Instant messaging apps: Should your business be using one?
Aside from their many benefits for your customer service department, instant messaging apps can also double up as a speedy and efficient form of internal communication. We take a look at what exactly instant messaging apps are, and what they can – and can’t – do for your business.
What are instant messaging apps?
Instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Telegram may have started out as purely social applications, but they’ve become so widely used, by so many people, that brands have quickly adopted them as a platform to engage with their customers. These apps are so popular, in fact, that more than 41 million messages are sent across them every minute.
There are also plenty of instant messaging apps designed for internal business use – including popular apps like Slack, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Amazon Chimes. These are designed to take traditional forms of communication like email to the next level, allowing colleagues to fire quick questions back and forth, and enable better and speedier collaboration.
Benefits of instant / direct messaging apps for customer service
- Instant messaging apps are easily accessible across devices. Because instant messaging app fans use these programs all the time, they tend to check them pretty regularly. This means that even if you weren’t able to respond to a query right away, they’ll see it whenever they next check their phone.
- Direct messaging apps allow for voice and video calls. Although the vast majority of customer interactions will tend to be text-based, users like the idea that they can leave a voice note or speak to a real person if the need arises.
- Easy integration of bots and automatic replies. Special business accounts with platforms like Messenger, Telegram and WhatsApp make it very easy to send instant, automated responses to customers. These can save your customer service team a huge amount of time, because they deliver messages such as initial customer greetings and can answer common questions without a real person having to lift a finger.
- It allows you to collect a valid contact number. With traditional data collection, you’re relying on the customer to provide the correct contact details. When a customer makes contact over an app like WhatsApp, you know it’s the right number.
- Because these apps are so familiar to users, there’s no learning curve. When someone contacts your company through the same app they use to talk to their friends and family every day, they’re already comfortable and at ease with the technology.
- Adding IM improves your overall Digital Customer Experience. Modern consumers like to have lots of contact options available to them. The more platforms your customers can reach you on, the better.
- It takes the stress out of security. While they’ve had their fair share of controversy, instant messaging apps tend to be very secure because they make use of end-to-end encryption – meaning only the device to which the message is sent can decrypt it. This is why even large financial institutions are generally happy to use these applications when dealing with sensitive customer information. For small businesses, it takes a lot of strain off having to implement security protocols yourself.
Disadvantages of instant messaging apps
As we’ve seen, there are significant benefits to making use of instant messaging apps. However, there are a number of things instant messaging apps can’t do for your business too. Compared with a service like Whatsapp, live chat has several advantages – especially when it comes to proactively reaching out to potential customers.
With instant messaging apps, it’s up to the prospect whether they want to initiate contact with you – and there’s nothing you can do about it. With live chat, you’ve got the option to start the conversation yourself. When someone’s been on your site for a few seconds, a popup will inform them that you have a live chat service available, and an agent can introduce themselves and offer help.
Knowing there’s someone right there, right now, to answer any questions they might have shows the customer straight away that you’re serious about helping them with what they need – whether that’s advice on which product is best for their situation, or just general information about your service.
In this way, live chat outperforms instant messaging apps when it comes to both generating new leads and boosting online sales.
Another reason live chat might be better suited to your business is if you just don’t have the manpower to have a messaging team available 24/7 to deal with international visitors. Live chat is significantly easier to outsource than instant messaging apps, which tend to rely on a dedicated phone number to function.
Of course, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t have both! Providing customers with a variety of options gives them the freedom to communicate with you on the platform they’re most comfortable with – and that’s always a good thing.