Is It Time to Get Social with Your Customers?

Did you know that in September 2018, WhatsApp surpassed Facebook in the number of monthly active users? WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook in 2014, is now Facebook's most popular app with 2 billion users in more than 180 countries.

Social messaging is a form of one-to-one or one-to-many communications conducted over an internet-based communications channel. The message is private since only participants can view it. Besides WhatsApp, other popular examples are Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram Messages, and Apple Messages for Business. These communications channels offer important benefits to consumers, including the following:

  • Private messaging platforms are available from the Internet upon registration.
  • Users do not require a cellular connection, so there are no data charges.
  • Private social messages can include a wide variety of sound and video enhancements.
  • From a practical standpoint, there are no limitations in text length.
  • Depending on the provider, private social messages are end-to-end encrypted.

While messages can originate and terminate over any device, it is ideal for smartphone users. According to the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of Americans own smartphones, and 53 percent own tablets. Private messaging platforms that embed rich text technology can deliver an amazing visual and audio experience over smartphones. This is how people communicate and do business today.

Why is social messaging important to contact centers?

If you intend to deliver a superior customer experience, then it is essential that your communication methods mesh with f your customers' and prospects' preferences.

Conversocial, recently acquired by Verint, was a pioneer in asynchronous messaging for business, introducing conversation threading, automated conversation distribution, Net Promoter Score and customer satisfaction measurement, and content queues, among other features, to better enable companies to engage via messaging channels at scale. Conversocial helps companies like British Airways, Hertz, Google, and Whirlpool build and scale relationships via social messaging.

Conversocial has conducted extensive market research on the public's communications preferences and habits. Its recent report, "The Conversocial State of CX Trends Report 2021," summarizes the results from interviews with 2,000 international consumers. The following findings should catch the attention of contact center and brand managers:

  • 81 percent of consumers expect enterprises to offer private messaging as a communications channel;
  • 69 percent claim to have used private messaging to connect with a company;
  • 84 percent expect companies to engage with them over private messaging channels;
  • 80 percent agreed with the statement, "I'd be more likely to make a purchase if I could use a messaging
  • channel to browse and ask questions before I buy;" and
  • Private messaging grew from 37 percent of total messages in 2016 to 73 percent in 2020.

Contact centers should embrace social messaging just because of the sheer power of the channel. You can communicate in ways that would be difficult with cellular-based chat or text messaging. With rich text technology, private social messages can embed forms, images, videos, and sound. Users can fill out credit card applications, hotel reservations, job applications, and related transactions, directly from their phones or computers. Sellers can send clear and precise images of product design, options, sizes, prices, and other information needed to complete purchases. Service desk workers can send illustrations and instructions to consumers trying to assemble the products they ordered online.

Social messaging is also effective for outbound communications. It is an inexpensive way to send confirmations, boarding passes, invitations, service alerts, changes to prices or policies, or exclusive offers. The possibilities are endless.

Finally, private social messaging can also include voice communications. In fact, with applications from Conversocial, customers can communicate over multiple channels during the same interaction. They can even request transfer to live agents if the artificial intelligence-infused bots can't resolve their issues.

What can contact centers do to get on board?

An important early-on decision is selecting which social messaging channels to support. Experts recommend at least three to four, which should include the most popular channels for each company's customer base. Market share rankings are readily available, and customers and prospects can easily subscribe to any of these channels at no cost. Once you have made your choices, you must display links to these channels on the customer service pages of your company websites.

You will have questions about staffing requirements, quality monitoring, reporting, budgeting, training, and technology. Your vendor should be able to answer those questions and demonstrate how the product will work in your environment. A key factor to consider is how well the social messaging platform integrates with other contact center applications. Your customer experience suites should function like an orchestra, with each application contributing to the performance of the other.

Dick Bucci is founder and chief analyst at Pelorus Associates (