become private, but only if a customer follows a company’s account. By starting out in private mode, messaging allows customers to securely share private information, as well as attachments, such as identifying documents.
3. Incorporating messaging into the existing customer care ecosystem
Messaging systems like Messenger or WhatsApp can be incorporated into customer care management platforms. This way, companies can continue to use a single interface and management process that includes other channels (social networks, emails, live chat, etc.) and synchronize the data with their CRM solution. It will soon be possible to incorporate WhatsApp, once its API for companies becomes available.
4. Giving the brand an innovative image
Most brands are present on social networks and they interact with their customers there. However, those that communicate by instant messaging are still rare. Companies that embrace this trend are therefore perceived as being more innovative and responsive, which sets them apart from their competition. For example, AXA gives customers the option to talk to a representative on Messenger by clicking a “Write to us” button on its website and mobile app. This tells users that the insurance company is adapting to the behaviors of its target market and offering a modern service.
After pushing companies to transition to social networks, customer behaviors are now nudging them towards messaging. These channels offer many benefits to consumers and companies, and contribute to improving the customer relationship by adding a more conversational dimension. Messaging also gives brands the opportunity to offer a more personalized experience thanks to the customer data (age, location, interests, etc.) available from these channels.
Originally published Mar 27, 2017, updated Dec 30, 2022