“The messaging apps have to make communication easier for the customer and demonstrate to the customer that their voice is being heard by the organization.”
— Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies
Text messaging has firmly established itself as a valuable way to communicate with customers. And now, texting is growing up, taking its place in the enterprise, where organizations are leveraging new platforms and technologies to scale text messaging into a true customer service solution.
We asked experts what features should communication leaders look for when implementing a messaging app into their customer communication strategy. Their answers showed that enterprise text messaging sits squarely at the confluence of technology and customer experience.
Ask an expert what’s important for successful enterprise messaging, and the answers will fall into one of two, overlapping categories: customer experience, and technology. Those two priorities are exactly why enterprise text messaging is experiencing steep growth: it’s where technology can be put to work in the service of an exceptional customer experience.
First off, “make it as easy as possible for the customer,” says Jonathan Rick, president of The Jonathan Rick Group.
Josh Rawitch, Sr. VP of Content & Communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks, emphasizes that customer needs will influence the choice of technology.
“As with all customer communications, I believe the key is always authenticity and understanding the needs of the person on the receiving end,” says Rawitch. “It's imperative as marketers that we understand the differences between each app and tailor our approach accordingly in the same way we've come to do on each social media platform or traditional communications channel.”
The BYOD trend, which spawned expectations that business interactions would be as easy as say, a consumer experience like shopping on line has customers “looking for human-like interactions and great experiences with their brands at every touchpoint,” says Deirdre Breakenridge CEO of Pure Performance Communications. “Companies that use messaging apps to boost customer communication must incorporate app features that help to solve problems and fulfill brand expectations at the same time,” she says.
Another must-have: real-time communication. “Perhaps the most important feature would be a platform that enables you to interact with clients and consumers in real time,” says Leon Tucker, a Delaware communications expert with experience corporate, non-profit and government communications. “Facebook and Twitter have done a really good job with their notification featured that give you a heads up when someone reaches out via social media. This in turn allows for a quick response in addressing clients’ issues and concerns, which goes a long way toward enhancing your reputation among the people you seek to serve.”
Adds Dr. R. Kay Green, a senior marketing consultant at eDesign Consulting Ltd., “An app should most certainly have human-like interaction, in real-time. In order to boost customer communication, companies need to develop apps that ‘speak to’ consumers, addressing concerns, promoting products and services, but also fulfilling the needs of consumers.”
The real value of enterprise text messaging comes when the text-generated information is integrated into existing systems. Eric Vanderburg , security and technology thought leader, highlights this point.
“Businesses should look for a messaging app that can be integrated into their customer communication strategy by tying the messaging app into service desk and CRM systems,” he says. “They should also choose a tool that allows for automated triggers, language detection with localized greetings, and fully customizable rule sets so that chat requests can be sent to the person best suited to answer the question. Lastly, choose a tool that is supported on workstations and mobile devices or tablets.”
Don’t forget the metrics, says Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, Inc. “The messaging apps must include powerful reporting and analytic capabilities, which enable the organization to monitor, measure and maximize the value of customer communication.”
“The best companies “dog-food” their own products and services,” says Jonathan Rick.
“Their executives will contact the company, as a customer, to see what the customer experience is like in reality (as opposed to how it appears in memos and meetings). Only by eating your dog food can you understand what’s working and what’s not.”
“My advice,” says SAS Manager Field Marketing Thomas Keil: “Test everything very carefully before going into production. Not the fastest app or the coolest tool will enhance communication quality, but the most relevant with really smart analytics solutions in the backend.”
Alexander Hanialidis, digital marketing and social media professional, steps up the expectations. “A messaging app should have the ability to combine services from different apps into one platform. Utilizing the power of AI and machine learning to transform a person’s phone into a personal assistant will provide a top quality personalized communication with consumers.”
Anja Wagner, social media marketing specialist, points to automation as a consideration. “One feature to think of is the implementation of chatbots to provide customers with helpful information 24/7.”
Jonathan Rick adds a word of caution: “Don’t outsource these channels to the cheapest vendor. Customer communication isn’t an entry-level position.”
There’s a lot at stake when nurturing customers. “If a brand is able to create a unique and compelling user experience with a custom messaging app, this could be a great way to reward loyalty,” says marketing expertJoel Comm.
Jeff Kaplan stresses the human touch. “The messaging apps have to make communication easier for the customer and demonstrate to the customer that their voice is being heard by the organization.”
Jonathan Rick says while technology is the medium, it really is all about the people.
“If you care about the customer experience, then make sure the people who are interacting with them are capable of more than the copy-and-paste reply that is increasingly the hallmark of customer communications. Empower these people to express empathy, to exercise their own judgment, to go above and beyond what is minimally required.”