Let’s say you’re in a retail store and you see a customer angrily walk up to the checkout clerk and say, “excuse me, I need to speak to the manager this instant.” The employees would likely try to handle this interaction discretely, and they would certainly do their best to avoid having to address the customer’s complaint in front of other customers. The focus would be on making sure the customer is happy, and that no one else’s experience is disrupted.
This seems like an obvious strategy, but for some reason, many brands forget this logic when it comes to customer interactions online. A lot of customers have realized that one of the best ways to get a fast response to their problem is to post it publicly on platforms like Twitter or Facebook. And while it’s important for brands to respond when this happens, having public customer service as a primary strategy doesn’t make sense for consumers or brands. If you can give a fast, convenient and private alternative to customers, they’ll take it — preventing the risk that a service issue blows up into a viral crisis.
The key to changing this paradigm is in messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, and now WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat. In the past, consumers turned to public social media because it was so convenient (just pull out your phone and send a tweet) and fast — all the things that traditional customer service isn’t. But with messaging, you get all the convenience and speed of a public approach, without the hassle of picking up the phone and waiting on hold. Our data shows that when a brand starts promoting messaging as a service channel, it will see a big drop in public complaints over social media — sometimes as much as 90 percent! At the same time, many consumers will choose messaging over traditional channels like phone and email.
Unlike traditional customer service conversations, which end once the phone is down, messaging creates a continuous relationship between brand and consumer. The brand can use this channel to re-engage with the customer when a product is back in stock or an ordering issue is resolved, creating a powerful channel for pre-sales. With open rates of 80-plus percent, messaging is way more effective than email. Add to this the ability to easily layer in bots and automation, and messaging becomes a channel that can improve your brand, drive customer satisfaction and engagement, and lower costs. What more could you ask for?
So, what can retailers do to prepare themselves for the era of social messaging? Consider these three steps:
- Increase team size or cross-train legacy agents. Staffing is a never-ending conundrum for the contact center. Retailers should be prepared to shift trained agents over from traditional channels to messaging channels as volumes increase in line with consumer preferences. It’s also important to have expertise internally within your physical outlets or stores.
- Promote social messaging channels. Social support agents are vastly more effective than their legacy cousins, handling 167 percent more tickets in the same amount of time. Retailers should advertise their social support across all their digital and in-store properties and push those in need — even those waiting in a physical queue in-store — to social messaging channels.
- Utilize bot and artificial intelligence technology: Companies should look at how they can use automation to handle simple queries, with human agents behind the scenes to help handle complex service issues. The end result will be happier and more engaged customers who keep coming back to buy more!
In an ever-competitive retail landscape, extending meaningful engagement and innovative experiences to your customer base as new tools and standards emerge is imperative to keep up. With more and more choices, especially online, businesses need to figure out how to help customers navigate that choice with the goal of increasing the overall customer experience and helping to serve customers faster, better and more efficiently than ever before.
Joshua March is the CEO of Conversocial, a digital customer service platform for social messaging.