How Messaging Delivers a Modern Customer Experience

Customer service has moved from call centers to contact centers—and they’ve gone next-gen. Technology has seen rapid growth over the last few years, and your customers’ expectations have grown with them.

Nothing has made this clearer than messaging’s rise as the ultimate customer service channel.

Keep reading to see how messaging delivers a modern customer service experience.

What customer service looks like at the end of 2022.

We’re at the end of 2022 and 2023 is coming up fast. Countless headlines threaten a looming recession (while others say it’s already here), you see inflation in every trip to the grocery store, and national conversations are filled with high emotions. The doom and gloom news cycle has everyone feeling down, and unfortunately, it’s spilling into everyday interactions with customer service.

The consumer mindset.

Expectedly, the current climate is affecting consumers across the board—and customer service teams are feeling it. According to Zendesk, 66% of companies report that customers are less patient when interacting with agents or service teams this year. What’s more, 18% of companies are more likely to report that customer satisfaction is somewhat or significantly below expectations than in 2021.

So, although we say it constantly, customer expectations truly are higher than ever. For contact centers, that generally means the need for faster response times, faster resolution times, and more one-touch resolutions.

Digital expectations remain high.

While businesses were forced to focus on digital customer service as in-person stores were closed during much of 2020, they’ve slacked off as the world returns to pre-pandemic lifestyles. Forrester’s US 2022 Customer Experience Index showed a 19% drop in CX across US consumer brands.

So while many consumers are returning to in-store shopping, they still expect the stellar service they received over the last two years. Anything less fails to meet expectations.

More conversations.

But there’s more at play than just speed. Customers are also looking for organic, conversational interactions. Zendesk reports that upwards of 70% of customers say they expect conversational experiences when interacting with brands.

What’s more conversational than messaging? Email has some formality (a holdover from its predecessor, letter writing), and phone calls require both parties to stop what they’re doing and focus on the one-to-one conversation. Messaging fits into the way people already have conversations—making it a natural next step in the evolution of modern customer service.

Messaging has revolutionized the customer experience.

There’s no doubt that messaging has changed the game when it comes to delivering a modern customer experience. It’s made customer service more accessible to younger generations who favor messaging over phone conversations, and it’s increased the speed at which contact centers can help customers.

Here are a few ways you can revolutionize your customer experience with messaging.

1. Deliver personalization with data.

One of the most frustrating things for customers is having to repeat their problems to every new person talk to in customer service. Plus, the rise of personalization has made access to customer databases a critical business need.

Opt for a conversational platform that integrates with the client databases (CRMs, ERPs, etc.) that you already use. Whether you use Salesforce, Zendesk, Oracle, etc., having easy access to customer information will help contact center agents personalize conversations and improve the customer experience.

2. Enhance conversations with AI.

How many chatbots have you encountered that felt like you were talking to a robot? Probably a fair amount. If you don’t ask your question the right way or put your answer in the right format, it’s all over. Basic chatbots rarely understand the nuances of human language, and they aren’t able to read context to make sense of a conversation.

But AI-enhanced chatbots aren’t like the others. Chatbots like Quiq’s use Natural Language Processing (NPL) to identify customer intent and base the conversation in the right context. This means more natural conversations between bots and customers and less of a strain on your contact support team.

3. Uplevel conversations with rich messages.

Messaging is more than a replacement for phone conversations—it’s a way to create rich, modern customer experiences. Rich messaging is an advanced form of text messaging that lets you send more visually engaging and interactive messages.

Instead of sending a message with a link to your website—where it’s easy for customers to get lost or distracted—you can send images and videos within the conversation. You can even securely complete the transactions right within the messaging app. Schedule appointments, send GIFs, or share high-resolution photos and videos—everything you need for modern customer service.

Optimize customer interactions with Quiq.

Meet the future of customer service head-on with Quiq’s Conversational AI Platform. Quiq makes it easy for customers to contact a business via messaging, the channel your customers already use to connect with family and friends. With Quiq, customers can engage with companies via SMS/text messaging, Facebook Messenger, web chat, in-app, WhatsApp, and more for a more modern customer service experience.

