Be honest, how often do you check to see if a message you’ve sent has been read because you didn’t get what you deemed as a quick enough response? We live in an age where we assume all our friends and family have read our messages instantly and will respond right away. No response basically means, ‘I don’t count.’ This may sound trivial, but this need for instant gratification, and how we engage with messaging platforms has huge implications for how we deliver services. Messaging, particularly in the developed world is still in its infancy when it comes to the features being offered in the chat environment. Increasingly, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the most important platforms in the developed world and they provide a gateway to businesses through APIs. The impact of this cannot be understated. Consumers can now connect with brands in a way they have never been able to before and can start asking questions directly.
In the past people were prepared to wait days for a response. Not anymore
Just like with family and friends, people now expect fast responses from the companies they buy from, but not only that, they want these responses via the channels they use the most. In the past people were prepared to wait days for a response. Not anymore. I had an insurance policy that I was apparently still paying premiums for, so I just sent them a WhatsApp message and told them there was an error. I got a response the same day asking for me to send a photo of the car ownership documents proving I didn’t own that car anymore and then, bam, it was done, they said they would reimburse me and cancelled the contract. That’s what I want, not ‘Dear Sir...’ via an email and sending forms through snail mail!
Seize the huge opportunity
Taking all of this into account, there is a huge opportunity for companies to rethink how they deliver services. If a customer has a question, how would they most like to ask, through email, through a phone call? Both have a tremendous amount of friction in regards to response time. Drafting an email still has huge formality in it, whereas with messaging we skip over all of that. How quickly will a business respond to an email? Couple of days? With a text message or a chat as a service delivery channel, our expectation is right away. I would be okay with hours. What is better, getting your answer in days or hours?
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa, Unsplash
There is more value creation for a business to adopt chat as a channel service. If we use Booking.com as a data point, for example, 50% of our messaging requests are already auto handled by techbots. We’ll also be rolling out other languages as it’s a very scalable channel. As a customer I don’t need a person to stop my insurance premium for my car. I don’t need a human to do it, I just need to get it done. Of course there are certain services that require you to talk to a person, say for example, mental health services. But one could argue that in the future it wouldn’t be that weird for people to talk to an automated service about issues like personal health. I would urge any business to invest in this area because it won’t be going away.
Scale of the challenge
Implementing messaging as a service if you put a human behind a messaging handle, that’s easy. It only requires a one on one relationship with service questions being asked. For certain - smaller - businesses that may be fine, but for many businesses it’s not the most scalable way to deliver a service. If you’re a hotel with 100 rooms you’re not going to manually respond to every message 24/7 even though you may have 150 check-ins a day that are all asking questions. You already have two staff on board that are going to do this. So you need to both enhance the customer experience and deliver services, faster and cheaper. This can be done though automation and it is better to start investing now.
Pre-sales and voice services
There is a clear territory for messaging channels, particularly around pre-sales questions and delivering voice services. Technically, it is more complicated when unstructured questions can be asked like, ‘Hi Booking, I have €100 to spend, where do you advise I go?’ It’s questionable whether businesses have enough data to allow for an intuitive interaction. No one has really solved this well so far but fast progress is being made using technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. If you look at voice controlled discovery that is delivered by Amazon Alexa for instance, or Google Home, they are new products and give a great indication of where we’re heading. It’s easy to say, ‘Hey Amazon, put toilet paper on my shopping list’, but what if a customer wants more from an interaction? This is currently the hard part Google, Facebook, Amazon and ourselves are trying to figure out.
Future of messaging platforms
Look no further than the emerging markets to see how messaging platforms are changing how consumers live their daily lives. WeChat has more than one billion monthly users, and they can do everything on the app from hailing a cab, paying a small business on the high street to ordering food or applying for a government license. All in one messaging environment. Messaging is very rich territory to deliver a holistic, functional, integrated and fast experience. It’s still a bit like the Wild West out there, with a race on to see who can deliver the best experience fastest, and satisfy consumers in a world where instant gratification is everything.
Read Pepijn's article on mobile dominance in emerging markets
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Did you know?
- The Guangdong province in China is trialling a function on instant messaging app WeChat that allows people to register for divorce
- 89% of social media messages to brands go ignored
- 90% of all today's data was created in the last two years alone - 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day