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The power of messaging—engaging customers on their terms

Why is messaging so important today, and why should brands focus on it?

Josefine Fouarge, Sr. Principal Solutions Marketing Manager at Nuance, looks at the critical role messaging plays in customer engagement—and explores the exciting opportunities the channel creates.

It’s time to talk about messaging

Think of the last time you phoned a brand. Whether you were making a sales inquiry, asking about an upcoming event, or even looking for an update on your order—you would have preferred to use a messaging channel, right?

No, I’m not a mind-reader. I just know how convenient messaging can be. It offers a fast and easy way to get in touch, and it doesn’t take up as much time as a phone call. And brands increasingly understand how powerful a proposition that can be—in Forrester’s recent Customer Service Megatrends report, they identified improving mobile experience as one of the top five business priorities for 2020.1

As messaging continues to become an even bigger part of our daily lives, innovative brands are finding new ways to engage with customers and new messaging platforms to meet their preferences. But what makes messaging such a critical focus for brands today? And what can it offer customers that phone calls can’t?

In this article, we’ll take a look at how messaging platforms are fueling smarter customer engagement and how they can help meet your customers’ expectations.

The freedom to message

When a customer calls your business, they need to reserve time in their day to hold a complete conversation with an agent—and if this process takes too long, it can leave them incredibly frustrated.

But with messaging channels like Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger—which all enable conversations to be paused and continued at any time—customers can engage on their terms. They can fit engagements into their lunch break, their morning commute, or during any other small gap in their day. As well as offering the flexibility and convenience that phone calls can’t, these channels make it easier to reconnect customers with the same agent, so they can start to develop an ongoing relationship.

And thanks to the latest enhancements in the messaging ecosystem, it’s now easier than ever for users to discover those messaging options. Increasingly, brands can ensure that whether a customer finds their number through a search engine or a ‘contact us’ page, they’re offered the chance to send a message instead.

It’s not just the customer that benefits, either. Agents can’t handle multiple calls at once, but they can have multiple messaging conversations—making a significant impact on your contact center’s efficiency. And if an agent wants to follow up with a customer after their initial engagement has finished, all they need to do is send a message.

More than just convenience

Convenience is a critical reason why messaging is becoming so popular in customer engagement—but it’s not the only driver.

Messaging channels allow brands to engage their customers in exciting new ways. They’re no longer restricted to plain text and emojis—instead, they can handle a diverse range of rich media, such as interactive widgets, images, documents, voice memos, and GIFs.

If a customer is asking about a specific product, the chat agent can send a picture to clarify what they’re looking for, or even send a link to the product’s web page. And as messaging platforms continue to add more features, brands will be able to offer innovative experiences. Just look at today’s leading furniture brands—many have already implemented AR technology into their messaging channel to help customers see what specific items of furniture will look like in their homes.

Interactive, engaging conversations

If you compare how customers talk on the phone to how they text using messaging apps, it’s rarely similar—and the same can be said for agents too. Being good at talking to customers through text is very different from being good at talking with your voice. Agents need to be able to understand customers’ problems, what solution they’re looking for, and even how they’re feeling—all from the words they type. It demands an entirely new set of skills, as well as a different approach to conversational design.

But that’s not a bad thing. Messaging platforms empower brands to create more interactive experiences that help solve customers’ problems faster. With the ability to use features like carousels and quick actions, brands can accelerate the rate of conversations and ensure they’re always headed in the right direction.

Mobile provider messaging platforms like Apple Business Chat are also integrated with the rest of the customers’ phone ecosystem, meaning conversations are connected to specific tools like Apple Pay, calendar, maps, and more. The customer no longer needs to switch between apps—the experience is all in one, familiar channel. Plus, as mobile provider messaging platforms are native to customers’ smartphones, they can start messaging brands without having to download any additional software.

Blended engagement, not call deflection

While messaging channels can be incredibly effective, there are some instances in which you’ll want to have a spoken conversation. That’s why, like all digital channels, messaging shouldn’t be used to reduce costs. Instead, it should be strategically deployed to provide a better customer experience.

When a customer engages with your brand, you need to consider three key questions:

  • Why is the customer engaging?
  • What channel is best suited for the situation?
  • On what channel does the customer want to engage?

And it’s the third question that’s critical. Brands that try to shift their customers to digital channels to lower costs risk not giving their customers the attention they need. For example, if a customer has just ome from a frustrating digital experience on your website, the last place you’d want to send them is back to one of your digital channels.

With a blended approach between the phone and messaging, you’re more likely to meet their requirements and win their loyalty in the long run.

What’s next for messaging?

With a diverse range of platforms already available, the foundations for messaging are strong—but the future is even more exciting.

Messaging will continue to grow. Despite 90% of consumers wanting to use messaging to communicate with brands, only 50% of businesses have the infrastructure in place to fill this demand.2 And that means there’s a huge opportunity for brands to embrace the channel to differentiate the experience.

As demand for messaging options accelerates, businesses need to act fast to ensure they’re making smart engagements. Customer engagement leaders will stay agile and adapt to new messaging trends as they emerge— whether that’s utilizing new messaging capabilities to drive awareness and demand for messaging, accommodating new channels, reflecting changing customer habits, or designing innovative new experiences.

But whatever your messaging strategy, it’s critical you remember to always engage your customers on their terms, and always put their experience first.

1 Forrester, The Three Customer Service Megatrends In 2020: Fuse AI and Agents to Drive Better Experiences
2 Nuance, White Paper, Messaging done right: 4 customer service messaging best practices for seamless omni-channel engagement