Why B2C Brands Need Conversational Customer Service

By Elaina Ransford

All enduring companies reinvent themselves over time — from IBM, which moved from a 1993 loss of $8 billion to abandoning its core business model and moving into IT and computing services; to Shell, which started as a small antique store in London, moved into shipping, and then eventually Shell gas stations (it currently has 44,000 stations worldwide). Companies cannot endure over decades, much less centuries, without strategic overhaul. This principle has never been truer than it is today, in a time where customer expectations and technological innovations advance at lightning fast rates.

Seventy-five percent of S&P 500 incumbents will be gone by 2027, thanks to digitization. The make or break factor in which companies persevere will boil down to those that adapted to customer experience expectations. Meeting and exceeding these expectations requires communication with brands to be:

  1. Instant
  2. Personalized
  3. Conversational

How B2C brands Can Deliver Superior Customer Experiences

To meet the three tenets of a digitized and modern experience strategy, brands need to adapt to the way in which customers prefer to communicate. And that means conversational messaging.

Currently, over 561 billion messages are sent in the U.S. every month. Usage growth rate for mobile messaging apps worldwide grew 103 percent in 2014, 58 percent in 2015, and 44 percent in 2016. Facebook Messenger is the third most popular mobile app on both Android and iOS in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, this love of messaging expands beyond consumer to consumer interactions: over 55 percent of people would rather message a business than make a call.

And yet, only nine percent of companies actually offer a messaging channel on their websites. It’s no wonder that the state of customer satisfaction in America is abysmal: over 94 percent of customers “dread” contacting customer service. This has a direct impact on brands’ bottom lines, as seven in 10 Americans are willing to spend more with a company that provides exceptional customer service.

In a world where customers increasingly expect instant, native experiences, brands need to meet this expectation head on — before their competitors do. In the context of offering messaging, this means building a strategy that includes three components:

  1. Semi-automated & scalable for 24/7 instant communication
    Messaging is uniquely positioned as a channel in that it can be semi-automated without sacrificing customer experience — and in fact, can even enhance the experience. Through chatbots, automated ticket classification, and automated ticket routing, brands can deliver instantaneous support at scale. It’s a win-win for brands and customers alike.
  2. Data-driven personalized care
    Customers expect that brands already know certain things about them, such as their past purchases, email address, previous conversations with customer support, location, and even the device’s operating system (iOS vs. Android). Agents need a data-driven dashboard for every customer interaction to ensure personalized care.
  3. Friendly and on-brand
    No matter how advanced technology becomes, brand interactions should always be sympathetic, friendly, and on-brand. Even chatbot scripts can include humor, emojis, and other indications of tone. Those brands that embrace digitization through messaging-based care will end up being the incumbents that last beyond 2027.

Customer Service is Like a Shark: It has to Constantly Move Forward or it Dies

As Alvy Singer famously stated in Annie Hall: “a relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.” This statement has proven to be spot-on when it comes to the relationship between a brand and its customers. Organizational inertia is the business equivalent to a dead shark. If you stay too long in one era, you’ll find that your customers keep moving forward without you.

The most enduring brands watch closely for the shifting needs of their customer base, and make massive operational and strategic overhauls to meet these needs. As more and more incumbents fall off the map due to rapid digitization, brands have an immense opportunity to iterate and grow — and those that provide digitized and personalized experiences have the chance to move with their customers into the coming decades.

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