If you want to learn how you can easily deliver the modern customer experience by connecting with your customers contact us for a short demo.

[Infographic] 9 Effective Call Center Strategies You Can’t Miss

Effective call center strategies are essential to running a contact center. It’s not as simple as setting up a few phones and handing your team a script (although we’re sure no one has thought that since 2005). But it’s equally as likely that you’re so bogged down with managing the everyday realities that you can’t see the forest through the trees.

That is, you can’t see just how cluttered the contact center has become.

From staffing and training to managing operations and tracking KPIs, you spend too much time keeping a contact center running instead of doing what you do best: Connecting with customers.

That’s where Quiq comes in. Our Conversational AI Platform uses breakthrough technology to make it easier to engage customers, whether through live chat (also known as web chat), text messaging, or social media.

Let’s take a look at ways to improve your call center efficiency and how Quiq can help you reduce the clutter with 9 effective call center strategies in a handy infographic:

Download as a PDF instead

1. Streamline your current system.

How do you currently connect with your customers? Fielding phone calls, emails, and the occasional DMs can leave communications scattered and your systems fragmented.

Here’s what can happen with you don’t have a single, consolidated platform:

  • Customer conversations can slip through the cracks.
  • Your team wastes time switching between apps, programs, and windows.
  • Disparate technology becomes outdated and overpriced.
  • With no support for asynchronous communication, conversations can only happen one at a time.
  • Measuring performance requires pulling metrics from multiple sources, a time-consuming and arduous process.

Quiq lets your agents connect with customers across various channels in a singular platform. You’ll improve your contact center operational efficiency with conversations, survey results, and performance data all in one easy-to-use interface.

2. Boost agent productivity and efficiency.

How do your customer service agents go about their day? Are they handling one call at a time? Reinventing the wheel with every new conversation? Switching between apps and email and phone systems?

Outdated technology (or a complete lack of it) makes handling customer conversations inherently more difficult. Switching to a messaging-first strategy with Quiq increases the speed with which agents can tackle customer conversations.

Switching to asynchronous messaging (that is, messaging that doesn’t require both parties to be present at the same time) enables agents to handle 6–8 conversations at once. Beyond conversation management, Quiq helps optimize agent performance with AI-enhanced tools like bots, snippets, sentiment analysis, and more.

3. Drive down costs.

It’s time to stop looking at your contact center as a black hole for your profits. At the most basic level, your customer service team’s performance is measured by how many people they can serve in a period of time, which means time is money.

The longer it takes your agents to solve problems, whether they’re searching for the answer, escalating to a higher customer service level, or taking multiple conversations to find a solution, the more it impacts your bottom line.

Even simple questions, like “Where’s my order?” inquiries needlessly slow down your contact center. Managing your contact center’s operations is overwhelming, to say the least.

Need a Quiq solution? We have many. Let’s start with conversation queuing. Figuring out a customer’s problem and getting to the right person or department eats away at time that could be spent finding a solution. Quiq routes conversations to the right person, significantly reducing resolution times. Agents can also seamlessly loop in other departments or a manager to solve a problem quickly.

Beyond improving your contact center’s operational efficiency, messaging is 3x less expensive than the phone.

4. Manage seasonal spikes and fluctuating demands.

All contact centers face the eternal hiring/firing merry-go-round struggle. You probably get busy around the holidays and slow down in January. Or maybe September is your most active season, and your team shrinks through the rest of the year. While you can’t control when you’re busy and when you’re slow, you can control how you respond to those fluctuations.

Manage seasonal spikes by creating your own chatbot using Quiq’s AI engine. Work with our team to design bot conversations that use Natural Language Processing (NPL) to assist customers with simple questions. Chatbots can also improve agent resolution times by collecting customer information upfront to speed up conversations.

