Only a few years ago, social media was written off as something teenagers engaged in. It was a place for gossip, inane youthful conversations and cat videos. But a funny thing happened as younger consumers gained more buying power and Mom and Dad began tweeting: it has created a new place where business and social media meet. Uber’s Chris Messina has named it “conversational commerce,” or “ConvComm.”
The transformation of commerce began two decades ago as ordinary people began using the Internet for purchasing and seeking customer support. As new channels gained traction, the conversation turned to “omni-channel customer engagement.” According to a recent blog post by Aspect’s Tim Dreyer (News - Alert), messaging applications have carried the trend of ConvComm. Companies have had to go where their customers are, and increasingly, their customers are in places like Facebook (News - Alert) Messenger. But messaging isn’t really restricted to live human agents, either.
“One driving force behind the rise of ConvComm is the introduction of chatbots—intuitive, intelligent assistants designed to imitate human interactions, similar to the conversations you’d have with friends, via text or messaging applications,” wrote Dreyer. “Technology and design have improved chatbots to the point where they have become highly intuitive, and can communicate in common language without sounding like, well, robots.”
Ideally, companies using both human agents and chatbots will be able to blend the two seamlessly: if a customer gets as far as he can with a chatbot, a live agent should be reading and waiting to step into the chat with all the customer’s previous transaction history. The chatbots, however, need to be properly designed so they are helpful and seamless, like all self-service communications channels.
“When chatbots are responsive and helpful, they are attractive to consumers, making people more inclined to hop on apps like Facebook Messenger, which they’re already doing at a rapid rate, and gain immediate help finding deals on products, locating nearby stores and resolving customer service issues conveniently and quickly,” wrote Dreyer.
Many companies sought to gain an edge in omnichannel customer engagement by custom designing mobile apps. While it has worked for a few organizations, many apps are poorly designed, and there is evidence that most downloaded apps are used only once.
“Businesses are gaining an edge with consumers by coming to them where they socialize, speaking with them in social media’s native tongue, and building a digital relationship with them at a fraction of the cost incurred from developing, deploying and managing a proprietary mobile application that may gather digital dust on users’ smartphones before being unceremoniously uninstalled to free up space,” wrote Dreyer.
Instead of expecting customers to come to you via a proprietary chat system, consider focusing your efforts on existing SMS and chat platforms such as Facebook Messenger. By automating the process to the correct degree – neither too much automation or too little – you can design a chat strategy that helps advance omnichannel customer engagement while simultaneously keeping costs and live help under control.