From customer experience to conversational experience: how messaging will reshape service

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Lockdown poses challenges for every business, but especially those that aren’t already operating in the digital space. Think you’re doing a good job of communicating with your customers? You may be in for a shock. According to the stats, seven out of 10 businesses think they’re communicating with customers effectively, but only two in 10 customers agree. So there’s a huge disparity between how brands perceive their communications to be working, versus how they actually are. And that can only leave customers disappointed and disenfranchised.

Ultimately, the lockdown will push businesses that aren’t already digital to go into the space. But the long-term effects will be much greater. Given that this is going to reshape the way that customers and businesses engage with each other, it should make businesses reconsider how they communicate with customers overall. That applies to all businesses, even those that think they’re already doing a good job.

Regional differences

Until the pandemic, a lot of big businesses were putting off entering the digital space. They were doing just fine without it, so they figured why bother? But that’s not universally true around the world – if you look market by market, the picture is a lot more complex.

Western Europe has more businesses involved in digital because the shift to online has been happening for a number of years. There, it’s a case of how well it’s done, rather than whether it’s done or not. Whereas in Eastern Europe, a lot of customers are not as digital-savvy as in other parts of the world – whether it’s due to a lack of appetite or a lack of infrastructure, the businesses didn’t invest in digital because they didn’t have to, it’s as simple as that. But in South East Asia, there’s a big disparity between markets – in some, mobile is the main way people access the internet, so they’re a lot more advanced than us in Western Europe.

In short, businesses that didn’t feel they had to adapt to digital are now paying for it.

Giving the customers what they want

In terms of customer service, consumers want the convenience that only digital business can offer. When you ask them, they say they are more likely to buy from a company that they can contact through a chat app or a chatbot in real-time. But a lot of companies have been slow to grasp the nettle – a lot of marketing budgets are still heavily weighed in favour of social media. And only three percent of customers who like a brand’s social media post will make a purchase. For messaging/chat apps, that figure is 63 percent.

It’s the same with email marketing. Between 10 and 30 percent of customers will open an email addressed to them, whereas 85 percent of customers will read a message from a chatbot. Yet the the budgets continue to go into these more traditional channels – very few brands are listening to the customers and how they want to communicate. Even now, in the current climate, I still get a lot of email newsletters. I don’t know why, but I do. I’m literally bombarded by them. It’s like somebody’s trying to spam me on purpose. But when I try to contact a business, they are closed, because the call centres are closed, so I have to email them, and then I get an auto-reply saying they’ll get back to me in two working days.

This is the reality of the user experience right now. It’s very disconnected from customers’ expectations. But messaging can fix it.

Get the message, get into digital

Messaging can help brands dip their toe into the digital water. You can use it to acquire new users, but more importantly, it can help connect you to your current users. This is very important for any business under pressure to maximise their marketing ROI.

Messaging gives you an instant response from the customer, meaning everything is trackable and it answers an immediate need. Once you have a proof of concept and understand how it works, you can expand it to user acquisitions, or turn it into a sales channel, and it can be done in a controlled environment. So you can start small, you can test, you can know the exact KPIs, and from there you can adjust your strategy and fine tune it to get the best ROI.

Messaging’s KPIs are a lot more detailed than just pure branding activities. In the long term – once we get out of lockdown – this will be a deciding factor in messaging’s favour, because a lot of businesses who are under pressure to cut costs will be looking at useful data like conversions and sales rather than CPMs and how many views they had.

This will be one of the major shifts once lockdown is lifted. We’ll be looking a lot more at performance than just pure branding.

Making a lasting impact

Brands shouldn’t feel guilty about using this opportunity to re-work their communications strategy. You need to sell your product. And so you should make sure you’re answering customer needs and giving them a product or service they actually want.

It’s not opportunism, it’s simply adapting to a new reality. And it’s a lot more respectful of your customers than a less thoughtful approach.

Think about all the things that messaging can do for your customers. You can use it to let them know what safety precautions your company is taking to protect them during the pandemic. You can update them on stock levels, and on any changes to delivery procedures. Or you can just use it to say thank you to your loyal customers, or offer a discount to anyone struggling financially during this tough time.

It’s a more human way of connecting with your customers. People will remember which companies had a human face during this crisis, and which kept on spamming them with irrelevant newsletters. And those memories will linger long after this lockdown is in the distant past.

Cristina Constandache is CRO at Rakuten Viber

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