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How Social Media Messaging Will Change Customer Experience Faster Than We Realize

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Matt Wujciak
10/26/2020

mobile

There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it - Malcolm Gladwell

Every marketing team’s goal is to package a message effectively. Every customer service team’s goal is to deliver an irresistible experience. When a business does both well, enough times, they start to build customer loyalty. 

Luckily for both, there have never been more readily available tools to help customer-centric businesses accomplish these goals - driving consumer engagement, and building customer loyalty. The trick is to find the right ones - and “make it irresistible.”

The changing nature of social media

The typical user is now spending roughly 15% of their waking life using social platforms. In the past twelve months, social media adoption has jumped over 12%. 

In the covid era of work-from-home and social isolation, a drastic surge in social media is no surprise. But the sheer amount that social media is being used isn’t the only thing changing. How it’s being used is changing. 

According to the New York Times, this past month Facebook has begun to knit together the company’s three messaging apps, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, noting that more people were communicating privately online. That’s a marked difference from the early days of Facebook when users publicly posted to their digital “walls” - which now seems like an archaic concept. 

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People crave human connection, especially when it's harder to come by. And with improved messaging capabilities making connections easier than ever, it is perhaps no surprise that instant messaging has become yet another “new normal” in our daily lives. If you’ve ever chatted a co-worker on Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, or Slack to get a response faster than an email, or asked if it's a good time to call, you’ve already experienced (or contributed to) this shift in instant (digital) communication. 

Now, roughly 9 in 10 Gen Z respondents say that they use these messaging platforms (specifically WhatsApp) to communicate with their colleagues each week. Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, your colleagues want instant replies. And so do your customers

One recent study revealed a 450% surge in consumers messaging main street businesses, restaurants, and salons during the pandemic. The uptick in messaging friends, family members, and co-workers makes sense. But why are they messaging businesses? 

According to CCW Digital research, consumers identify accuracy of information from a brand and speed/efficiency as the top two factors in judging customer service. With a public tweet or Instagram post, the goal is visibility - retweets, likes, views, etc. With a private message, however, the goal is the exact same as the two primary factors that consumers demand from customer service and marketing departments - accuracy of information, and speed/efficiency

As Dan Gingiss, bestselling author, Forbes contributor, and former social media and CX leader at Discover, Mcdonald’s, and Humana recently told me: 

“We know that the #1 complaint customers have about service is having to repeat themselves.”

The nature of social media messaging taps into consumers’ top qualifications of good customer service, while alleviating their biggest concerns - calling brands, waiting on hold, being navigated to a new customer service agent or channel, only to find themselves repeating the information that was lost in the brand’s database, siloed channels, or CRM system. 

“It’s also convenient. I can post my question and then leave and then go about my day and check back later when it’s convenient for me. I don’t have to wait for somebody to pick up or stare at a screen where it says agent typing for five minutes. I just leave and come back when it’s convenient and I continue the conversation.” 

The new era of customer engagement

The nature of these platforms are virtually built for consumers and brands to interact.

“What’s interesting to me is that the vast majority of brands haven’t yet realized the marketing potential that’s resident in things like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Consumers are there day in and day out. In many cases, they’re there looking for people to explain things to them or guide them in their shopping behavior,” Michael Ricci, Vice President of Business Development/New Technologies at Sinch recently told me. 

According to CCW Digital research, more than 82% of consumers are now open to using chat technology – including mobile chat apps such as Viber, Facebook Messenger, Apple Businesses Chat, and of course, WhatsApp. 

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Marketers (and now customer service reps) are at the spearhead of brand awareness and promotion. If a message or notification is personalized, it’s far more likely to be welcomed than ignored. Timeliness and relevance for promotions, abandoned cart reminders, and loyalty offerings can make or break a user’s brand association. A full 360-degree view into preferences, activity, and habits help to create an engaging customer journey rather than a fragmented one.

One obvious, yet overlooked advantage of chat apps is that consumers already understand how to use them, because they already are, every day. In a 2020 Mobile Consumer Engagement Report, Sinch found that: “71% of consumers say they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ silence push notifications on their phones.” Meanwhile, “40% of consumers say they have at least 50 unread emails in their inboxes.” 

Yet, only 4% say they have 50 or more unread mobile messages.

If you want to lose a customer, email them and watch the message get flagged for spam (in an account they don’t frequently check). If you want to deliver a properly packaged direct message, communicate with them on a messaging channel they’re already using. 

Direct messaging through third-party apps

Looking to double down on the messaging market, Facebook announced last week that the company is now adding support for Instagram to its Messenger API. That will allow brands and businesses to handle Instagram messages through third-party apps. For the first time, they’ll also be able to connect live customer service reps with common requests or inquiries they receive through Instagram.

Brands have been able to respond to customers on Messenger since 2016. Given that Facebook is tying its services’ messaging features more closely together, it makes sense that it’s extending those functions to Instagram too.

The API will let brands handle messages from various aspects of Instagram, such as Shops and Stories, in one place. They’ll also be able to integrate Instagram into their CRM system. That will, for instance, allow them to see a customer’s order history alongside messages from them.

Messaging plays a central role in helping people connect with brands in personal ways through story replies, direct messages, and mentions. Over the last year, total daily conversations between people and businesses on Messenger and Instagram grew over 40 percent. For businesses, the opportunity to drive sales and improve customer satisfaction by having meaningful interactions with people on Instagram messaging (as just one messaging channel) is becoming an exponentially growing opportunity.

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"Instagram is a platform for community building, and we’ve long approached it as a way for us to connect with our customers in a place where they are already spending a lot of their time. With the newly launched Messenger API support for Instagram, we are now able to increase efficiency, drive even stronger user engagement, and easily maintain a two-way dialogue with our followers. This technology has helped us create a new pipeline for best-in-class service and allows for a direct line of communication that’s fast and easy for both customers and our internal team." - Michael Kors Marketing

The prevailing ways of doing business have changed. To engage customers and recover lost ground, companies need to take another look at the new business landscape, dictated by the behaviors consumers are adopting.

As Michael Ricci says,

“We’re seeing more and more brands wake up and understand that they must be in these conversational mediums and begin that dialogue with consumers... I think that the pandemic has accelerated it and it’s going to put a great deal of wind behind sales…”

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