Customers want to get in touch with you brand, faster and on a more personal level – for whatever reason. Either it’s a bank’s customer service about your card, or a local restaurant to reserve a table for tonight. Often they still pick up the phone to get it done quickly, but what could be a suitable alternative?
Online Customer Service
Some company’s took live customer service to their website by offering live-chat functionality. It’s an effective way to quickly get in touch with customer service and my experiences have been fairly positive. Apart from one company who advised me to call their customer service because my question was too complex.
With social media entering the customer service landscape we’ve seen businesses professionalize social customer service (‘or webcare’) into the company. These businesses put in the works to respond in a timely fashion on the platform the consumer prefers. What I love about social customer service isn’t even the service itself, but the realization companies have had that they have to be present on the channels where their customers are. This is an revolutionary change for traditional companies. In most cases this customer-centric approach still needs some work, but the essence is there.
Now that the Facebook’s and Google’s have been fighting over a share in Instant Messaging (IM), there are also a handful of companies who have taken the step to offer Customer Service through IM apps. For instance Essent, a Dutch energy company, which started a pilot with customer service on Whatsapp.
IM Apps fall behind
Unfortunately IM apps need to catch up. For instance Whatsapp needs to facilitate verified accounts and a desktop application. Rumour has it that the last one is in the making. There’s also Facebook Messenger with one of the largest amounts of users. Unfortunately FB Messenger doesn’t allow you to text to Facebook Pages (yet). Another alternative could be iMessage, which already has a desktop application. There’s no support for businesses in the platform, but functionally, I think it could work.
And then there’s PathTalk. The application by Path doesn’t have the same user-base Whatsapp has, but it has recognised a future need for businesses to adopt IM. The guys at Path created ‘Place Messaging’ which is a feature for users to get in touch with local businesses through IM. I’ve already seen a few examples where someone reserved a table at a restaurant with two quick texts. There’s no desktop application for PathTalk yet, which makes large and scalable customer service difficult. But considering their focus on businesses I expect more about this soon.
There are definitely a lot of opportunities for both businesses and IM apps. I do feel there is one risk worth mentioning. Both parties should be very careful how to facilitate the communication. When businesses start using it as a channel to push commercial content to users, it will fail. It should be a pull strategy where IM apps make sure that the user is protected, in control and can easily manage its texts and contacts. Having these risks companies can take the next step in digital customer service by positioning their brands on Instant Messaging platforms.