With so many studies demonstrating that younger consumers are far more likely send a Twitter DM or Snapchat than they are to respond to an email, why do so many companies stubbornly stick to email as their primary channel for customer support? Savvy retailers are taking a cue from their customers’ habits and embracing messaging as the new front line for customer service.
As consumers move away from desktop experiences and towards mobile apps, messaging is poised to emerge as the next breakthrough communication platform for retailers. Facebook Messenger, for example, has exploded in the last year, now boasting 800 million monthly active users. Many consumers now use the platform as their primary method of communicating with friends and family. The platform’s heavy user base, ease of use and fluidity make messaging a prime, untapped channel for both engaging with and selling to customers — especially millennials. It’s only a matter of time before messaging becomes the primary channel consumers use to interact with brands.
As customer service evolves, retailers must prioritize reaching their customers where they are, or risk losing business to competitors. Recently, 7’s 2016 Customer Engagement Index showed that almost half of shoppers will take their business to a competitor within one day due to anger at poor service (assuming that price and product are equal), and 79 percent will do so within one week.
There are two key reasons why messaging is quickly emerging as a primary channel for consumers to interact with brands:
1. It makes transitions effortless for the customer: Consumers only resort to speaking with humans when technology fails them. As such, retailers must effortlessly transition shoppers to live support when they can’t fix a problem themselves via digital channels. If consumers cannot independently resolve an issue on the first channel, 32 percent will pick up the phone and call.
In situations like these, brands must transfer consumers without a hitch. This is where messaging apps provide a modern solution to traditional support channels. If customers opt in to communicating with brands through messaging apps at checkout, any personal or product information they’ve already shared can be passed along to that channel. Moreover, brands can proactively reduce call and email volume by delivering relevant notifications about common queries (e.g., shipping dates and return policies).
Messaging apps have the potential to become the central interaction point for consumers. Previous interactions can be stored in an app’s conversation history, allowing agents to use them as context for a shopper’s query rather than asking them for information they’ve already provided. This provides a singular view of the customer’s journey, and makes it easier for brands to deliver the personalized customer care today’s shoppers expect.
Companies like Amazon.com, Uber and Grubhub grasped this concept years ago and now command millions of loyal followers. They’ve mastered the art of fast and frictionless experiences.
2. It fosters candid conversations between consumers and brands: Messaging apps can help retailers improve the customer experience by allowing shoppers to have a candid conversation with brands in real time. In the same way that consumers talk to their friends and family on these platforms, they can talk to companies in a way that feels natural. As they do so, they build trust with the brand in the same way that they build trust with a friend. The popularity of WeChat, which is already driving massive mobile commerce growth, shows that global shoppers will embrace messaging as a digital solution.
As messaging apps continue to grow in popularity, retailers would be wise to get in front of the opportunity to service customers via this channel. Given the evolution of customer expectations, messaging apps will help retailers provide fast, convenient and truly useful assistance, resulting in greater affinity with shoppers and economic benefits associated with loyal customer relationships.
Scott Horn is the chief marketing officer of 7, a customer service platform and applications provider.