Daily Harvest’s chatbot, Sage, was able to contain 60% of conversations, which means their human agents saw a vast reduction in call volume. Perfect for managing the holiday rush.

5. Remove friction.

How hard is it for your customers to contact your help center? Do they have to fill out a web form, wait for an email, and set up a phone call? Is there a number in fine print in the depths of your FAQ page? Some companies make it difficult for customers to interact with their team, hoping that they’ll spend less money if there are fewer calls and emails. But engaging with customers can improve company perception, boost sales, and deepen customer loyalty.

That’s why Quiq makes it easy for your team and customers to connect. From live chat to SMS/text and Google Business Messaging to WhatsApp, customers can connect with your team on their preferred channel.

6. Improve the quality of your conversations with rich messaging.

Email and phone conversations are, in a word, boring. Whether you’re an e-commerce company selling products or a service provider helping customers troubleshoot problems with their latest device, words aren’t always enough. That’s why Quiq offers rich messaging.

What is rich messaging? It’s an advanced form of text messaging that includes multimedia, like GIFs, high-resolution photos, or video. It also includes interactive tools, like appointment scheduling, transaction processing, and more.

You can use rich messaging to give customers a better service experience. Whether sending them product recommendations or a video walkthrough, they’ll get a fully immersed experience.

7. Engage more qualified leads.

Do leads die in your contact center? Let’s face it: your contact center isn’t the place to handle high-value leads. Yet when warm leads find themselves there, you need a way to track, qualify, and engage them.

Here’s where chatbots can help with marketing. Quiq’s chatbots can help you identify qualified leads by engaging with your prospect and collecting information before it ever gets to your sales team.

A great example we’ve seen is from General Assembly. With the Quiq team by their side, they created a bot that helped administer a quiz and captured and nurtured leads interested in specific courses. This helped them strengthen the quality of their leads and achieve a 26% conversion rate, which leads us to our next factor for an effective call center strategy.

8. Increase conversions.

If you haven’t stopped viewing your call center as a cost center, this next topic should change your mind. While many contact centers focus on customer service, which can lean heavily toward complaints and post-purchase problems, there’s also tons of profit potential via effective call center strategies.

Adding messaging to your contact center opens up more opportunities to engage with your customers across the web. Live chat is a great way to talk to your customers at key points in the buyers’ journey. Using a chatbot to assist shoppers in navigating your website makes shoppers 3x more likely to convert to a sale than unassisted visitors.

Combining AI and human agents with Quiq’s conversational platform gives your customers the best experience possible without adding to your contact center’s workload—and it can lead to an 85% reduction in abandoned shopping carts. Plus, Quiq integrates with your ERP system so customer data is always at your team’s fingertips.

9. Increase customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is likely your call center’s #1 goal. Yet outdated phone systems and substandard technology isn’t the best solution to improve call center agent performance.

Quiq empowers agents to be more efficient, which reduces your customer’s wait time and helps ensure customers get the best service possible. Quiq customers often increase their customer satisfaction ratings by about 15 points.

And the best way to increase your ratings? With regular, in-context surveys. Our conversational platform helps you and your agents get instant customer feedback. Customers can seamlessly respond to surveys right from within the channel they used to connect with your customer service.

Give contact center clutter a Quiq goodbye with effective call center strategies.

There’s no place in an efficient business for a cluttered contact center. Outdated systems, slow processes, and a lack of support can overwhelm your agents—and keep them from performing their best for your customers.

Now that you’re equipped with ways to improve call center efficiency, it’s time to see it in action. Quiq’s Conversational AI Platform empowers your team to work more efficiently and create happier customers.

Essential 24/7: Reflecting on National Customer Service Week 2022

This week (October 3-7, 2022), and every first full week of October, is National Customer Service Week (NCSW) in the U.S.

First proclaimed a national event by the U.S. Congress in 1992, NCSW is meant to recognize and give appreciation to customer service professionals.

