Each year Americans waste a collective 900 million hours — or over 100 years — waiting on hold. We’ve all been there and know all too well the frustration of hours spent in a loop of hold music meanwhile other important tasks are delayed. The amount of time people waste via phone calls to customer service is unacceptable and completely unnecessary in the 21st century.
But there’s already a better way: SMS and chat-based customer support. These powerful customer support tools combine low wait times with a positive experience that fits seamlessly into the lives of both customers and support staff. We all text and use chat apps, we’re comfortable with it, and SMS open rates are as high as 98% (compared to just 20% of all emails). Unlike phone conversations in the 21st century, messaging integrates into our lives naturally; we can control when and where we choose to engage with them, so why shouldn’t they work for customer support?
A recent Mitto survey found that there are major opportunities for brands to use chat apps for customer support: 57% of U.S. respondents indicated they have used chat apps for customer support, and the majority of respondents report the experience as positive. In Brazil, India, Nigeria, and China, over 70% of respondents report having used chat apps for customer support, and they report the customer support experience as overwhelmingly positive (64%+). This messaging-based asynchronous approach to customer support — which allows customers and support staff to multitask while giving/receiving support — will be a rising trend and affords every business the opportunity to expand their support function in a scalable way that can fit into our lives, not disrupt them.
An Empathetic Approach to Support
A modern customer support approach must take into consideration that the person seeking support is: 1) very busy, 2) reluctant to spend time engaging with customer service on a live call and, most importantly, 3) comfortable and savvy with messaging. People are also likely to view messages; most consumers opt-in to receive SMS notifications, making them a preferred format for brand engagement. Call-based customer support addresses one, not all three, of these customer considerations. Messaging-based support addresses all three. Additionally, SMS in particular has shed many concerns that it’s unsecure; the introduction of Verified SMS by Google helps consumers confirm the true identity of the business engaging with them, enabling a safer and trustworthy messaging experience.
This method of customer service will improve response times, reduce the need for expensive staffing and overall provide increased customer satisfaction and a streamlined process. Both parties — the customer and the service rep — benefit from a messaging-based support approach. Service support staff do not need to be ‘on the line’ to begin the conversation, while the consumer can go about their day after sending their message, and dive back into the conversation whenever convenient. This approach empowers customers to get assistance in ways that work with their schedules via channels they use frequently like Viber and WhatsApp — which have billions of users worldwide. With an average worldwide open rate of 98%, SMS is the most effective channel in driving positive customer experiences.
Flexibility for Customer and Agent
Data shows that 44% of people would rather spend 30 minutes cleaning a bathroom than waiting on hold for customer service. Messaging support, however, gives consumers the control and the space to check in when they’re ready. This approach is especially valuable for customer complaints: 78% of people would rather converse via text messaging than a phone call when disputing a resolution.
With asynchronous messaging via chat apps or SMS, everybody wins. Customers can come back to process their messages once or twice a day instead of bouncing back and forth between their priorities and working to resolve their issue with customer support. Additionally, this allows for a more flexible day for agents, who can manage multiple requests at the same time, increasing the number of customers supported.
We may be a long way from customer support being a truly enjoyable experience, however messaging may get us one step closer. An asynchronous messaging approach to customer service gives power back to the consumers and will soon become a core support channel for all brands.