One of the emerging trends in customer service best practices include communication through instant messaging services such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Line and website-integrated live chat. Many companies including Nordstrom and Zalando have started actively interacting with their clients through instant messaging service. Instant messaging offers unprecedented levels of flexibility and easy communication. There has been a dramatic shift in the way clients want to communicate with the brand: They want the interactions to take place on their turf, in a flexible and casual manner as opposed to overly-formal medium of communication. Being put on hold for an extended period of time or waiting for e-mail replies have become obsolete practices and clients are wary of putting themselves in those situations. At the same time, they want to ensure that their communication remains private. Instant messaging or texting has the potential to drastically change the way brands and consumers interact and this is gaining popularity as more and more companies jump on the bandwagon.

Why Businesses Need to Embrace the Trend

According to Forrester Research more than 45 percent of the North American online population actively uses instant messaging, at least once a week, with around 90 percent using the IM service on daily basis. Additionally, it has been estimated that 36 percent of mobile owners use an instant messaging app on their phone. This, essentially represents a huge proportion of customers for any company trying to interact with them. It only makes sense for companies to communicate with clients where they are most active and interactive.

It Offers Convenience

Instant messaging can be extremely convenient for both CS staff and the clients. A major proportion of written correspondence takes place through texts these days, people feel comfortable communicating and interacting through texts, which is exactly why companies need to capitalize this cultural trait and build a sizable presence in this domain. In the age of digital media, companies find themselves inches away from hitting the goldmine in the form of instant messaging for three main reasons:

  1. Instant messaging offers personalized customer service experience, without exponentially raising costs for companies. Direct, one-on-one contact with clients tends to have a strong impact compared to other channels accessible to companies. Individual requests and needs can be identified and fulfilled instantaneously.
  2. Real time communication ensures that there is no unnecessary delay or long waiting period, which in retail, mostly leads to customers dropping the purchase and moving on to other websites. E-commerce websites often lose business because of their inability to answer client queries in a regular manner.
  3. For e-commerce platforms, instant messaging can go beyond customer service and actually help brands carry out transactions through IM service. Businesses can allow clients to place orders directly through Whatsapp, a service that would be desirable for people who struggle with technology and complicated check-out procedures on websites. CSRs can take online orders after clients select the products from digital catalogues. Same holds true for problem-solving and complaint resolution: SMS triggered response from the service teams could go a long way to enhance the overall service experience.

It is cost effective

Customer service departments in the past have had to bear enormous costs pertaining to maintaining a call center, sophisticated phone equipment and workforce payroll to take calls or answer emails. Instant messaging does not require a lot of investment and the operational cost is also reasonable. CSRs can work in a flexible manner, even from home, which would allow companies to save costs and offer greater flexibility to the workforce. Also there is no need to hire dedicated CSRs to communicate through IM with clients, since the responsibility can be passed on to the sales staff in the store or the agents already working on other communication channels.

The Use of In-App Features to Enhance Customer Experience

If clients are regularly interacting with CSRs through IM apps, it would pave the way for brands to effectively utilize the in-app features in order to facilitate clients. Digital catalogues can be shared, in addition to sharing photos of new products/services. CSRs could also use location feature to determine the exact location of a client, which would ensure swift and safe delivery of products.

It Helps in Customer Relationship Management

Two-way messaging has a personal touch to it, which makes it extremely easy to approach clients in an informal manner. Such a conversation helps clients open up about their concerns and complaints, while it allows CSRs to find solutions in real-time. Communication through IM can potentially help CSRs foster a relationship on a personal level which entails to brand loyalty, increased sales and profits for a business.

It Offers a Platform for Marketing and Advertisement

IM communication offers an avenue for brands to directly advertise and promote their products and services. Many apps allow users to broadcast messages to a large audience, a feature that could be invaluable for companies trying to get a word out about new products or services. Moreover, advertisements can also be targeted towards specific clients who might have purchased a similar product in the past. Recommendations can be made based on personal taste and preference, once there is a strong relationship between CSRs and the customers.