BOSTON -- As consumers seek instant communication with brands -- with a more human touch -- business messaging becomes a key part of delivering a strong customer experience.
The rise of mobile devices and messaging apps has led users to expect faster response times and always-on availability from the businesses with which they interact. But business messaging platforms today go beyond just using basic chat for customer support. Here at HubSpot's 2019 Inbound conference, attendees learned how messaging can support the entire customer experience lifecycle, including marketing, product discovery, selling, commerce, reservations and service.
"You can do everything in messaging," said Gerry Murray, a research director at IDC. "That's the new normal."
Business messaging benefits
Business messaging platforms take the place of transactional elements of CX, such as forms, tickets and campaigns, and focus on conversation -- something that's deeply human. It enables companies to talk to customers in the same way and in the same place that people talk to their families and friends, said Mike Gozzo, senior director of product at Zendesk, a San Francisco-based customer service software provider that, in May, acquired the messaging platform Gozzo co-founded, Smooch.io.
Another business messaging benefit is it enables people to receive messages at the right time, without having to wait in a queue or on hold on the phone, for example, Gozzo said in a session. It can still be personal -- either tied to the identity of a person, or using avatars and emojis to add a human element. Most importantly, it's ubiquitous. Messaging is available and prominent on almost any consumer's device.
But business messaging platforms should include more than just text. Companies can draw graphics; add rich media; and foster interaction using buttons, swipeable lists, scheduling widgets and other embedded features a user would normally find in an app.
It's this dynamic functionality that enables brands to move beyond just customer support and take advantage of business messaging for sales, marketing and more. AI tools such as chatbots are becoming prevalent and can offer more personalized, targeted conversations in messaging apps.
"Messaging is a great way for brands to interact with consumers," Murray said. "It's data that can then be analyzed."
Privacy, integration are top challenges
The main challenge of business messaging lies in integrating all of the different messaging tools out there. It's also important to ensure there's not overlap between channels -- for instance, making sure a bot and a human aren't talking to the same customer at the same time, Gozzo said.
There are a lot of options for business messaging platforms. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and iOS and Android native apps are some of the most popular, as well as traditional web messaging. Twitter direct messages (DMs) are common among consumers. But that can get expensive for businesses, because it comes with fees when using DMs at a larger scale.
Vincent ContinoDirector of operations at Canoe Studios
Canoe Studios, an events and photography company in New York, takes advantage of several messaging platforms for sales, customer service and other aspects of CX. Now, the company is looking to integrate multiple messaging channels in a centralized way into the company's HubSpot software, said Vincent Contino, director of operations at Canoe Studios.
"You have so many different ways the customer can reach out to you, so how do you manage all of that?" he said. "How do you make it personable?"
Another challenge is customer data privacy. Brands must enact policies around privacy and consent, and they can consider options such as allowing customers to wipe their messaging histories. It's especially important to take into account the General Data Protection Regulation's right to be forgotten, Gozzo said.
"All this personal information can come up in a conversational environment," Murray said. "Brands have to be careful about that. How do we let customers know how we are going to use these pieces of information?"
Ultimately, brands benefit from business messaging because they can store and share conversational data across the company, enabling every department to view key customer information and get down to improving the customer experience.