I first developed a deep appreciation for customer service professionals when I graduated from college. My first project as a management consultant was to assist with process documentation at the then newly established NYC 311 contact center. For the next 4 years, I spent countless hours in contact centers across the world, y-jacking with agents and documenting ways that they could be more efficient with their time while also providing world-class service.

Customer service workers keep businesses running.

It’s fitting that this year’s NCSW theme is “BEE-cause You’re Essential”. The concept of an “essential worker” became common language during COVID lockdowns. These were the professionals who often risked their health to keep our society and systems working while many of us stayed home to stop the spread of the deadly virus. They were critical to making sure lives were saved and sustained.

Customer service workers are also essential because they provide support and service to keep industries going. During COVID, many customer service pros were able to work remotely and answer our calls, and respond to emails and other messages. Back during the lockdown and stay-at-home orders, they were often the only face and voice of the brands we all love to do business with. Since we couldn’t go to stores in person, we were bound to shop online—and shop online we did. Overall, e-commerce sales grew over 50% during 2020, with many categories like home furnishings and goods leading the surge.

Customer service teams were slammed, having to handle an unprecedented amount of contacts across existing and new channels. And now as we’re nearing talks of a national or even global recession, these teams are still tasked with doing more with fewer people and resources.

This National Customer Service Week, we should all refocus on the employee experience.

Cost savings has always been a primary focus area for these teams but I’m excited to see a new theme emerge from the customer service leaders I follow and admire; a focus on the employee experience.

The employee experience is crucial to driving great Customer Experience. Being a customer service professional is a tough job. They sometimes don’t get the resources they need to answer tough questions from customers while also having to spend most of their days dealing with customers who are upset.

For leaders, let’s focus more on how these professionals are experiencing work and help them get the training, support, and resources they need to be successful in their challenging roles.

Also, showing recognition and appreciation of their work is important in keeping morale and retention high.

For the rest of us, here are two things that we can all do to thank Customer Service pros:

Show appreciation to a customer service professional this week.
Show some empathy and compassion in your interactions with them, every day.

Let’s all remember that there are real people on the other side of the phone, email,or messaging thread. Each day we engage with them, let’s remember to treat them with the respect they deserve. Happy National Customer Service Week!

How to Deal with Angry Customers

The worst part of customer service?

Dealing with angry customers.

It’s hands-down the most stressful, uncomfortable part of the job. But it can also make the biggest difference to your business—when you do it right.

Continue reading to see how to handle angry customers.

Why respond to angry customers at all?

Many of us were taught to turn the other cheek as children. Ignore the kid throwing a fit (it’s about them, not you). And while that is sage advice for many situations, it’s not the best way to handle your angry customers.

Even a casual, “This product sucks!” or “Worst service ever!” deserves a response. It’s easy to delete the comment or ignore the message, but addressing it has some benefits.

Customers are actually pretty forgiving of companies they already frequent. Zendesk’s CX Trends Report says that 74% of customers will forgive a company for its mistake if they receive excellent customer service.

Plus, 81% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience, while 76% of customers will switch to a competitor after several bad experiences.

In one study published in the Harvard Business Review, customers who received responses on Twitter from airline and wireless customer service teams saw Net Promoter Score® increases of 37 and 59 points, respectively—a big jump considering NPS® only has a range from -100 to 100.

For airlines, you can see the difference in dollars. When customers complain, how quickly an agent responds correlates with how much more the customer is willing to pay in the future.

  • Under 5 minutes: $19.83 more
  • 6–20 minutes: $8.53 more
  • 21–59 minutes: $3.19 more
  • 60 minutes or more: $2.33

Note that any response at all turns the situation around and helps improve customer perception.

How to deal with angry customers.

When angry customers reach your customer service agents, there’s usually a legitimate issue. Take a look at some of the ways you can turn angry customers into happy ones.

Be proactive about known problems.

It happens. A service falls between the cracks, products get damaged, and shipments get delayed. It’s all about how you handle it.

