We were all just getting used to the idea that amid the kindergarten graduation photos and cat fail videos of social media, we could make meaningful connections with customers. And now it seems preferences are shifting again as more and more of those customers shun public channels for private messaging (PM).
PM Dominates Global Communication
According to recent usage statistics, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger each have 1.5 billion users worldwide. And WeChat has 1 billion.
In the U.S., 66% of people in their peak income years (age 30 to 59) use Facebook Messenger. And the business community has taken notice. 20 million companies talk to customers via Facebook Messenger every month.
Other companies, like Lowes, Marriott and Wells Fargo go further with business-focused apps like Apple Business Chat, which lets users schedule services and make payments.
Why People Love PM
Well, it’s private. It may be fine to let your Facebook friends know that you “like” a new product or marketing campaign, but if you want to check on order status, change your billing address or even cancel service, wide open social media isn’t the best platform.
And given the popularity of texting in general, it makes sense that people want to do business over the same channels they know and love for personal communication.
Unlike phone calls, you can carry on a text conversation in places too noisy to hear clearly or too quiet to talk comfortably. You don’t have to interrupt a Netflix binge or leave an in-person conversation. Private messaging just fits in.
Get Connected Easily
Sending out a personal message is as easy as searching for a company on Facebook and clicking the message button. There’s no hunting for 800 numbers, punching though phone queues or waiting on hold. It’s even faster than typing in email addresses and subject lines.
Store Key Information
PM conversations persist in history, so there’s no need to scribble confirmation and support ticket numbers on a piece of paper destined to be lost forever. PMs can also include useful links to resources or self-service.
Why Businesses Love PM
While PM popularity leaves companies with yet another communication channel to support, it has some significant advantages over phone interactions.
Save Agent Costs
One representative can handle between three and eight text conversations at a time. As a result, contact centers serve more people while lowering costs.
Shorten the Phone Queue
Text is a venue for short, simple exchanges, and as people realize how easily they can get answers to basic questions over PM, they’ll leave the phone lines for trickier tasks. You can even offer transactions like making payments, scheduling appointments or sharing catalogs to expand the functionality of PM channels.
Easily Keep Interaction Records
Companies today need a record of all transactions with customers. That’s difficult with voice conversations because you often have only the agent’s notes to describe what happened. Text conversations, however, are easy to capture and store with the customer’s account so other representatives can see exactly what was discussed.
How to Make the Most of PM for Your Business
Even with its growing usage, PM isn’t the right channel for every communication, and it’s easy to frustrate the people you’re trying to serve. As with any consumer-facing application, keep the focus on user experience.
Bridge the Gap
When dealing with business issues, any text conversation can quickly become too complex for its channel. When that’s the case, people need a fast way to connect via voice. But this is not the time to ask texters to dial in and puzzle through phone menus. Instead, offer a link directly to an agent in your texts.
Unfortunately, you can’t ensure an agent will always be available when a text conversation goes off the rails, but with a callback solution, like VHT Digital, you can always give people the ease and satisfaction of getting a call from you as soon as possible. And VHT Digital sends the full text conversation to the calling agent so customers don’t have to repeat anything.
Keep an Eye on Security
Although PMs aren’t open to the public, some, like Facebook Messenger, aren’t encrypted by default. Make sure customers know whether a channel is safe for personal information, and if necessary, offer a callback for a seamless switch to voice.
Use Automation Carefully
Many PM apps employ a combination of automated responses and human follow-up. For example, a bot may respond immediately to a text letting customers know someone will be with them shortly. Or a bot may gather initial information and pass it on to a human. Regardless, make sure people don’t get trapped in the automation with no easy way to reach the contact center.
According to Conversocial’s State of the Digital Customer Experience Report 2019, 75% of people surveyed prefer PM over traditional service channels. And while it will never replace voice for service, it can become a valuable part of a well-integrated customer experience.