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How Conversational Messaging Will Shape Customer Experience

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There was a time when customers would have to peruse through their bills to find the customer support contact details only to wait excruciatingly long for their queries to be resolved. Since then, social media has revolutionized the way we communicate and the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated its use, especially in India where there has been a 22% increase of active social media users in the last two years. That’s 448 million people in India today.

Tech-savvy customers want to ask questions, conduct research about products they want to buy and get support within a single conversation thread. Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report 2021 shows that 72% of Indian customers will spend more with brands that offer better online experiences. And 60% of customers in India, who used messaging channels for support for the first time, say they will continue doing so. It’s no surprise why.

Social messaging is personalized

Customers want brands to meet them where they are and make the entire journey from purchase to support quick, easy and personalized. This is why many Indian customers are turning to messaging platforms for support. Messaging offers a more personalized experience for customers and it’s the same platform they already use to communicate with their friends and family.

For businesses, it offers them an opportunity to deepen loyalty. For example, a query that starts out as a request to delete an account could end with an agent helping the customer with their issue and retaining their loyalty. This is conversational commerce, and it will be a key differentiator for businesses in their CX journey because every consumer conversation has the potential to increase loyalty.

Taking conversation to the next level

Over the past few years, social messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger from Facebook have opened their APIs to enterprise businesses, enabling them to carry out customer conversations at scale. Most recently, Instagram messaging has been made accessible via the Messenger API.

For brands with heavy millennial and Gen Z bases, the new Messenger API for Instagram goes a long way in simplifying the conversations customers have with them. In 2021, Instagram had 140 million active users in India, a staggering 85% increase since 2019. It has become the go-to for millennials and Gen Z to connect, explore, and shop. As a result, support requests over social media apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have spiked by 117% in APAC in 2020 based on benchmark data.

Businesses are moving towards messaging, which is convenient, personalized and offers customers the ease to start and end conversations whenever they want. Meeting customers on the same platforms that they are talking to their friends and family creates a sense of trust and familiarity. According to Facebook’s research, 71% of customers who used Instagram ended up making a purchase online and nearly half of them talked to support agents to resolve queries.

With the Messenger API for Instagram, customers can now make enquiries, research the product and purchase it all within one platform. It also comes with some nifty, rich features that larger businesses have not been able to use until now such as offering more personal touches with emoji reactions, or threading conversations for clarity. This kind of conversational commerce is becoming increasingly commonplace and the integration of support across social media channels will give companies the competitive edge.

The future is now

Looking ahead, the door is open for richer, more complex conversational use cases as conversational commerce continues to evolve. This ultimately enables businesses to move away from session-based interactions toward continuous conversations with their customers. Every great customer relationship stems from a conversation, and brands need to understand their customers and be where they are. Today, that’s on messaging platforms.

(The author is MD and RVP, India & SAARC, Zendesk and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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