Customer Service via Mobile Messenger Part 1: Direct Line to the Customer
The number of users of messaging apps is only going one way: upwards. They are consequently becoming ever more interesting as a communication channel between businesses and customers. Especially as a preferred private alternative to the more public nature of social media. In a short series of articles, we are showing the pros and cons for the relevant apps, the success factors that must be considered, and what customer service via messenger may look like in practice.
Messaging app use is growing at an annual rate of ten percent: In 2016, the number of monthly active users was close to 1.6 billion worldwide according to data from Statista; this will have grown to an estimated 2.5 billion by 2021. The major players in the market are WhatsApp with 1.5 billion monthly active users and Facebook Messenger, with 1.3 billion monthly active users, as well as WeChat. While the latter provider currently “only” has around one billion monthly active users, it is China’s unchallenged top dog – not least because this app is much more than just a messenger.
There are also regional preferences where WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are concerned: in most European countries and in Latin America, WhatsApp is most popular; in the USA, France, and the UK, users mostly prefer Facebook Messenger. But why do people like to communicate via messengers? There are several reasons:
Similar to e-mails or SMS, messaging is asynchronous. A conversation can be initiated and continued whenever it suits you.
A conversation can be picked up at any time, as previous messages are saved in the thread. This means you don’t have to repeat a previous enquiry.
The apps offer additional functions to be integrated, such as location sharing, mobile payments, personal discount coupons and even boarding passes.
Emojis, images, animated GIFs, voice recordings, and videos provide ample opportunity for expression.
And most of all: it is a convenient way of communication on the device that you have with you at all times: your mobile phone.
Consequently, messaging apps are also extremely interesting for customer communication. A study conducted by Facebook showed that 67 percent of users expect that they will make increasing use of messaging apps to contact businesses in the years to come.
WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger? The pros and cons.
But which messenger should you choose? If you are not servicing customers in China, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the most widely used messaging apps. While both apps are owned by Facebook, each has its advantages and disadvantages.
WhatsApp has the largest number of daily active users in numerous markets
It only requires a telephone number; brands do not need to have a Facebook page
End-to-end encryption is standard
The app is not offering an official interface to integrate with 3rd party interaction management tools. Current services are provided using application programming interfaces (APIs) that are not supported by WhatsApp.
WhatsApp may block the used number and therefore the communication channel if it detects suspect activities that violate their Terms of Service.
Please note: WhatsApp launched the WhatsApp Business app for Android in multiple markets in January 2018 targeted at small and medium businesses. However, this app does not allow use by multiple agents at the same time, which is necessary for customer service operations.
Facebook Messenger pros:
Facebook is the leading social network globally
Offers an official interface to integrate with 3rd party interaction management tools
Messenger for business program ensures continuous development of functionalities aimed at supporting businesses, including chatbots.
Facebook Messenger cons:
End-to-end encryption is optional
Brands need a Facebook page (and therefore to actively manage this) to activate Facebook Messenger
Arvato CRM Solutions is providing customer service solutions via messengers like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat for several clients. You will find out more about the success factors of such projects and practical examples in the further course of this series.