To create effective messaging strategies for engaging a global customer base, you must first understand your business goals and the technical capabilities you have at hand, both in terms of the business messaging app you're using and the API you're leveraging.
The following steps can help you gain that understanding and learn how to make the best use of this new approach to communicating with customers.
1. Know How and Where Your Customers Use Messaging
Direct messaging is a global trend—Facebook Messenger alone boasts an audience of over 1.3 billion people. Much of the messaging taking place on Messenger is between family and friends, but in recent years, messaging for customer support has increased in importance. According to a Facebook study, 65% of millennials, 65% of Gen Xers, and 63% of baby boomers would now prefer to message a business for customer support than call a customer service phone line.
How much messaging customers use and the apps they favor will likely depend on the demographics being targeted. The most common messaging apps have different penetrations in different markets. Facebook Messenger predominates in the U.S., Line is popular in Asia, and WhatsApp is used in more than 100 countries globally. Be sure to do your due diligence to understand which messaging app APIs you'll need to reach the broadest audience.
2. Identify Use Cases for Customer Messaging
The use cases for customer messaging through apps go far beyond simple marketing. Mass messages could be considered spamming, so it's wise to be cautious about contacting customers that way. Businesses should collect detailed preferences from customers and make sure that they are compliant with any regulatory requirements such as GDPR before sending pure advertising messages.
As an alternative to sending interruptive messages, place ads on the app's home screen. And messages don't have to stand alone: Because messaging apps often provide read receipts, businesses should build a process for following up to encourage action by consumers who read messages but don't respond.
In addition to marketing, messaging apps are effective for providing customer support. Businesses can send automated reminders and confirmation messages. Chatbots can handle relatively straightforward issues, such as processing payments and answering delivery questions, any time of the day or night, as long as there's a way to escalate to a live person if the issue is too complex.
There may also be special features on a particular platform you may want to use, such as the popular stickers on Line.
Analytics insights can help you decide whether the next step is to build out messaging on another platform or to extend the functionality provided through your current messaging app.
3. Choose Technology to Support Use Cases
Once a business has identified the goals of its messaging, the technology team can look for a technical solution to make satisfying those goals easier. Businesses need to understand the capabilities and services the messaging platform supports in order to determine the feasibility of each use case as well as the support offered by communications providers.
Not all communications vendors will support all messaging platforms. Of course, you'll want to start with a tool that supports the business messaging app used by most of the business's customers. Ideally, the business should use a messaging API that supports multiple messaging platforms. This will make it easier for developers to create applications that work on multiple platforms and extend services to the global customer base.
4. Understand the Impact on Customer Support Representatives
Using messaging and chatbots won't eliminate the need for live agents to provide customer support. Indeed, it can expand the need, as chatbots enable a larger number of conversations to occur at the same time. Agents need to be able to smoothly pick up conversations and transactions from apps to avoid frustrating customers by asking for information that was already provided to them via messaging. By providing proper training and giving careful attention to the processes involved in handing off these customer support requests, you can ensure that your agents are properly equipped to resolve these queries.
It's also important to consider the human dimension when taking advantage of chatbots. As HR Technologist pointed out, agents may have concerns that chatbots could replace them altogether, eliminating their jobs. With this in mind, it's a good idea to identify beforehand which people, tools, and processes will be impacted by chatbot adoption. That way, you can create a plan that proactively addresses the resulting changes.
Customers may also expect even faster service once chatbots are on board. While the nature of messaging doesn't require an immediate reply, consumers still expect fairly rapid responses to customer support messages. According to CustomerThink, some messaging apps even encourage this practice. For example, Facebook Messenger awards rapid responders a special badge that appears on their pages. As a result, you may also want to factor in the impact such expectations have on staffing patterns in your customer support team.
5. Measure the Results
Businesses should start with small experiments and measure their effectiveness to develop their mobile customer messaging strategies further. Mobile analytics are important for understanding how customers interact with your business through messaging and deciding the best way to expand those efforts. Analytics insights can help you decide whether the next step is to build out messaging on another platform or to extend the functionality provided through your current messaging app.
Messaging apps are a new channel for businesses to communicate with customers, so expect challenges and possibly some missteps as you begin implementing customer messaging on these apps. As the technology becomes better understood, however, it's sure to become a vital part of a digital transformation-driven customer messaging strategy.