How to use conversational CX to engage customers
In a tumultuous year, we’ve seen customer expectations change beyond recognition.
We are yet to define what a new ‘new normal’ will look like beyond the Covid pandemic, but we are beginning to get a better understanding of how it’s shaping up.
2020s Digital Reckoning
Conversocial’s State of CX Trends 2021 report shows that consumer habits are changing after 2020’s digital reckoning. Our survey found that 69% of consumers have communicated with a brand over a private messaging channel - 13% higher than the previous year. Some of this is obviously down to there being few chances for any kind of in-person engagement, but more can be learned from the data we found analyzing the interactions between Conversocial’s partners and their customers. Private messaging conversations grew by 87% year on year compared to 2019, far outstripping public social interactions 73% to 27%.
It’s not just that consumers are turning to digital solutions to interact with brands, the majority of conversations are happening on private channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat.
The change in consumer attitudes is backed up by a survey we conducted last year, which showed consumers were keen to continue online shopping, appointment booking and using click-and-collect services post-Covid. This doesn’t mean that they’re willing to accept inferior experiences just because everything is becoming digital. If anything, expectations of digital CX are growing. This year’s State of CX Trends report found that 81% of consumers expect to be able to engage brands using private messaging channels and 88% are more likely to become repeat customers after experiencing great CX over those channels.
Clearly there are rising expectations of how accessible a brand is and, increasingly, consumers want to interact on their own terms.
What do Customers Value When it Comes to Staying Loyal?
When surveying consumers for this report, we found that for the first time, great customer experience (28%) was ranked as more crucial than a competitive price (24%) or high-quality product (23%). Existing customers are more likely to buy from a brand than new ones, and 80% of consumers actually want businesses to directly communicate with them after a sale.
This reflects the increased expectations that people have of their favorite brands, with 70% also saying they have stopped doing business with a company following a poor experience. It’s never been more vital to ensure that each and every touchpoint a customer has with your brand is maximized to enhance the experience. Personalization, ease of use and convenience is the order of the day.
As a modern solution, private messaging channels work better than any other form of customer interaction platform. The reach of platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are huge, with 2bn and 1.3bn users respectively. These apps are part of people’s daily routines, WhatsApp alone delivers 100bn messages a day, and as a result offer far higher engagement than traditional forms of digital engagement, like email or SMS.
The increasing importance of messaging channels is something brands are waking up to. We spoke to 100 CX professionals, 94% of whom said they recognize the higher expectations that consumers have of digital engagement, with 40% believing messaging is going to have the biggest impact on CX strategies in 2021.
How can Brands Use Private Messaging Channels to Deliver Great CX?
The short answer is: automation. The slightly longer answer: automation that has great conversational design.
A curious contrast that emerged in our consumer survey is that 69% of people would happily use a bot if it improved their customer experience or answered their questions quicker, but 55% don’t believe that AI and bots are able to perform those duties. It’s not that automation is bad for CX, there are just too many badly designed bots ruining it for the good ones.
The appetite is clearly there for smooth automated conversations, but there’s an issue with brands’ ability to deliver them. If you look at our survey of CX professionals, the picture becomes a little clearer. 79% of brands know that automation will play an important role in CX delivery in the next 12 months, but it doesn’t mean they’re getting themselves ready to capitalize on automation’s potential. Less than 50% are investing heavily in it and even less have advanced automation in place in their CX operations. Budget restrictions, a lack of understanding and legacy tech are all standing in the way of brands being able to deliver the best automated CX over messaging channels their customers demand.
The events of 2020 have pushed a focus towards digital experiences unlike ever before for consumers across the globe. Google’s European President Matt Brittin believes the pandemic has sparked a leap forward of 5 years in our use of digital technology. Brands will have to adapt their approach to customer experience management appropriately. We know this because:
- The majority of customers (69%) have engaged with a brand - and have come to expect (81%) brand engagement in return - over private messaging channels.
- Brands are also onboard, they now recognize the importance of messaging channels (40%) and automation (79%) and are considering them when developing their 2021 CX strategies.
It’s one thing to acknowledge these technological advances, but meeting them is a very different proposition.
How can Brands Integrate Messaging Channels into Their day-to-day Operations?
It should start off with digital innovation that focuses on specific CX use cases. Automation is the key to unlocking this innovation potential, but so many brands are still lacking the expertise to make this transition seamless. Currently, 66% say they are only ‘getting there’ when it comes to driving superior customer experiences led by automation. But ‘getting there’ is just another indicator of a poor bot experience. By focusing on specific use cases — with conversational design at their core — brands can start to better understand how to navigate the automation space without falling into the trap of becoming robotic.
Two use Cases You Can Launch Immediately
- IVR Deflection: By reducing expensive inbound calls and deflecting customers to private messaging channels they no longer have to wait on hold and can meet a customers’ brand expectations and give control back to them for when and where the conversation takes place.
- Post-Purchase Engagement: automating order tracking enables you to start two-way engagement with customers. “WISMO” (where is my order) has always been purely a customer service interaction, but when messaging channels are introduced it opens up multiple engagement possibilities which can be completely automated.
The Future of Customer Conversations
A new standard has been created for exceptional CX - and it’s entirely digital. In a year when consumers were propelled to conduct business almost exclusively online, the bar was raised for expectation around consumer/brand relationships. It’s not as straightforward as ‘brands + messaging = loyalty’ - a digital strategy across the customer lifecycle needs to be built.
It’s not practical to think human agents can handle every conversation, but equally, complete automation will not provide the customer with everything they need. Brands need to assess which customer touchpoint would benefit from a bot handling the process - great if someone wants to track their order, not so wonderful if they want to talk about a bad instore experience - the solution lies in a blend of the efficiency of automation and empathy of human beings depending on the situation.
The one constant throughout these experiences is private messaging channels. These developments, powered by platform providers and customer preferences, will result in engagement undergoing a transformation - becoming more centered around these channels and the automation that they were built to provide.
Marketing and Communications manager for Conversocial - a conversational customer experience platform. A few years into a third phase of my career, having started out in broadcast journalism before a 180 about turn into street food entrepreneur.