The Age of Customer Service Messaging is Here

Various messaging apps including live chat, Facebook messenger and iOS.

Messaging is the hottest new trend in customer service. Here’s what it is, why it’s become so popular, and how automation coupled with messaging can help improve your customer support.

What is customer service messaging?

Customer service messaging is a way for customers to communicate with customer support teams via messaging channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WeChat and more.

Customer service messaging has exploded in recent years. According to Zendesk"Nearly a third of customers messaged a company for the first time in 2020, and 74 percent of those say they will continue to do so."

Businesses and customers alike are gravitating toward messaging channels for a number of reasons. For customers, they’re happy to use channels they’re already familiar with and be able to message businesses at their own pace, without needing to wait for an instant answer in a live chat or phone queue. 

For businesses, the benefits of using messaging for customer service are similar. This asynchronous way of communicating means that some of the burden is lifted from customer support teams to answer immediately. And, if a company uses a CRM like Zendesk or Freshworks, messages across all channels can be funneled into the CRM, giving agents a way to see all customer conversations in one place. 

The rise of customer service messaging

The pandemic dramatically accelerated the adoption of messaging in customer service. As everyone adjusted to doing business online, customer service wait times skyrocketed. Frustrated customers began to realize the benefit of sending a message and waiting for a response at a later time, especially if they didn’t need instant answers. 

Zendesk reported that over the course of the pandemic:

  • WhatsApp tickets jumped 219%
  • SMS/text tickets went up 30%
  • Live chat tickets went up 27%
  • Social media tickets went up 26%
  • Email/webform tickets went up 16%
  • Phone tickets went up 8%

Now, more than two years down the road, businesses and customers have both adjusted to this new way of doing business, and it seems like messaging is here to stay. People like the ability to contact companies the same way they would their friends and family: via messaging apps that contain all the context of previous conversations and don’t necessarily need to be answered immediately. Asynchronous messaging has become a clear trend in customer service. 

Synchronous vs. asynchronous customer service messaging

Synchronous messaging is what you might think of as traditional live chat customer service. Two parties, the customer and the customer support agent, are present at the same time and speaking to each other concurrently. 

Asynchronous messaging, however, is a conversation that doesn’t necessarily need to play out in real-time. The customer and agent can both send messages at their convenience, and can refer back to previous messages to gain context of what was previously said.

This mirrors the way people are already using messaging. For example, on Wednesday you might message a friend on Facebook Messenger to say that you made reservations at your favorite restaurant for Friday at 7pm. Your friend likely responded on Wednesday to confirm that they'd meet you there. But on Friday at 6pm, they can navigate back to that conversation, get the address for the restaurant and let you know they're on their way. If you think about it, this asynchronous method of communicating has become the default in this digital age. 

Both forms of communication have their time and place, but giving customers the option to chat asynchronously when their issue isn’t urgent can make a world of difference for the customer experience. In fact, messaging apps have the highest customer satisfaction rating of any channel, with a CSAT of 98%. Businesses can take advantage of this by offering both synchronous and asynchronous methods of contacting their customer support. 

Automating messaging for customer service

Clearly customers and companies are both eager to use messaging, however, companies haven’t always had the tools to use messaging at scale. In the past, social media managers would have to forward requests received in a Tweet or an Instagram DM to the appropriate customer support agent, and agents would be in and out of different inboxes for email, live chat, and messaging requests. But no longer. 

Customer messaging software within a CRM, like Freshchat or Sunshine Conversations, allows agents to manage all customer conversations in one place. While this is a great starting point when offering messaging, leading companies are now using automation to further streamline their customer support. 

When you think automation, you might think chatbots, but modern customer service automation is so much more. Of course, automation platforms that use natural language processing (NLP) to understand and respond to customers have a similar purpose to chatbots. Automation platforms, like Ultimate,  can send responses almost instantaneously to either gather more information from the customer or sometimes even resolve requests. This is a great way to take the simple requests off the plates of your human agents. 

But what differentiates these sophisticated customer service automation platforms from chatbots is that they can actually act as a virtual agent. Much like your human agents, they can reference data from all the systems you use — like an order management system, a booking calendar, or a payment system — to answer more sophisticated requests. These virtual agents can also do the work of tagging and routing tickets as they come in to make sure they get to the right agent. 

Essentially, by automating incoming tickets, your virtual agent reduces the administrative workload as well as resolves simple requests, freeing up your agents to work on more complicated or urgent cases. 

Automating asynchronous messaging

Automation is particularly useful in asynchronous messaging because your customers can receive a quick initial response, even if it’s outside of business hours. Whether this initial response solves the problem or asks for more information to escalate to a live agent, either way it fast-tracks the resolution of their issue while giving them the flexibility to answer whenever they please.

Furthermore, your CRM will store all these conversations, across all channels, whether it’s with a human agent or a virtual agent, so any agent who steps in to answer a query will have all the context they need. This also means that your customers never have to repeat themselves, no matter the channel or the time elapsed between conversations. This personalized, omnichannel experience is key to delivering great customer service at scale and building meaningful customer relationships.

Improve your CX with messaging and automation