The number of mobile smartphones is expected to pass the five billion mark in 2019. With consumers adopting a mobile-first mindset, they expect anytime, anywhere, access to information and services. This trend is driving live messaging to be the next big thing in customer service, as a key component of omni-channel customer engagement.
In the past, customers would make a phone call or send an email to reach customer service. Now, agent-to-customer messaging is changing the velocity of customer conversations. That’s because live messaging happens in seconds and provides relevant, contextual and timely communications – whether it’s via a text message or in a messaging app. As a result, many big technology companies are now laser-focused on delivering agent-to-customer messaging capabilities. Everyone – from Facebook to Apple – is getting into the messaging game.
The Company-Focused IVR
Let’s take a deeper look to understand why savvy customer service organizations are making a huge shift to focus on messaging. Why is it so important for companies to do this? To change the interaction dynamics between a company and its customers! Historically, contact centers were designed to be company-focused, with the IVR (interactive voice response system) as the lifeline of contact center. A company’s goal for the IVR was to streamline the phone service process, but this wasn’t a very customer-centric approach. It left customers with no choice but to use the IVR in order to reach someone, which is never a delightful experience.
Customer Frustration and the IVR
Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you likely know how frustrating the IVR experience can be because you’ve likely had to navigate them in your own life. Press “one” for store hours, press “two” for directions, press “three” to speak to a representative. And often none of the choices match the service that you’re looking for.
As a result, many customers attempt to circumvent the IVR by trying to figure out which button will connect them directly to an agent, which can often lead to being placed in a queue and then a long wait for a customer service agent. When an agent is finally available, the call often then gets transferred to another agent–that’s a lot of time and effort on the customer’s behalf. And, after answering the customer, the agent moves onto the next call, making it a slow process for customers because agents can only serve one customer at a time.
Forget Calling, Customers Prefer Self-Service
Unfortunately, only part of customer frustration comes from having to navigate the IVR. Another cause is voice interactions don’t usually take place in a customer’s optimal time frame. For instance, in many cases, a customer can’t just reach out, get a hold of a service agent and get on with their day. As a result, customers avoid calling customer support because it’s time-consuming and downright painful. In fact, 81% of customers say they prefer to use self-service before trying to deal with a customer service agent.(2)
And it’s just not customers who have bad experiences with voice interactions. The businesses providing the customer service also struggle with staffing high call and email volumes, low customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, high turnover and agent attrition.(3) Businesses are realizing they are left with a very uneconomical and disappointing customer experience.
There Has to be a Better Way and There is: Messaging
We know today, true personal customer engagement means connecting with customers across every channel, exactly where and when they want to engage. Messaging unlocks the power of two-way conversations in a channel that customers prefer. For instance, you are at work and don’t want all your co-workers to hear your phone conversations with customer service. You can easily (and quietly) take care of your need via messaging. Or you might have an easy transaction that doesn’t need a customer service agent to handle, like reaching out to a retailer for information on the status of your order, availability, colors and sizes or even an exchange.
With a quick response – either from a bot or agent – customers can continue on with their lives. This makes customers much calmer in the service experience, which can reduce stress for both the customer and the customer service agent. Additional benefits for agents include being able to easily deal with multiple cases at the same time – especially if a bot gathers the simple information – name, reason for contacting, etc.
How to Get Started with Messaging
First, you will want to create a business case to present to senior leadership by proving the bottom line impact for investing in messaging. Research shows that when companies use messaging well, it improves the overall CSAT score for the contact center, which ultimately improves revenue.
Another important benefit of messaging is that it increases brand loyalty and customer lifetime value, i.e. the value of a customer over time. The longer customers stay loyal, the more valuable they become. Acquiring new customers is very expensive, and loyal customers often advocate for a brand by word of mouth. And texting has become an important way for brands to engage with consumers as 35% of all age groups of consumers say the first thing they access on their phones each day is texts or instant messages (IMs), with email coming in second (22%).(4)
After you’ve made the business case, then you look at which business number you’shortcode text enable – like your 1-800 number or create a special short code. Ready to get ahead of the trend? You might even ask your customers, “Are you interested in messaging us (SMS, FB Messenger, iMessage) instead of calling us?” Once you have trained your agents and have messaging built into your customer service toolkit, you will start to see business benefits immediately.
By Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, VP, Program Executive, Salesforce
1. Ace Van Wanseele, “Mobile First Design: Responsive, Relevant, Receptive and Realistic,” September 2016, https://www.thecreativealliance.com/user-experience/mobile-design-responsive-relevant-receptive-realistic/
2. Matthew Dixon, Lara Ponomareff, Scott Turner and Rick DeLisi, Kick-Ass Customer Service, January-February issue, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/kick-ass-customer-service
3. Ron Davis, “The True Cost of Contact Center Agent Attrition,” April 2017,
4. Deloitte, “2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US Edition,” 2016, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/global-mobile-consumer-survey-us-edition.html