Customers don’t want to feel like you’re trying to get one over on them. They’ll feel cheated, and you’ll lose their trust. Instead, get ahead of problems by communicating with customers as soon as your team notices an issue. Use outbound text messaging to ensure your message is received (and that it doesn’t end up in the junk mail folder).

When things go drastically wrong, send a message that hits these 5 points:

  1. State the issue.
  2. Apologize.
  3. Offer a solution/discount.
  4. Assure them it won’t happen again (if it’s in your control).
  5. Thank them for their continued support.

Lean into conversational support tools.

A positive (but sometimes negative) benefit of messaging is that you’re always easily accessible to the customer. So it’s not unusual to see more complaints through messaging than you might see through traditional phone and email communication methods.

Yet messaging is a great channel to work with angry customers, especially when you have the right tools in place to help you.

While customers might be more likely to offer negative or inappropriate comments through messaging, it also gives your service agents a chance to respond calmly and succinctly. (Something that isn’t so easy to do when someone is yelling at you on the other end of a phone call.)

As we mentioned earlier in the HBR study, responding quickly to angry messages goes a long way. How do you know which customers to prioritize? Look for conversational AI platforms that use sentiment analysis to help you prioritize tickets. Bump angry or unhappy customers to the top of the list to ensure a fast response time.

Diffuse the situation with empathy.

When customers send upset or angry messages, it’s still easy to get flustered or respond with short, superficial answers. Follow these 5 steps to diffuse the situation.

  1. Remain calm: We know—it’s easier said than done. But if you respond aggressively or defensively, it’ll only make things worse. Remember that the customer is angry at the company, not at you. If you’re having trouble keeping your cool, bring in a manager sooner than later (that’s what they’re there for).
  2. Show empathy and validate their concerns: Use phrases like “I understand” and repeat back their problems to show you’re paying attention. Feeling like they aren’t being heard is often a customer’s top complaint, so show that you’re listening.
  3. Don’t argue: We know it’s tempting, but don’t fall into a debate on the state of the world. Instead of trying to disprove every point they’re making, stick to the facts and what you can do to solve the problem. If the customer keeps pushing, simply repeat what you can do for them and how you can make it right.
  4. Apologize: As long as your company policy allows it (and it should), apologize for the problem and accept responsibility. This will ensure the customer feels heard and knows you’re not just trying to push the issue under the rug.
  5. Offer a solution: Once you’ve figured out the problem, try to find a solution that works within the bounds of your capabilities and satisfies the customer. Sometimes that’s a full refund. Sometimes it’s just a discount on their next purchase. Identify the severity of the problem and respond accordingly.

Be kind to the customer and yourself.

Remember, a human being is behind that angry message, with their own lives, worries, and stressors. While the mistake or issue they’re coming to you with may have been the spark, their anger is fueled by other things going on in their lives. The best thing you can do for them is to remain positive (or, at the very least, neutral) and find a solution to their immediate problem.

But it’s also important to give yourself (and your team) some grace. Customer service agents face a lot of pressure on all sides, and sometimes that mean-spirited message can be the breaking point. If agents are feeling overwhelmed, do these 3 things:

  1. Bring in a manager: If you’re overwhelmed, or the customer is using threatening and inappropriate language, notify a manager immediately. They can help you de-escalate the situation or decide to terminate the relationship if the customer has crossed a line.
  2. Take a break: If possible, step away from your computer after a challenging situation. Stand up, stretch, take a quick walk, or have a bite to eat. Do what you can to shake off the conversation. (Sometimes, literally shaking your hands and limbs helps!)
  3. Disconnect: Make sure to use your vacation time to disconnect from your computer and truly relax. You’ll be better off for it.

Offense is the best defense.

You’ve heard that phrase, right? It means that if you get ahead and stay ahead, you won’t have to defend as often.

If you’re constantly getting bad customer feedback, there’s probably a disconnect between what you think the customers want and what they actually want.

Instead of going off assumptions, collect information from your customers.

