Instant Messaging has taken over person-to-person communication - globally there are over 3 billion messaging app users. Customers are using instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE and others to contact businesses too. We call this Business Messaging. This article will explain how Business Messaging will change customer conversations and your organizations. As well as how companies can adapt to this change by selecting Business Messenger Software to handle the change.
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Communication In a World Gone Messaging
Since the advent of the internet in the early 2000s communication has changed more than any other time in human history. Email, social media, SMS and now messaging apps have all unlocked new possibilities and changed the way we talk to each other.
Instant messaging, in particular, has almost completely dominated interactions between close friends and family. Becoming the communication method of choice for everything from casual conversations to organizing events to workplace communication.
Although messaging between businesses and customers is on the rise, it’s not as popular as in our personal lives. However, that is all about to change. In this article, we’ll examine what that change is going to look like and how to prepare.
Instant Messaging Changed The Way We Communicate
With our friends and family, we’ve moved from calls, text & email to using instant messaging. In the midst read receipts, acronyms, emojis as well as the overall lack of formality in messaging have changed our communication style and tact.
With read receipts, we know exactly when someone has read our message. People even take being left on read without a reply as a slight. In turn, replying to messages fast has become almost an obligation in our society, forcing conversations to speed up.
The expectation of speedy responses has resulted in generally short messages with little to no formality. Spelling errors, acronyms, and emojis have all taken the place of long multi-paragraph descriptions we expect from carefully written emails.
Today, email accounts for the bulk of sales and support interactions between customers and companies. Adapting to instant messaging is going to be easier said than done for companies that optimized their organizations and staff to sell and support over email
Business Messaging Is Instant Messaging For Business
Interestingly, many companies have already embraced what we like to call Business Messaging. The idea of communicating with customers over messaging app business accounts like WhatsApp Business API & LINE Official Accounts.
However, simply adopting the channel of Business Messaging isn’t enough to meet the expectations customers have when sending an instant message to a company. Internal company workflows, operations, and structures will need to change too.
Since a customer's expectation largely comes from instant messaging their friends, they’ll be looking for fast responses, emojis, and even gifs. Overperforming in this environment isn’t just solving a problem quickly but having an entertaining chat too.
These expectations are going to make things difficult for businesses who ask customers to submit a ticket on their website, wait 24 hours for a response then send them a 500-word email explaining why the problem occurred. Customers will be disappointed.
Despite the challenges, businesses that adapt to the new reality of Business Messaging stand to reap massive benefits. The familiar interface of instant messaging causes customers to put their guards down and open up more than they would otherwise.
To evaluate this opportunity it’s important to compare how the characteristics of our personal chats translate to business conversations. How the responsiveness, lack of formality as well as the back and forth nature of chats will affect sales and support.
Business Messaging Takes Us Back To The Future
As businesses evolved from small shops to big box stores to eCommerce, something important was lost - personal service. The days where you can walk into a shop, explain what you’re trying to do, and receive an intelligent recommendation fast are long gone.
Or are they? Business Messaging will take us back to how it all started. Allowing businesses no matter where they are, to have the same type of high-quality conversations with their customers as the manager of a small shop in a local town.
Why is this possible? Because even in our personal relationships, the bulk of the most intimate conversations take place over messaging apps. Digital conversations are no longer the fallback channel for relationship building they are the primary medium.
Business Messaging: Customer Service With Humanity
There are companies out there that excel at customer service. But for the majority, the customer experience involves a bunch of ungainly disconnected interactions across multiple agents, each asking you to tell them about your issue over again.
It’s easy to blame agents, but the reality is that the history of customer interactions is often siloed across tickets. Getting a full picture of a customer is difficult to do even for the best of agents. Business Messaging has the potential to make this a lot simpler.
Conversations over instant messaging are linear and aren’t threaded by subject like emails. Simply scrolling up is enough to recognize a customer, understand their context, and make an informed decision about the best way to help them.
Instant messaging also increases the amount of customers agents can help at the same time. Unlike phone calls, messaging app interactions do not need to be scheduled and conversations can proceed without the pressure to have the shortest possible call times.
Last but not least, these conversations are simply more intimate. Allowing agents to build a rapport just like salespeople do. A game-changer in situations where the agent simply cannot solve the problem, only explain why it occurred and present alternatives.
