The three things businesses need to know about messaging

Messaging as a Customer Service communication channel has become a hot tech space in the past year. While messaging has been traditionally used by businesses for customer outreach and marketing campaigns, only in the last few years has it become a truly open channel of communication between businesses and their customers.

This is no surprise, as messaging volume has increased tremendously in the past several years, and according to Ovum there will be more growth on the horizon. Ovum predicts OTT (Over the Top, for example Facebook Messenger, What’s App, WeChat, etc.) messaging volume will double between 2015 and 2020, from 22.8 trillion messages in 2015 to 52.5 trillion messages by 2020. Add in another 5 trillion SMS messages in 2020, that that’s 57.5 trillion messages in 2020. Let’s put that in perspective. With close to 3 Billion users, that’s over 19,000 messages per user per year!

Read the Ovum report here.

With this kind of growth in volume, there is no doubt that growth in messaging between businesses and customers will also increase significantly. It’s not a matter of “if” your organization will need to address messaging as a full-fledged communication channel with your customers, it’s a matter of “when”.

So to help you consider and plan for messaging in your business plans, here are NeuraFlash’s Top 3 things businesses need to know when implementing messaging.

#3 DON’T SKIMP OUT ON CAREFUL PLANNING

Basic implementations of messaging channels may be simple, but make sure to focus efforts in planning the implementation and launch.

Use Cases and User Types: There are a near endless number of use cases for messaging for businesses in all industries and sizes. The key thing to consider is what’s most important to your business and what do you want to accomplish by implementing a messaging capability. You have sales use cases, you have service use cases, you have individual users and you have users in skill groups like contact center agents. Each of these use cases and each of the user types will have various different requirements for feature capability and usability.

Routing and Capacity: Another top consideration is how to route and manage messaging conversations. Now you may say “Well our team handles Web Chats, we have a good idea on how to handle this one”. You may want to think again. While on the surface messaging may look very similar to a Web Chat, the routing and conversation dynamics are much different. For example, Web Chats and Phone Calls both have a beginning “event” and an ending “event”. A Web Chat begins with the user excepting a chat offer and ends when the customer or the agent ends the session with a click of a “End Chat Session” button. A Phone Call is similar, and begins when a party goes “off hook”, dials a phone number, and the receiving party goes “off hook” and answers the call. A call ends when one of the party hangs up (“on hook”). Now think about a messaging conversation. Think about one you’ve recently had with someone and there isn’t necessarily a discrete beginning and a discrete end. There are no “events” to necessarily mark the beginning and end of a messaging conversation. A user’s mental model of messaging is fully asynchronous. For example, someone could be engaged in a messaging conversation while at home, put their phone in their pocket, jump in the car and drive to work, and then pick the conversation back up 30 minutes later. To the user, the conversation did not “end”. The conversational nature and user mental model of messaging presents unique challenges with routing conversations and with managing contact center capacity that need to be carefully considered and designed prior to a successful launch.

Adoption: If you deploy it, will they come? Not always… Adoption of a messaging channel is a result of driving awareness that the channel is even available. And since adoption and messaging volume are big factors in calculating the ROI of messaging (which can be, for example, the shift of voice call volume to messaging conversations), without a well thought out plan to drive adoption it’s near impossible to build a reliable business case or capacity plan.

#2 NOT ALL MESSAGING CHANNELS ARE CREATED EQUAL

There are two primary messaging platform types in the market to consider, OTT or Over the Top messaging, and SMS or Short Message Service. OTT messaging includes the likes of Facebook Messenger, What’s App, WeChat, and a host of other messaging platforms that have incredible numbers of subscribed users, while SMS has been the basic standard for mobile messaging for decades.

The advantage of OTT apps lies in their feature capability vs. SMS. If you are a user of one or several of the OTT apps, there are a host of features that SMS can’t and will never provide – advanced group messaging, enhanced media capabilities, multi-modal interfaces, integration with services like Uber, and more. But the major drawback is non-ubiquitous reach of mobile users and customers. SMS is available on most every mobile device, while it’s up to the user which OTT app(s) they use and don’t use.

Old school SMS needs to be a part of any messaging strategy. SMS is the only channel that reaches every user with the mobile phone whether smart phone or old school brick or feature phone. While SMS may not have the fancy features of a Facebook messenger it’s very utilitarian. MMS picture messaging has come a long way and so has the ability to text enable toll-free numbers and business landline phone numbers making SMS much more relevant and personal for businesses to implement and use (rather than messaging on 5-6 digit short codes).

Recently Salesforce acquired one of the leading companies in the space of business messaging. HeyWire, based in Cambridge MA, has been a thought leader in bringing text enabled business phone numbers and toll-free numbers to market along with a best in class set of messaging for business applications. LiveText for Salesforce is the only enterprise-grade conversational messaging application on the market today, allowing businesses of all sizes to implement 2-way SMS messaging quickly and easily. LiveText will soon be enhanced to support a number of the big OTT messaging channels, which is exactly where messaging platforms need to go, providing businesses with the ability to leverage SMS for its broad reach, and OTT for its targeted reach and deep capabilities. Great move by Salesforce.

#1 DON’T WAIT TO AUTOMATE WITH CHATBOTS!

Even though most messaging channels aren’t handling an extremely high volume of conversational messaging yet, it’s never too early to plan, design and implement automation, as it is inevitable messaging volume will continue to grow. Automating conversations can be looked at as a broad scale, simple and effective rules-based Chatbots on one side, and very sophisticated Natural Language Processing Chatbots on the other. Starting simple can mean a rules-based Chatbot gathering key information from users (maybe a reason for messaging, or an order number) and using that information for routing and improving Agent efficiency. As volume increases, more sophistication and intelligence can be added to the Bot to start automating more complex questions and inquiries from customers, using Natural Language Processing and more complex dialog design.

There are hard benefits associated with automating messaging conversations that should not be ignored, even early on in the messaging channel implementation. In a contact center setting any information that can be provided about the person’s intent for contact, their question, their inquiry, or even small pieces of identifying information, can not only help reduce the amount of time an Agent spends with that person, it can also be used for routing to ensure the conversation is sent to the right skill group or individual representative best suited to service the customer at that particular time. Less Agent time spent = lower cost to serve.

There are many ways to accomplish this automation. There may be over 100 Chatbot platforms in the market right now. The challenge is which of these platforms has the right feature set, capabilities and long-term strategy and viability to suit your needs? In some simple cases a Bot platform may not be needed. There are capabilities and techniques that can be used right within platforms like Salesforce to help create basic levels of Chatbot automation and even approach self-service capabilities.

NEURAFLASH KNOWS MESSAGING

Our team has very deep experience in the Messaging space, as well as with implementing automation of all kinds with Chatbots. We’d love the opportunity to help you with your Messaging strategy to ensure your organization and your customers get the most out of this emerging business channel!