  1. Figure out what type of feedback you want to collect: There are different kinds of information you can gather from your customers. Think product reviews, customer satisfaction surveys, NPS surveys, to name a few. They all have their place but start with the ones that will have the biggest impact on your current customer concerns.
  2. Roll feedback requests into your existing processes: Send product survey requests shortly after customers receive the product, or ask customers to fill out satisfaction surveys at the end of customer service interactions. Use the processes you already have so you don’t add too much work to your already overwhelmed team.
  3. Measure, evaluate, adjust, and repeat: Metrics work best when you look at your numbers over time. Continue to collect customer feedback and improve your products, services, and processes.

Rebuild customer trust.

When customer trust is so hard to earn, you want to do whatever it takes to keep from losing it. Turning an angry customer into a loyal one isn’t as much of a lost cause as you might think.

Regain customer trust by:

  1. Admitting fault: Yes, we mentioned this earlier, but it’s a big sticking point for many customers. Admitting that someone somewhere actually made a mistake is the first step toward repairing the relationship.
  2. Use sincere, positive language: If you’re unsure how to solve something, use phrases like, “Let me find out for you” or “Let’s figure this out together.” The customer is more likely to exhibit patience, and you won’t add any fuel to the fire with negative language.
  3. Follow up when you say you’re going to: If you can’t solve the issue immediately, schedule a time to follow up with the customer—and don’t forget. Even if you haven’t been able to solve the problem yet, reach out to keep them informed. Doing what you say you’re going to do will help build trust, but it’ll backfire if you forget.

Move forward.

We all have to deal with angry customers, but it’s about how you repair the relationship and move forward. These steps are just a starting point. They’ll help rebuild the bridge between your company and your customer.

13 Easy Ways to Build Customer Rapport with Messaging

Messaging is quick. It’s casual. It’s easy to breeze through the pleasantries and get straight to the point. But service agents still need to build customer rapport.

It’s harder to do over messaging, but it’s more important than ever—especially if your company does most of its business online. It’s easy for customers to change brands when things go wrong. In fact, 61% of customers say they’ll switch brands after just one bad customer service experience.

To bridge the digital divide, customer service agents need to build customer rapport with every interaction. With these quick ways to build rapport, you’ll also build customer trust and loyalty.

Continue reading to check out these 13 easy ways to build rapport.

1. To build rapport, start with introductions.

Start messaging conversations with a simple “Hello, my name is _______.” Just because messaging is the more casual channel doesn’t mean niceties go out the window.

Once you’ve introduced yourself, ask for the customers’ names as well. These simple touches are a fast way to put the customer at ease—and it’s one of the quickest ways to build rapport.

Quick tip: This goes for chatbots, too! Whether you name your bot or not, tell the customer they’re talking to AI. Being upfront leads to more trust and—you guessed it—better rapport.

2. Add call-to-text to your IVR.

Customers don’t want to wait on hold, but it happens. When you’re down a few agents or dealing with heavy call volume, give your customers another way to connect with call-to-text.

Adding call-to-text into your IVR menu makes it easy to transition to messaging and lets your customers go about their days while still getting assistance. They’re not stuck on hold, growing angrier by the minute.

3. Be where they’re most comfortable.

It’s hard to build rapport with customers that are in unfamiliar territory. For example, if your agents are only available via web chat (also known as live chat), but your customers are used to texting, this will immediately put up a wall between you. They’re adapting their communication methods to fit your business when it should be the other way around.

Instead, pick communication channels that your customers frequent. In fact, 53% of customers want to use communications channels that are familiar to them, according to Zendesk. When you pick channels they use to chat with friends and family, they’re more likely to connect with your brand.

Quick tip: Conversational AI platforms can help you manage multiple channels all from one central dashboard.

4. Offer a digital smile.

Most customer service advice starts with a smile—but how do you do that over messaging? It’s all about using a friendly tone in your writing. Show enthusiasm with exclamation points, emojis (if your brand voice allows), and quick responses.

