Messaging: A New Age for Customer Service

Posted by
Paul Brook
LivePerson Contributor
03/24/2015 - 00:00

Think about how you communicate on a daily basis.  My mum texts me to see when I’m visiting her. During lunch, a co-worker sends a link to the latest Wired article over Google Hangout, and distant friends start a private group chat via Facebook. In my downtime, I check out what pictures and videos friends have posted via Whatsapp, and reply back right in the app when it’s a good update.

Messaging is convenient, private, and yet, has an informality that allows for an instant or asynchronous reply. It’s no wonder that messaging apps are changing the way consumers prefer to communicate with brands—via social media, live chat and traditional call centers.

In fact, as a population, we’ve seen a substantial shift in behavior. There were roughly 11 million less high school and college-aged young adults on Facebook in 2014, as compared with three years prior, according to Wired. However, 1:1 messaging apps are exploding. Established in 2011, Snapchat reportedly had upwards of 100 million users at the end of August.

Consumers have changed the way they communicate with brands. They want to engage brands on their terms, via their vehicle of choice.  They don’t want to communicate on social, where a message could get lost in a sea of comments, or be put on hold via an 800 number. In fact, they probably don’t want to have to make a call at all. Research from Performics found that making a call is now the sixth most common use for a mobile phone.  Number five was using your mobile phone as an alarm clock!

The 800 number has long since fallen from grace.

Messaging has crossed the divide from personal to professional—whether your business has evolved or not. Brand-to-consumer communication channels are evolving before our eyes … And why shouldn't the way we engage brands be as simple, intuitive and private as how we communicate regularly?  We message our friends and family 90% of the time, yet brands want us to contact them via the 1-800# 90% of the time.  Something does not add up...

Four reasons messaging is good for business

Is there someone in your life who, when talking, makes you feel like the only person in the room? When it comes to brand communications, messaging can offer the same effect. The 1:1 nature of messaging filters out the outside world, and lets in the ultimate personalization.

In the words of a ReadWrite article, “Messaging is more than a business opportunity. It has deep meaning in our daily lives.”

From the 800-number to social media, leading brands are taking the next step and connecting on the individual level. Here’s why.

  1. It nurtures more meaningful connections.
    Despite the overuse of tech, consumers still crave human-to-human engagement. Through messaging or chat, agent-to-consumer conversations are unique, private and informal. The intimate setting of chat makes brand engagement feel more like chatting with a friend or family member.
     
  2. It offers immediate brand access, and conveniences consumers to respond when they’re ready.
    The digital-first consumer isn’t accustomed to waiting. LivePerson research discovered that the online consumer is as good as gone if made to wait for more than 76 seconds. He or she demands always-on support, on the channel of choice. Yet, this immediacy and always-on access is a one-way street. Digital consumers also demand personal space, and appreciate the ability to reach out or respond to your brand asynchronously. Messaging is a prime way to offer 24/7 support via mobile or desktop.
     
  3. It saves money.
    Most consumers need support during their journey. And they want to take the path of least resistance. The 1-800 number is more costly than chat for both the brand and consumer. Voice support is more time intensive, and demands a switch from one device to the next. LivePerson’s CEO and founder, Robert LoCascio, said in a recent earnings call, “It’s becoming clear everyday that messaging or what we call chat today is going to win out over voice when it comes to how companies are communicating with their customer.”
     
  4. It nurtures internal culture.
    Strong brands also have a strong sense of culture. Employee-to-employee communication is key in building ties internally. Messaging is an efficient way to offer in-office communication, and encourage workplace relationship building.

Messaging takes center-stage

In 2013, Fast Company called text messaging the “great untapped business resource.” In 2014, mobile messaging earned $1.4 billion, according to CB Insights. That’s a 401 percent increase in funding year-over-year, most of which can be attributed to large-scale deals for companies like Snapchat, TangoMe, and Slack, among others.

A number of America’s most popular businesses found ways to weave free, real-time messaging into their service offerings. Take Airbnb for example. Travelers can message hosts directly within the Airbnb mobile app or via desktop to ask about accommodations, city attractions, etc. Rideshare app, Lyft, is another prime example. The driver can send a text directly to the rider’s mobile when he or she arrives.

The latest news: The world famous app, Snapchat launched the Discover platform in January, on which brands like National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, and the Food Network post short videos and images. In a new round of funding, Snapchat is seeking $19 billion, “making it the third most valuable venture-backed company in the world,” according to Bloomberg.

Also in January, WhatsApp released WhatsApp Web, and Line launched a business-centric version of the app in February. Enterprise messaging is still in its infancy, but growing at an unprecedented rate.

New research from Annalect found that 55 percent of “smartphone-owning millennials” expect their favorite brands to have mobile-friendly websites or apps, while only 39 percent assume these same brands are on social media channels. Consumer expectations are higher than ever before. Complaining via social (or 800 numbers for that matter) is no longer the fastest way to resolution.

Consumers have moved on from 1:many—demanding 1:1 engagements. How is your company catering to 1:1 communication with consumers?

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