Today’s customers live everywhere in the digital world — on their smartphones, their work desktops, their home laptops, their smart speakers, their tablets, their Roku/Apple TV’s, and before long— their self-driving cars and even digitized contact lenses. Despite these myriad and disparate interfaces, though, brands have figured out how to give consumers a cohesive experience across devices. Think of how users interact with Netflix — you can begin watching your show in the kitchen on a laptop while you cook, and then move into the living room, pull up Netflix on your Roku, and play it from exactly the same spot — even while it’s still up on your laptop. This is called experience roaming.
In the U.S., over 85 percent of adults engage in this type of multi-device switching behavior.
And they’re not just doing it so that they can binge on their favorite TV shows from any room in the house — device switching is also extremely common in e-commerce, messaging, and game playing. Oftentimes while shopping, customers will use one device for browsing, and another for checkout. When messaging, consumers will iMessage with their friends on the way to work, and then continue the conversation from their laptops. Gamers will play on the bus while they’re on their way to school, and switch to their laptops in the evenings. It has become so commonplace that most people who do it aren’t even aware of the behavior — it’s completely natural.
Because many of the most popular online experiences offer this capability, consumers have become accustomed to it. Whether it’s messaging with friends, Slacking with coworkers, or watching TV, experience roaming is the new norm.
The Customer Service Industry Needs to be a Consumer-to-Consumer Copycat
In many ways, the best customer service experiences have always mimicked the most popular forms of consumer-to-consumer communication. When most communication happened in-person, retail companies had dedicated customer service teams in-store. When phone communication was typical, brands implemented dedicated customer service call centers. When the transition from phone to email occurred, it became standard for companies to offer a customer service email address.
Now that most consumers communicate with each other via messaging (Slack, FB Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp, etc.), it has likewise become the expectation that companies offer chat-based support. Uber, for instance, has native in-app chat that is incredibly intuitive to use. Zynga and other popular gaming providers have also adopted in-app chat as their first mode of customer support communication.
Now, it’s time for the customer service industry to once again adapt to the ways in which consumers are communicating — namely, through experience roaming.
It’s Time For Customer Service To Take a Page Out of Facebook Messenger’s Book
One of the most frustrating aspects of using messaging for customer service inquiries today is that if you open a new tab, switch from desktop to mobile, or in any way disrupt a conversation with an agent, more often than not the entire interaction will disappear.
To understand how frustrating this is for consumers, think of what they’re accustomed to; think of Facebook Messenger. Say that you’re messaging with a friend at work and then need to jump into a meeting and start screen sharing. You quickly close the tab for the duration of the meeting, and then return to the conversation by opening Facebook again. The conversation will not only still be there, but may even have continued with your friend still sending you messages. Then, let’s say you need heads down time to review a data sheet — but when you take a coffee break, you open Messenger on your phone in order to respond. The conversation is separate from your tab, device, or timeline — it lives across devices as one cohesive experience.
This type of synchronous-asynchronous conversation is becoming increasingly common. Chat allows for both — for consumers to communicate in real-time in a synchronous manner, and for them to leave a conversation and return to it. Alternatively, when a customer accidentally closes the window of a chat with an agent and the entire history of the chat disappears and requires starting from scratch, that’s an extremely poor experience.
It’s time for customer service to deploy experience roaming. If customers start a conversation with an agent, leave it, but then two hours later have a follow-up question— they should be able to re-enter the same conversation on the device of their choosing. The relationship between a brand and a loyal customer is never closed — there will always be ebbs and flows to the conversation, and asynchronous messaging capabilities allow for this type of communication.
It’s time for brands to once again adapt to how consumers are communicating. Consumers no longer relegate a single experience to a single interface — they want experiences to follow them, from device to device, and screen to screen. The brands that give consumers this same experience for customer service will see more satisfied and loyal customers as a result.