Today’s customers already use messaging apps to communicate with friends and family, with more than four billion monthly active users on the top three messaging apps: WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger. In business, they want the same level of connectivity on preferred channels to make communications effortless. That’s why your business should include messaging in your modern digital customer service options.
Conversational messaging has a significant cost reduction benefit, as it did for NCR, a point-of-sale solution company that saved 50% over the cost of using voice calls. Of course, putting a messaging program into action comes with a lot of questions. To get on the right path, consider a five-step roadmap for launching a messaging program:
- Uncover where your customers are
- Identify your top use cases for messaging
- Launch a messaging test
- Define success
- Scale your efforts
Before we dive in, let’s define what’s meant by “messaging” versus “chat.” Messaging happens over third-party channels like Facebook Messenger and via SMS (text messaging) and is different from “chat” (picture a window that pops up on a company’s website for customer service conversations). Messaging is persistent in that users can return to the channel and view past interactions, whereas chats are currently more session-based with a clear beginning and end. Now, let’s learn how to begin messaging for business.
5 steps to launch a messaging program for your business
1. Find out where your customers are
Customers spend a lot of time on their mobile devices – an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes per day. Creating a way to connect with them directly on their mobile device makes perfect sense – after all, a text message is much more likely to be read than an email.
To meet customers where they are, identify which messaging channel is right for your business:
- SMS can be used for inbound and outbound support in place of calls or emails. You can turn your 1-800 number into an SMS/text channel and create a chatbot to gather basic information upfront for seamless agent handoff.
- Facebook Messenger in the American and European markets is a strong option. Customers are more likely to request service via social media messaging than by social media posting. Not to mention, it’s simple for businesses with a Facebook page to get started.
- WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app, primarily outside of the United States. In addition to using the WhatsApp for Business app for customer service, businesses can send promotional messages with photos, audio, and video.
- WeChat is China’s largest multipurpose app for messaging, social, and payment. People in China prefer WeChat messaging to email even for business, while other channels like Facebook are banned. Businesses use WeChat to offer VIP cards, promotions, and coupons to use in stores.
In addition, all messaging channels allow businesses to use chatbots to gather basic information or answer FAQs.
Once you’ve analyzed all of your traffic analytics to determine which channel is the best entry point, you can start piloting options for messaging, or in some cases, chat. Begin with your biggest source of traffic:
- Mobile website: If the majority of traffic comes through your mobile website, consider an SMS program (chat doesn’t work well on a mobile browser). Allow customers to text you from your mobile website and/or from within your mobile app, if available.
- Desktop: By contrast, if you’re seeing high traffic from desktop, embedded chat is a better option than messaging.
- Mobile app: If traffic is coming from your mobile app, you have the option of either using SMS or chat within the app.
- Social media: If you have high Facebook engagement, start with Facebook Messenger. The same goes for WhatsApp, WeChat, or other messaging channels.
Our customers are shifting to digital channels like chat and SMS, so we need to meet them there. Since implementing these new channels, we’ve seen increased customer satisfaction and improved agent efficiency.” Jim Mitchell | Business System Solution Architect, VIZIO
2. Consider the most relevant ways to use messaging
When deciding on your messaging, assess how these categories impact your objectives throughout the customer life cycle.
Explore opportunities for messaging to win future customers, such as allowing them to text requests for product information. In B2B sales, use messaging to text prospects when they complete a “contact me” form or fill a form to download an asset. Sales messaging can also be used for one-to-one relationship-building, for example, facilitating support between a financial advisor and their client. A sales bot can even capture lead information via conversation for a more pleasant experience than filling out a web form.
With established customers, messaging for inbound customer support makes it effortless and is more cost effective than an email or a phone call. Proactive outbound messages take numerous forms:
- Appointment confirmation/reminders/rescheduling: This is the most familiar type of business messaging. Recipients are accustomed to replying Y or N to confirm or cancel appointments, but your business can turn this into a two-way conversation on the channel.
- Order status/WISMO (where is my order): Delivery status and order confirmations reduce phone calls and email inquiries that would come over other channels.
- Bill payment reminders: Instantly reach late-paying customers where they are and increase the likelihood of payment. Customers have the option to click and pay right away, making the process seamless.
- Security messaging: Customers making an online purchase trigger non-promotional messages that deliver information immediately. They can be confirmations, account alerts, identify verification, or password resets.
Feedback and surveys are another type of messaging that can help grow customers. Close the feedback loop by using messaging to gather useful information and fine-tune your service. Surveys can delve into the appointment-booking process, issue resolution, or the customer’s experience with a mobile worker.
Internal use cases for messaging include mobile collaboration among employees or establishing an SMS help center. Another internal use is field service dispatch messaging, which helps dispatchers and mobile workers coordinate in real time and enables businesses to communicate field workers’ ETA to customers.
3. Start with a small test
Before committing to a program, you’ll need to know what resonates with your customers. Here’s how to test if messaging is right for your customer service strategy:
Select a segment of your customers for the trial. You might limit it based on geo-location or allow only certain types of customers to message you (say, only VIP customers get a text number via email).
- Make sure you connect your CRM to your messaging. With integrated messaging, agents can access all the customer’s relevant information, which is a win for efficiency and creates a more personal experience for the customer.
- Train and prepare your existing agents for the change or select agents with matching skill sets for chosen use cases. Enable them with a library of automated responses and create a wiki of text-friendly phrases and emoticons that match your brand. Also, determine a maximum number (we recommend 7–10) of simultaneous messaging conversations per agent.
4. Gauge the success of your messaging
Now determine how well the trial worked and what variables need to be adjusted. One important place to look: cost savings from call deflection. Messaging can save an average of 80% over a voice call.
Use CSAT (metrics of customer satisfaction) and NPS (measuring loyalty), and the number of conversations per hour, per agent. Don’t use average handle time (AHT) as a success metric. AHT doesn’t apply to mobile messaging the same way it applies to a phone conversation. Some customers might not respond back for a few minutes or even hours.
Review your traffic analytics again to see where the entry point is and look for any barriers to entry. Other metrics to view include call volume, number of jobs per day, and first-time fix rates.
5. Scale up your messaging program
Once you’ve expanded a messaging program to your wider customer base, consider ways to create efficiencies.
For example, leverage AI-powered chatbots to deflect common or repetitive requests and answer simple FAQs. The chatbot can also assist in decreasing handle time by collecting information up front or, more advanced, making updates and processing claims. Chatbots use AI to seamlessly route customers to an appropriate agent, prefill case context, and recommend next steps.
Next, look at ways to integrate your program into other areas of your business across the customer journey. As mentioned previously, chatbots notify your sales team of new leads and route them to the right rep. In marketing, you might send an outbound message about a promotion, allowing customers to message back and have a conversation with an agent.
Then there are conversational commerce opportunities. This means personalized product recommendations based on your purchase or browsing history (think the “customers who bought this item also bought …” feature on shopping websites), only they occur in a messenger conversation with a chatbot – and they can make transactions right where they already are.
Now is the time to make conversations happen and increase opportunities in every direction. If you’re ready to shift to other digital channels, like self-service, watch our webinar to learn more.