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Just a few years ago instant messaging (IM) was viewed as an optional feature, only utilised by the most forward-thinking contact centres. Today it’s an indispensable channel in any brand communication strategy. What has led to IM’s popularity and how is it changing customer experience (CX)?
IM is on the rise. According to Ofcom in the 12 months leading up to February 2020, 52% more online adults were using online messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as opposed to SMS and email. The 20 billion messages sent between customers and businesses every month on Facebook messenger alone demand a strategic response. Read on to learn how brands are adding instant messaging (IM) to their communications strategy for maximum effect.
In 2007 – the year Apple introduced the iPhone – the number of texts sent in the United Kingdom exceeded predictions significantly. And that monumental rise in usage came at a time when texts were painstakingly typed out by “multi-tapping” a set of nine keys. People are clearly drawn to something about text messages.
Instant messaging (IM) brings multiple benefits, especially as part of a broader brand communication strategy. It provides a rich user experience, with searchable histories plus voice and video options. Agents, on their side, have numerous options available to them which make their jobs easier. And contact centre managers enjoy easier planning and lower costs.
IM is particularly popular among younger users, 85% of whom send online text messages on a daily basis. For brands that want to keep up with the times, this is a strong sign that this trend is only beginning.
Customers want to resolve their problems with as little effort as possible, which is why the customer effort score (CES) is such a useful KPI. When customers are asked what they find most frustrating about customer service, they list waiting times that are too long as their main issue. 37% of those who have been in touch with an organisation for customer service in the past four months report they were made to wait too long.
Furthermore, younger people tend to be more impatient than older people here. According to a recent annual report carried out by the UK’s Contact Centre Management Agency (CCMA) – those aged 18-24 are almost twice as likely to be unhappy with wait times compared with those aged over 65 – and younger people are much more likely to abandon a phone call here as a result. IM eliminates or reduces each of these pain points.
IM sidesteps a traditional interactive voice response (IVR) system, so there’s no “automatic telephone system” to stand between customers and contact centre agents. The added flexibility which IM affords means extended service hours, often around the clock. There’s little or no need for repetition (on either side) because both customer and agent have a written history. Plus, with an IM conversation, there’s no such thing as waiting on hold; there’s simply a break between messages. Timewise, a customer’s experience texting with an agent is about what they experience texting with friends and family.
IM also offers a capability that greatly speeds up requests: customers can attach files. IM enables customers to attach screenshots, error messages, photos, even videos. They can do so in their own time, without feeling rushed. Agents can respond with their own attachments: a marked-up screenshot, visual instructions or an instructional video (or link). Agents can also send passwords or one-time codes much more easily than by phone, and with a lower risk of human error on both sides.
IM users are sending one other kind of attachment as well – voice messages. Customers record an audio message and send it just as they would a text message, thus combining the ease of speaking with the convenience of the IM format. The reverse is possible too.
Customer and agent experience are closely linked, so what helps one is likely to benefit the other. Just like customers, agents want the ability to share images. In fact, agents can take this one step further. With IM, agents can reuse answers from previous requests, with no loss in quality (and in fact, with more consistency.) And the written format of IM also eliminates some of the biggest difficulties for agents, such as poor phone connections, unfamiliar accents or agitated customers.
The benefits of IM for contact centres extend beyond better agent experience. The asynchronous nature of IM enables agents to handle multiple chats at the same time, which leads to significant cost savings, makes work more efficient and easier to plan, and greatly mitigates temporary peaks of traffic. Partial automation of IM responses can bring further savings. For example, customers may receive an automated response with the option of ending a request if their questions are resolved, or waiting for a human agent.
The recent AI for CX report, carried out by UK research firm, Davies Hickman, and commissioned by Odigo, shows how 70% of UK organisations see the benefits of AI and NLP to increase overall CSAT. When agents and bots work together, speed and personalisation improve. This way contact centres and customers both come out ahead.
So why are customers, agents and brands all finding value in this communication strategy? The answer is that, in many situations, texting simply works better than talking. It’s faster and clearer, especially when leveraging visual capabilities. Brands that fully embrace IM as part of their communication strategy are going to be better positioned to meet their customers’ expectations.
Would you like to know how an Odigo Contact Centre as a Service solution can help integrate IM into your overall brand communication strategy?