How to Use Social and Private Messaging in Digital Customer Service

The need for companies to have a command of private and social messaging channels to drive speed and ease in digital-first customer service has never been greater.

Verint's global survey shows that social messaging is a key area for investment moving forward, with 39 percent of companies surveyed planning to boost their spending on social messaging and customer service for digital-first initiatives. In addition, our State of CX Trends survey found that 69 percent of customers used private messaging channels to engage with companies in 2020—a 13 percent increase from 2019.

While SMS is the grandmother of all messaging channels, texting has matured to include other private messaging channels from the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, and more.

Prevalence of Contacting Companies Via Private Messaging

Our research shows that messaging channel engagement is associated with an 89 percent customer retention rate. This should put private messaging at the forefront of customer engagement strategies.

Customers want to text with businesses the same way they would friends or family members and at the moment that is convenient for them. People don't always have the time to call, craft an email, or wait for a live-chat prompt. Messaging channels can be live, but better, they can be asynchronous, at the customer's pace, not the business' pace.

The best way to deliver optimal customer experience is to make your business available on the customers' channels of choice. Some of the biggest companies in the world (Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Tencent) are investing in making private and social messaging products great. These are huge companies making massive bets that messaging is the way of the future, and they're investing in making these experiences amazing.

Google and Apple have gotten onto the messaging game with variations for their mobile operating systems and beyond—Google's Business Messages, for example, works across Android and iOS, and Apple Messages for Business for iOS users. And the list goes on: Tencent's WeChat is the dominant messaging platform in mainland China.

Transforming the Digital Customer Experience Through Messaging and Automation

Volaris Airlines is an excellent example of how messaging and automation play a crucial role in improving the digital customer experience while saving money. As a low-cost airline, Volaris Airlines was looking for a way to deliver a great customer experience to its passengers while keeping operational costs down. In just 18 months of using its digital-first engagement platform, messaging channels outperformed every other customer-facing avenue in its contact center, with lower cost-to-serve and higher Net Promoter scores than both live chat and voice.

For Volaris, automation was key to making its customer engagement strategy come to life, with an average of 78 percent of monthly inbound messaging conversations being resolved by a bot without human agent assistance.

For any organization looking to integrate third-party messaging into the customer service channel mix, the goal is to have a united front, with one workforce to engage via the customer's chosen channel. In the past, the phone team, email team, and social messaging team relied on point solutions that operated in data siloes. The downside was not having the right infrastructure or follow-through to gather the data and respond to customer needs in their preferred channels.

Boosting Messaging Performance by Combining Bots and Human Agents

Messaging channels perform at their best and yield optimal experience and return on investment when organizations consider colocation of bots and human agents within the channel, but this is just the start of a smart messaging strategy.

Here are four best practices:

1. Bi-directional handoffs -- The art of customer service messaging requires a platform that can synch both humans and bots. A platform that can seamlessly hand off customer interactions from bot to agent and back again is critical.

2. Human-bot collaboration and training -- Bots and human agents co-existing on a channel has enormous benefits, but doing it right is the differentiating factor. When a bot hands off information to an agent, that agent needs to be able to see the conversation history, including what the bot did or did not do and why the conversation got handed off to the agent. Customers expect the agents to already know what they told the bots. Everyone in the business must receive base-level training and understanding of what precisely a bot can and cannot do on messaging channels.

3. Eliciting context -- Messaging is wildly visual. Agent need to know that customers &"hearted" their messages so they can "heart" them back. Having a sense of what things look like on the customer end is essential. This means being able to see image attachments and emojis. When you strip those things away, the agent is missing an important part of the conversation. Companies must understand and adopt the unique features that each channel offers.

4. Measuring apples to apples -- With messaging, performance measurement requires metrics tied to the specific way each channel works. Comparing messaging vs. live chat performance is like comparing apples to oranges. You can't treat one like the other or you will get misguided insights and data. The key having software and insights that accurately capture the nuances of interactions on messaging to allow you to compare and contrast with your other channels.

Stepping up your customer experience game comes at a critical time. Private messaging channels allow companies to offer seamless customer experiences centered around asynchronous conversations between consumers and companies critical to today's digital-first era.

Jason Valdina is senior director of digital-first engagement channel strategy at Verint.