But this year, the dawn of a new decade, is predicted by Forrester¹ to be the first year in which instant messaging technology will make real and tangible changes on customer service brands.

We’re all familiar with the science-fiction vision of future CX interactions: a holographic avatar, perfectly replicating human responses, dealing smoothly with the customer’s issue and eliminating people from the process completely. We’re not quite there yet, of course. But this year, the dawn of a new decade, is predicted by Forrester¹ to be the first year in which instant messaging technology will make real and tangible changes on customer service brands.

Instant messaging is already the preferred method of interacting with a business, according to twilio, with 90% of consumers wanting this facility. This is a clear sign that, rather than fearing this rapidly rising technology, business must embrace it to be successful.

Direct interactions with cost-effective chatbots

A recent shift in customer interaction from commands to conversations has already made the CX experience more direct, with chatbots in particular offering interactive conversations through messaging apps and sites.

Gartner Research predicts that 85% of consumers will, by the end of this year, engage with business without ever interacting with a human being – so perhaps that science-fiction future is not quite so far off from being fact. Importantly, chatbots are so much cheaper than real humans, already having saved businesses $8 billion according to Juniper Research.

They can’t solve everything though. Once a business has addressed what can be handled by chatbots, what remains is the complicated, multistep and often emotionally charged interactions that have to be dealt with by experienced, well-paid people. These more experienced agents are, paradoxically, expected to cost American businesses $8 billion this year (Forrester), wiping out those chatbot savings as brands seek to improve customer experience.

Better training, better pay and an enhanced office culture may be the most visible changes that will alter the CX landscape in the short term. At the same time, the idea of large, offshore call centres dealing with straightforward enquiries, already frustrating to many customers, may soon be a thing of the past.

Conversational and personalised

Bots and AI can already be used for more than simple customer messaging, encouraging sales and confirming orders from within messaging apps whilst enabling real-time tracking of deliveries. Their efficacy is undeniable, with Hubspot claiming that a combination of conversational marketing and chatbots can generate up to 182% more qualified leads.

These messages can of course be personalised, with relevant and targeted information making customers feel like they’re being treated as individuals. Such brand loyalty is part of an increasingly complicated relationship between a customer and a brand, with Google research suggesting that 61% of customers expect brands to speak to them personally.

To do this effectively, the old relationships within business will have to change. Marketing and customer service, what Forrester calls the ‘cats and dogs of the enterprise’, will have to be coordinated much better than has previously been the case. In some places this is already happening, with third-party channels like WhatsApp being used to confirm bookings and update flight info by KLM, for example. The next step must be to use these channels for service interactions, reinforcing brand loyalty by creating better in-channel customer experiences.


Sunshine Conversations

How do you make a customer feel like they’re talking to a human when they interact with your business? Having interactive, immediate and responsive exchanges that don’t suddenly ‘drop out’ mid-way through, and consistent messaging across the entire business, are good starts. Sunshine Conversations, an API-based messaging platform from Zendesk, offers smooth and seamless omnichannel messaging regardless of platform, and across departments.

Multiple platforms can be integrated into one business experience, giving customers that sought-after single conversation. It doesn’t matter if they’re completing an application, making
a purchase or payment, conversing with the business, or providing feedback, a customer will feel it’s part of a single, connected experience.

Overcome a resistance to change

As with all technological advances, there are challenges to the adoption of such transformative CX experiences. There’s always a certain inherent resistance to change, and 64% of organisations still believe that customers should have easy access to a live agent. Perhaps
a larger issue, though, is data privacy, particularly where payments are to be integrated into apps.

This can be addressed through end-to-end encryption, requiring a password to be entered before messages can be unlocked. Users could also be given the ability to delete content once it’s been posted. The customer must feel secure if they’re going to trust a business with their data and that security must feel built-in to the system, whether they’re dealing with a person
or a bot.

Embrace the future of CX

The changes are going to accelerate, and soon. This year, instant messaging and apps will begin to dominate the landscape, with Facebook saying that 53% of customers are already more likely to buy from a business they can message.

Any business which doesn’t harness these new behaviours and blend their marketing, customer service and sales into a single experience, are likely to be quickly left behind.

The changes are already upon us and 2020 will only see them accelerate.

redk has over 15 years’ experience as technical and consultancy CRM experts. We aim to support companies seeking to enhance efficiency and profitability through world-class tools that optimise team performance across your organisation.