Customer service has embraced messaging, and each new generation of customers prefers it more and more. But messaging isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are different types of messaging interactions—and they each have their own use cases.
Asynchronous and synchronous messaging are two ways to engage your customers, but what’s the difference? Keep reading to see what they are and how they differ from each other.
What’s the difference between asynchronous and synchronous messaging?
Before we dive into dissecting the differences between asynchronous and synchronous messaging, let’s define them in simple and clear terms.
What is synchronous messaging?
Synchronous messaging is a live conversation that has a clearly defined beginning and end. Both parties must be actively engaging in the conversation at the same time, whether on their phone or at their keyboard.
Think synchronized swimming or synchronized skating. The key is being in the same place at the same time doing the thing.
What is asynchronous messaging?
Asynchronous messaging is synchronous messaging’s literal opposite. It’s when two parties have a conversation, but they don’t have to be present at the same time. Another hallmark of asynchronous messaging is that there’s not a clearly defined ending to the conversation.
Think about text messaging with your friends and family. If you are both available, the conversation can go back and forth seamlessly. But you could also have the same conversation over a longer period of time while you’re both fully engaged at work.
Synchronous messaging 101
Live chat (also known as web chat) is the best example of synchronous messaging. When customers reach out via web chat, they expect an immediate response. But there are a few other messaging mediums that can be handled in real-time, such as:
Challenges of synchronous messaging.
Synchronous messaging comes with a hefty set of challenges. Here are some problems your team can face when relying solely on this type of messaging.
- Customers spend more time waiting: During busy periods, agents won’t be able to handle multiple conversations at the same time, and wait times can increase.
- Agents can only handle one conversation at a time: The key factor in a synchronous conversation is that both parties are there chatting in real-time. That means your agents won’t be able to juggle multiple conversations at once, making them slower overall.
- It’s harder to solve complex problems: When agents don’t have the expertise to solve a problem in the moment, it’s harder to loop in support. If you’re working with an inferior conversational platform, customers may have to repeat themselves with each new support agent they speak with. Customers may also have to wait on hold until an expert is available to help them.
- Customers can’t get answers outside of business hours: Customers are used to getting what they want when they want it. Since agents need to be present for synchronous conversations, customers can only chat during business hours. The alternative, of course, is to hire more agents to work shifts throughout the day.
- It can cost more money: Since agents can’t handle as many conversations at once, you’ll likely need to hire more agents to cover the same amount of calls.
Benefits of synchronous messaging.
Despite its challenges, synchronous messaging has its place in customer service. Here are a few of the benefits you can expect:
- Customers feel more connected: Since conversations are happening in real-time, customers instantly feel more engaged and connected to support agents. They feel like there’s a real person on the other side of the screen instead of a corporate automaton.
- It’s easy to track performance: Since there’s a defined beginning and end, it’s easier to track metrics like average resolution time.
- Faster resolutions: Simple problems can be resolved faster over synchronous messaging. Customers are available to answer questions immediately so small issues don’t get dragged out.
Asynchronous messaging 101
Many of today’s messaging options are asynchronous, in that both parties don’t have to be present at the same time to hold a conversation.
Some examples of asynchronous messaging are:
- SMS/text messaging
- Apple Messages for Business
- Google Business Messages
- Twitter Direct Messages
- RCS Business Messaging
Benefits of asynchronous messaging.
When comparing asynchronous messaging vs. synchronous messaging, asynchronous messaging outmatches its counterpart and has benefits for both your customers and your customer service team.
Here are some benefits for your customers:
- Customers can multitask: Since conversations happen at the customer’s convenience, customers can go about their days while receiving help from your team. They’re not locked into a phone conversation or waiting on hold while your agents find answers. It’s a much more pleasurable experience for your busy customers.
- Customers don’t have to repeat information: One of the biggest benefits for customers is not having to repeat themselves every time they contact customer service. Asynchronous messaging’s big draw is that it creates an ongoing conversation. Agents should have access to the conversation history, making it easy for anyone to pick up the conversation seamlessly.
- Customers can reach out at any time: Asynchronous messaging enables continuous contact between your customers and your service agents. That means customers can pick up conversations at any point in their purchase journey—not just when problems pop up.
Here are just a few ways it improves your customer service teams’ workflows over synchronous messaging:
- Agents can manage several conversations at once: Since conversations happen at a slower pace, agents can handle more than one at a time. They’re not stuck on one call or chat thread, at the mercy of a chatty customer. Conversational AI platforms, like Quiq, help agents manage multiple conversations—up to eight at once.
- Agents show improved efficiency: Since agents can handle simultaneous conversations, they can move between customers to maximize their time and improve their overall efficiency. Agents spend less time per interaction, saving as much as 25–40% when converting calls to messaging.
- Lower costs for your customer service center: Since agents are working faster and helping multiple customers at once, you need fewer agents to manage your customer service. Instead, you can spend money on better training, higher quality tools, or expanding services.
- Chatbot friendly: It’s easy to integrate chatbots with asynchronous messaging. During busy periods, chatbots can welcome customers and gather information so that when agents are available, they can jump right into solving the issue.
Challenges of asynchronous messaging.
Asynchronous messaging does come with a few challenges.
- It can turn short conversations into long ones: Sometimes a customer just has a simple question. But once they’ve asked the question, your agent has their own follow-up question, and the customer responds, hours or even days may have passed. It’s not your agent’s fault, but it could reflect in longer resolution times and increase the number of open tickets on their docket.
- It’s harder to track: Since asynchronous messaging often doesn’t have a clear beginning or end, it can be hard to measure.
- Agents have to be able to multitask: Having multiple conversations at the same time, and switching seamlessly between them, is a skill. If not trained properly, agents can get overwhelmed, and it can show in their customer communications.
Implementing synchronous and asynchronous messaging.
Despite their differences (or because of them), both synchronous and asynchronous messaging have a place in your customer service strategy.
When to use synchronous messaging.
Despite its challenges, synchronous messaging has its place in your customer service strategy. Here are a few examples of when you should use synchronous messaging:
- When customers need quick answers: There’s no better reason to use synchronous messaging than when customers need quick, immediate answers. This is especially true if customers are on the verge of making a purchase. Maybe they’re asking about shipping costs, refund policies, or product size. They need a quick answer so that they feel confident enough to click that buy button.
- When diffusing difficult situations: As much as we try to mitigate customer issues, they happen to everyone. Upset customers don’t want to wait for replies while they go about their day. They want immediate responses so they can get their needs met.
- When troubleshooting issues with customers: It’s much easier to walk customers through troubleshooting in real-time, instead of stretching out the conversation over hours or days.
When to use asynchronous messaging.
Asynchronous messaging is best used when customer issues aren’t immediate. Here are a few use cases:
- For complex issues: When customers come to your service team with more complex issues, asynchronous messaging really shines. It enables multiple agents and experts to jump in and out of the chat seamlessly, without requiring customers to wait on hold or repeat their information.
- For building relationships: Asynchronous messaging is a great way to build customer relationships. Since there’s no clear ending, customers can continue to go back to the same chat and have conversations throughout their customer journey.
- During busy periods: When your customer service team is overwhelmed, asynchronous messaging allows them to prioritize customer issues and handle the most timely ones first. Conversational AI platforms like Quiq can also gauge customers’ sentiments to determine who needs immediate attention and who can wait for a response.
Embrace asynchronous and synchronous messaging.
Now you know how asynchronous and synchronous messaging compare, you can use both to create a winning customer service experience.