Companies like Alfa Bank and Bupa Australia are already using WhatsApp Business API to provide customer service in industries where service is the differentiator. It’s only a matter of time until Business Messaging moves into other industries as well.
Business Messenging: Opening Doors For Sales
Conducting sales for an online business isn’t exactly a cakewalk. A prospective customer will likely fill out a lead form on your website and the chances you have for getting a meeting largely depend on how fast you can reply to that first interaction.
If a salesperson responds by email even an hour or two after, that email could be buried or ignored. Imagine the amount of sales emails that are ignored on a daily basis? Business Messaging has the potential to completely transform this first interaction.
If someone contacts your business via instant messaging, the salespersons response will create a push notification on the prospects phone. The notifications make the message difficult to ignore and even provides a preview of the message.
To see what kind of effect this could have, let’s look at SMS. 98% of SMS messages are opened within 3 minutes. This is just an indicator because having sales conversations over SMS isn’t exactly in vogue, but it’s not the same story for Business Messaging.
In fact, 64% of customers said they prefer instant messaging a company than calling. Although it could be argued that instant messaging will make salespeople even more annoying. Once notified the prospect has the power to proceed at their own pace.
And unlike phone calls and emails, this conversation can be picked back up at any time, because it is so easy just to scroll up and review the context of the entire conversation. Allowing salespeople to handle more prospects just like customer service agents.
In short, Business Messaging stands to revolutionize the one to one conversations customers have with salespeople and customer service agents. But as with any revolution, there needs to be some breaking before we can build again.
Adapting With Business Messenger Software
Although phone calls and emails have their downsides, they are stunningly easy to manage from an operations point of view. Each function and employee can have their own email handle and phone number, there isn’t much coordination required.
This flexibility exists because these channels are not controlled by companies and have very few rules and restrictions. The reality is quite difficult for the instant messaging channel that are used for Business Messaging.
Messaging App companies have rules, rules about how many accounts companies can create, how they can use those accounts, and ultimately their ability to continue using those accounts in the future.
One of the more difficult changes to adapt to is the one account per brand rule. Facebook for example, only allows one WhatsApp Business Account per brand per country. Requiring companies to conduct all sales and support chat from that one account.
Unifying Sales, Support Requires A Business Messenger
The challenges for adopting Business Messaging exist both on a workflow and an organizational level. Although the use cases of sales and support remain the same, having all conversations through one account is something that has never been done.
This change should come easier for customer service teams. There are plenty of companies out there doing customer service through one phone number and one email. However for sales teams, this will be a much bigger challenge.
Salespeople generally interact with prospects using their own dedicated email handle and phone number. And the Sales CRMs in place today enable sales workflows assuming this channel separation. There are several issues with using instant messaging for sales.
Companies will need to switch to Business Messenger Software that enables all the same workflows salespeople are using now, to operate across a single channel which is also shared with the support team. Luckily that is for software companies to solve.
The other problem is fighting out who in the organization is going to own all these Business Messaging accounts. And it’s not only sales and support that will use these channels, transactional notifications like one time pins will need to use them too.
Predicting who will own these channels in any given company is beyond the scope of this writing. However, because transactional notifications require the tightest integration to company systems, it is likely that engineering teams will end up owning the accounts.
Now that we’ve covered the workflow and the organizational issue, there is one last thing to discuss. The Business Messenger a company chooses will need to be able to support the majority of the instant messaging channels a company uses.
A Business Messenger Should Support All Channels
By now, people are used to instant messaging and they generally use 1 or 2 instant messengers on a day to day basis. So why does the Business Messenger Software a company chooses need to support a multitude of channels?
The answer is rather simple. Although a person habitually uses few instant messaging apps, the instant messaging app they used depends highly on the region they’re in and who they are messaging. Larger companies will need to support more channels.
This means companies won’t be able to adopt a WhatsApp CRM to message their customers of WhatsApp and a WeChat CRM to use their WeChat Official Account. They’ll need one Business Messenger to support all instant messaging channels.
Last but not least, since most instant messaging business accounts do not let companies send the first message to customers. Enabling a customers favorite instant messaging app is practically a prerequisite to see the benefits of Business Messaging.
Business Messaging: Infographic
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