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For many people under a certain age, messaging — SMS/MMS texting as well as messaging apps — is their preferred conversational medium.
They will only resort to phone calls or emails the way the rest of us might choose to write a letter in longhand — that is, only when all other options have been thoroughly exhausted.
Because of this trend, messaging has become part of the multi-channel mix companies must master when they deal with customers. But it comes with its own characteristics.
To find out how this impacts customer communications, we talked recently with Joe Gagnon, senior vice president and general manager of cloud solutions at contact/call center software provider Aspect Software.
Although younger consumers prefer messaging, he pointed out, it’s “not just about millennials,” since most of us use this channel sometimes. And, he noted, it can be uniquely useful because it combines several features found in other communications.
It has the immediacy of a phone call, able to alert you but never putting you on hold. You can refer to the message later, like email. It can be as brief as a tweet, or it can become an extended exchange of intimate sentiment and information, almost like a letter.
A CVS drug store, for instance, might text you that your prescription is ready, offering you an immediate but persistent reminder of confidential information.
There’s also the unique send-this-get-back-that quality of automated messaging exchange. With a platform like Aspect’s, Gagnon pointed out, you can set up an appointment via a message. Some banks allow account holders to send a specific message to get back their bank balance, and contest participants can commonly use it for entries.
These features make it a “good engagement solution” that blends into consumers’ lives, he said, allowing brands to communicate with their customers “how they want to be communicated with.”
They can fit this mode into their multi-tasking lives, starting and stopping it when needed. Companies have come to realize, he said, that “customers are making decisions based on ease of use.”
Messaging groups can be set up, so a customer service agent could bring in an expert if needed. This use of expert knowledge is often touted by customer relationship systems, although the logistics vary. Messaging is designed to loop in others.
In fact, returning a message to a customer with a “deep link” into content is a quick way to surface expert content that lives somewhere.
And it has a natural language interface that seems readymade for the kind of sentence fragments abounding in daily life. Rather than make a consumer figure out self-service on a website, for instance, texting/messaging is something most people are “already trained on how to do,” Gagnon said.
But due consideration of messaging’s charms needs to keep in mind that, at heart, it is an intimate medium, not a post on a bulletin board or a Facebook page.
Messaging should be treated as the permission-entitled channel it is, or else it can backfire for intruding brands.