At first glance, using messaging for customer service may seem like just another version of offering live chat. But messaging is so much better than live chat, says today’s guest, Joshua March, co-founder and CEO of Conversocial, and author of the recent book Message Me. There’s a good reason why messaging has quickly overtaken other forms of customer care, including the other trend of AI-based live chat.
A few years ago companies stupidly started sending customers to public places like Twitter if they wanted fast resolution to problems. Try to call customer support? Navigate an annoyingly long list of questions then wait on hold for half an hour before getting a real person. E-mail them? Odds are, you never heard back. But go Tweet your complaint and suddenly magic happened. They reached out to you quickly and tried really hard to solve your problem.
I say it was stupid because it did the opposite of what companies should be doing: it encouraged people to blast them publicly.
Live Chat to the Rescue?
Live chat had the potential to solve that problem, but companies made the same mistake they had with telephone based customer care: they under-resourced it. So you end up with these sorts of live chat problems, which are still common:
You go to the Live Chat box only to discover that it isn’t actually live.
You are asked to repeat information you already entered in the pre-chat box.
You ask a question, and then wait… and wait… and wait.
You get bored while waiting, so you flip to another screen to do some work, only to finally realize that this is one of the sites that doesn’t make as sound when the rep answers you, so when you flip back over you discover that the rep has disconnected the call because you took too long to answer. (Why is it OK for me to wait several minutes for them, but not the reverse?)
You discover, as happens far too frequently in my recent experiences with Microsoft, that their system is glitchy, so it cuts you off inadvertently. Then they scold you (on your next attempt) for having switched to another window instead of being willing to sit and stare at the screen while waiting for them. Seriously??
AI should be helping make the live chat experience better, but so far it isn’t. Not only does it still suffer from the problems noted above, but we customers are training the bots and, so far, getting little value in return. See if you can spot the live chat mistakes I discussed in this post. Here are some more live chat mistakes I’ve seen recently.
Advantages of Messaging Over Live Chat
March says that messaging is the answer to the live chat woes. Messaging offers the following benefits:
- People are used to messaging; they do it all day long.
- It works better than live chat on tiny phone screens.
- You don’t have to worry about losing the whole conversation if the customer’s or company’s internet connection dies.
- It is easier to make a seamless hand off from an AI bot that has been asked something it can’t answer to a human customer support rep.
- People aren’t expecting instant answers. (I think that will become less true very quickly. When you text for support, you want a quick answer, both to your initial message and to the follow up questions. It’s not the same as texting a friend, where you know that s/he might be busy and not able to continue the conversation right now.)
Build It & They Will Come
According to March, the evidence clearly shows that when customers know about a messaging option for support they flock to it. And, he says, the costs of resolving a customer problem through messaging are lower than through other means.
That said, cost measurement and ROI calculations are tough. In the episode we discuss some of the challenges, such as knowing when a case can be considered “resolved”, and how to measure the time to resolution in a messaging environment.
I suspect that despite the challenges of proving ROI, customer demand will drive almost all companies to start offering messaging based customer service. As someone of the generation that can touch type on a keyboard way faster than I can thumb type on a phone, I tend not to think messaging as my first choice. But I realize that more and more it is what I’ve been using, at least in situations where I dont need an immediate answer.
Immediacy is where live chat should be able to shine over messaging. But companies seem to be making the same mistakes with live chat that they did with phones: it is under-staffed, staff are under-trained on product features and solutions, and the technology often fails. Despite the hype, AI bots are still a long way from being able to resolve those problems.
My advice? Start investing in messaging for customer service.
Also Discussed in This Episode
- The blending of AI-powered bots for the easy questions and humans for more complex cases.
- How to train AI, and when March thinks it will actually become truly useful for customer service.
- The soon-to-be seen shift from Facebook being the dominant platform for customer support messaging to WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat.
I have to admit that I was prepared not to like March’s book, Message Me. I figured it would be just another business owner flogging his company’s services. But I was impressed. (Which is why I agreed to have him on the show.) Listen to this interview. Then go read the book. And let me know what you think: will messaging replace live chat?
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