The customer service case for messenger and chatbots

Customer experience is the latest business buzzword.

Brands everywhere are beginning to understand the importance of providing the most efficient and pain-free customer experience to steal a march on their competitors – and with the recent publication of KPMG’s Nunwood’s UK Customer Experience Excellence top 100, CX best practise has again found itself in the spotlight.

An integral part of good customer experience is providing the right mix of channels to fit in with customers’ lifestyles and preferences.

Traditionally, customer service has focused on voice. But our increasing reliance on technology means online channels such as webchat and Twitter are now essential tools in a brand’s digital customer experience arsenal.

And it doesn’t stop there, with businesses constantly innovating and integrating new methods of engagement into their strategy.

Messenger – the new kid on the block?

Messenger is set to be the next big thing in the digital transformation of customer experience. Using platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp allows brands to interact with customers in the same way they do with their friends, and offers a wealth of benefits for today’s digital natives.

First and foremost, these platforms deliver an efficient and reassuringly familiar interface for customers. Instead of having to switch applications and hunt around a company’s website to find their webchat, they can stay on a familiar platform that they likely use everyday.

This also means that notifications will be enabled, so they won’t have to sit around waiting for a reply.

Meanwhile the agent will benefit from having a history of previous interactions readily available, helping them gain a better understanding of the problem.

With channel bounce cited as one of the main frustrations of customer experience, having a 'log' of a customer’s history will be key to reducing call centre confusion.

Providing an intuitive and personal connection with customers will also help build brand loyalty. Even the use of emojis or text speak – where appropriate – will help show the personality behind your brand, and make customers feel as if their interaction is almost as familiar as a conversation with friends.

What’s clear is that both bots and messenger will come to form an integral part of the future of customer service

Over time, customers might begin building a relationship with a specific representative by choice. If they a willing to wait, it means they could be served by someone they like and trust – perhaps the holy grail of customer service.

Integrating messenger into the mix

But messenger is not yet widely used, and is still more likely to be an added extra rather than an integral part of a brand’s channel strategy.

And when it is offered, it is often used in a disjointed way – bolted onto other methods of customer interaction, which can leave customers frustrated as they repeat conversations they’ve already have over the phone.

It’s crucial, then, that customer experience experts start thinking about how to make the journey as easy for consumers as possible. So what do brands looking to integrate messenger into their CX offering need to consider?

Messenger best practice

As a relatively new CX platform, there are a number of best practice rules for messenger that brands will need to follow from the outset.

It is vital that agents on messenger are sufficiently empowered to be able to resolve a customer’s problem quickly and efficiently. With messenger, brands have an opportunity to engage with their customers in a much more meaningful way to steer them towards a resolution.

In doing this, they should take care to demonstrate the same empathy and engagement that they would through voice channels or webchat. Customer experience must remain paramount -  agents should be careful that they do not let the relative informality of the medium distract them from this.

It’s also important, when possible, to keep the conversation within the same channel.

Your customers will have specifically chosen to contact you on their preferred channel, so asking them to switch for your company’s convenience is annoying at the best of times and disrespectful at the worst.

If a customer has contacted you through messenger, don’t force them to go through a lengthy process to make contact next time. Avoiding channel bounce is one of the most important ways brands can optimise customer experience.

Chatbots – friend or foe? 

Chatbots are gaining in popularity, and have the potential to provide a novel way for brands to evolve how they use messenger as a channel. Intelligent bots can be useful in managing straightforward transactions - providing simple support and shepherding consumers through a relatively linear customer journey.

But bots can also go very wrong - brands need only think back to Microsoft’s now notorious experiment with their bot Tay.

While bots can be helpful in some situations, they certainly have their limitations. They aren’t yet intelligent enough to decipher tone, context, intentions or customer frustration. Until they can, businesses will need to ensure a human agent is on hand for when the 'computer says no'.

Current limitations aside, what’s clear is that both bots and messenger will come to form an integral part of the future of customer service. Brands will need to plan accordingly, and imbed the messenger platform at the heart of their strategy today to ensure they are set up to deliver the best possible customer service tomorrow. 

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