Customer Service Messaging is Here to Stay. Best Practices Make it Effective and Scalable.
In 2020, more companies added messaging channels to their customer service compared to the previous year, according to a Statista report. Also, during the coronavirus pandemic, social messaging channels became one of the favorite communication outlets for customers and companies alike, worldwide.
So, as a customer service channel, messaging is almost ubiquitous and here to stay.
But the channel comes with its own challenges. It is asynchronous, there is no control over the contact volume, agent responses are inconsistent, often incorrect, automation and integrations are patchy and basic. All this turns a preferred, cost-effective channel into an irritant. How can businesses know how to do messaging right? And how do they do it at scale knowing that new messaging channels are sprouting every day?
These best practices are here to help businesses provide messaging-based digital customer service at scale.
Best practice #1. Look to your customers. Are they messaging?
First, see if your current and future customers use messaging for customer service. You can conduct your own survey or look at third party research that already exist. Millennials and Gen Z use messaging far more than older consumers. If your industry is competitive, you might have to implement it just to “keep up with the Jones’s.”
Best practice #2. Triage the queries
How do you scale up customer service messaging when the tsunami hits?
One best practice would be to design and implement a framework to triage the queries by scoring them on factors such as the value of the customer (which should be easily available since the customer is already identified through the smartphone number) and the criticality of the query. Based on these scores, the business can determine the cadence of the interaction and the mode of service, whether through automated or human handling, or a blend of the two. A human-heavy mode would be more suitable for queries with higher scores and an automation-heavy mode would be more appropriate for lower-score queries. The business should make sure to match or exceed the cadence of the customer for high-score queries.
Best practice #3. Automate, but with a human safety net
You can handle messaging queries of low to medium complexity with a virtual assistant, but make sure that customers can escalate with full context to human-assisted messaging service. This will require a unified omnichannel customer engagement platform. We also suggest you make it obvious to the consumer how you are handling the conversation, whether through a chatbot or a human, to set the right expectation.
Best practice #4. Figure out operations
There are operational issues to revisit in the messaging world, which falls between chat and email in synchronicity.
- How do you measure metrics such as First-Contact Resolution (FCR), Time-to-Resolution (TTR), and Average Handle Time (AHT) in a continuous conversation stream?
- How do you assign workloads to agents?
- How do you maintain continuity of conversation across agents?
- What would be the Goldilocks cadence that keeps the customer happy while optimizing cost in the case of human-assisted messaging?
What’s an important messaging best practice goal? Don’t make consumers repeat information
The biggest hurdle to good customer experience for messaging customers was having to repeat the same information when they moved from channel to channel, according to a YouGov PLC-eGain survey on messaging for customer service.
Best practice #5. Back it up with knowledge
Just like any other channel, make sure you have a knowledge base and a guidance technology like AI reasoning behind your chatbot and human agents when you handle messages. Agent knowledgeability is the biggest CX hurdle that was mentioned by customers in a Forrester Consulting survey of 5000 consumers.
- 41% consumers complained in the above survey that different customer service agents give different answers
- 44% of US consumers and 39% of UK consumers in a messaging for CX survey found having to repeat information the biggest pain point
Best practice #6. Don’t put messaging in a silo
Conversations are even more incremental and fragmented in the messaging world. Moreover, the customer might switch to other messaging and non-messaging channels while resolving a problem. It is, therefore, critical for agents to get a 360-view of the conversations across all touchpoints for a smooth customer experience. The last thing the customer or the agents would want is yet another disconnected silo.
In addition, proactive messaging notifications need to be unified into the same infrastructure as “reactive” customer service messaging. Again, look for a solution provider that offers a unified omnichannel messaging and customer engagement platform.
Best practice #7. Customize for each messaging channel
Each messaging channel has a unique set of features—for example, pick lists, time picker controls, and rich links for Apple Business Chat, and rich controls such as quick replies in Facebook Messenger. Your customer engagement system should automatically detect the channel and customize responses for these touchpoints.
Branded, proactive customer service through messaging
Best practice #8. Align messaging with your brand
Messaging can be used to reinforce your brand. For example, if you front your automated responses with a chatbot, you could align its avatar with your brand. You could also match the tone and language of your content, and the speed of your responses to the brand personality. As an example, a retail brand targeted at millennials and Gen Z might use a more informal language with emojis and faster messaging cadence relative to a health insurance brand that is targeted at older age groups.
Best practice #9. Select the right solution partner
As said earlier, messaging should be part of a unified customer service strategy. Ask the important questions. Does the vendor offer a digital-first, unified omnichannel suite? Can they scale to support growth? Do they offer a solution with proven best-practice expertise or do they just vend technology? Do they offer a safe, risk-free way to try out the solution in a no-charge production pilot?
Best practice #10. Let your consumers know that they can message you
“Build and they will come.” This doesn’t work for anything else, it won’t for your messaging service. Publicize the service, including on other interaction channels. Since customer service messaging can often be used to deflect calls to self-service (e.g., an SMS message with a contextual link to self-service can be sent to a consumer on hold at the IVR, or a messaging conversation can be driven by a chatbot), the cost per interaction will be lower than that of a phone call, a win-win for you and the customer.