In the days before websites and smartphones, standout customer service was all about connecting through conversation.
Whether we were speaking to a store assistant, a healthcare provider, or a bank teller, they’d pick up on our behavioral and conversational cues and shape their responses to our wants and needs. What’s more, they’d effortlessly pick up conversations we’d started days before – and let us know whether our order was in, or how far our loan application had progressed.
Now, with so many of our interactions with brands taking place online, messaging channels have the potential to replicate these two-way, personalized, trust-building conversations in a highly convenient way.
But are your customers really ready to ping your brand a message, just like they would their family and friends? Should you meet them on WhatsApp, in-app, or SMS? How can you make sure you’re respecting their boundaries and building their trust?
We polled 1,500 consumers across the US to better understand the modern customer’s appetite for, and expectations of, messaging interactions with brands.
You can read the report for full details of our findings. For now, I’ll share a few of the headline takeaways – including three golden rules for messaging success.
Yes. Your customers really want to message you.
On this fundamental point, the verdict of our survey is very clear. When your customers need help or information, most of them want – more than anything else – to send you a message.
Three in five (62%) of the customers we surveyed identified messaging channels as their preferred way to contact brands. Only a third (33%) would still prefer to call you during your business hours.
Your customers also want you to message them.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of customers are happy receiving one-way, functional communications like delivery notifications, while 75% would like to receive proactive communications that save them the hassle of reaching out themselves.
But this “green light” from customers comes with some conditions – general expectations around how brands will behave that should be viewed as rules for messaging success.
As we’ve seen, a sizable minority of customers still choose to make a phone call over typing a message. And when we asked respondents why they disliked using messages to contact a brand, 54% said they didn’t trust that they were communicating with a real person.
Crucially, it’s not that customers are against automated service; 72% said they’d be happy to talk to a chatbot if it immediately gave them the correct response.
What customers are actually looking for is trust. Trust that if they think they’re talking to a human, they are. Trust that your chatbot can meet their needs, and that if it can’t, they’ll be transferred to a human, or another channel, without needing to start their story from the top.
Customers also want to have confidence in the messages you send them, rather than worrying whether or not they’re genuinely from you. They’re most reassured by verification ticks and checkmarks, and by brands maintaining a consistent look and experience across their messaging channels.
Another great way to build trust? Put your customers firmly in the “driver’s seat.”
One in five customers who don’t currently use messaging channels say they would be more open to doing so if they had control over channel permissions, opt-outs, and the information shared.
When you give customers greater control, you reduce the risk that you’ll accidentally overstep their personal boundaries. This is a very real pain point for the modern customer, with 79% saying businesses are encroaching on their personal space with the volume of communications, alerts, and notifications sent to their phones.
You also give them the confidence to share more data with you – letting you deliver personalized experiences that drive ongoing loyalty and advocacy.
Four in five (83%) of customers want a choice of ways to contact brands. But just 50% were offered more than two digital messaging channels during their last interaction.
If brands are to use messaging channels to their full potential, they must be woven into flexible, omnichannel experiences. So customers can start their journeys however they choose, knowing they’ll be guided to the resolution they need in the fastest, most reassuring, most empowering way.
That means ensuring that even veteran messaging channels such as SMS offer modern, digital interactions. So the ping that reminds someone their credit card payment is due is also the ping that lets them reschedule the payment with a few taps.
Yes, the spaces in which customers and brands converse have multiplied into new, digital dimensions. But when someone sends your brand a message, they’re still looking for many of the same things they’re looking for when they approach a member of staff in a branch, clinic, or store. They want to trust the person they’re talking to, they want to feel in control, and they want to choose what’s right for them.
Our report shares even more of our findings, answering questions like:
It also explores what brands need to deliver the omnichannel messaging experiences customers now expect – and the growing role of Enterprise Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) solutions.
If you’re ready to dive deeper, download the report here.