5. Match customer’s conversation style.

For in-person conversations, they call it “mirroring.” It’s when you match the other person’s body language. (You’ve probably seen it taken to the extreme on TV for laughs.) Many people do it unconsciously, but it’s a handy way to instantly connect with people.

But how do you do this over messaging? Match their conversation style. If they’re writing out full formal paragraphs, give them thorough responses and avoid any slang. If they’re using text abbreviations, keep it short and casual. You could even throw in some emojis, but maybe avoid using your own abbreviations. (Too much room for miscommunications.)

6. Use the customer’s name.

You asked the customer’s name, so you should use it. People perk up at the mention of their own name, so using it to punctuate your messages will keep them interested in your responses.

This is especially helpful over messaging since it’s often asynchronous (both parties don’t need to be present at the same time). They’re probably going about their day or dealing with distractions, but the mention of their name will grab their attention so you can finish the conversation.

7. Be helpful—beyond answering questions.

Customer service is supposed to be helpful. But with the pressure to serve more customers in less time, and the metrics that reinforce it, agents can speed through conversations by doing the bare minimum.

Yes, speed is important—but so is being helpful! If you’re in the travel industry, provide some recommendations on what to do when your customers get to their destination. If you’re in retail, take a look at what the customer has bought in the past and offer some recommendations. Is there a better account-level tier they could take advantage of for your software? Suggest it!

And since 52% of customers are open to product recommendations for agents, according to Zendesk, it’s also a great opportunity for cross-selling and upselling (as long as you do it in the customer’s best interest). Customers will appreciate the advice and feel like you care about them.

8. A quick way to build rapport: personalize the conversation.

Always start with the customer’s name, but that’s not the only information you should use in your messaging conversations. According to McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect personalization—and 76% get frustrated when they don’t find it.

The less information you have to pull from the customer, the better. According to Zendesk, 72% of customers expect agents to have access to all relevant information. Go beyond simple account information, and look at data like:

  • Past purchases
  • Purchase frequency
  • Messaging preferences
  • Product preferences

Then you can design a conversation that feels personal and meaningful to your customers, making it an easy way to build customer rapport.

9. Let frustrated customers speak (or type).

We know customer service isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When angry customers reach out via messaging, agents should tread lightly. While it’s easy to jump in with the next steps (typically a short apology and some kind of solution), that’s not the only thing the customer wants.

Frustrated customers typically want their issues validated first. That means letting them type out their frustrations before moving on. Once they’ve had the appropriate space to share their concerns, read their messages at least twice before responding.

10. Be specific.

The difficulty with messaging is that certain words and phrases can come off as rote and insincere. Saying “I’m sorry for the inconvenience” or even “We appreciate your business” sounds impersonal.

Instead, get specific to your customer’s problem. Say that you’re sorry that the lamp they ordered came damaged—especially since they’ve been eyeing it for months. Apologize that their package was delayed and that their daughter didn’t get her cleats in time for her first day of softball practice. Being specific will make customers feel more comforted and understood.

11. Veer off script to build rapport.

Whether you have an actual script or conversation guidelines to follow, it’s okay to throw it out the window—sometimes. Ask customers about their interests, mention that you love (and own!) the trousers they picked out, or compliment them on their destination choice.

Although you may have to work a little harder over messaging, these types of comments and compliments show customers that you’re a real person and you’re interested in them as a real person, too.

12. Keep your responses positive.

This is an old customer service trick that works very well over messaging, plus it’s a quick way to build rapport. Try to turn your phrases so that they remain positive, even if you’re saying something negative.

For example, instead of saying, “I don’t know the answer,” you can say something like, “Let me find that answer for you.” Or, instead of saying you can’t access the customer’s account without their credentials, ask for permission to access their account. It’s kind of like a Jedi mind trick. You’re saying the same thing, but customers see your responses more positively. They’re less likely to get upset or feel put out.

13. Do what you say you’re going to do.

The best way to build rapport and gain customer trust? Be trustworthy!

Not all customer service inquiries can be solved in one conversation. If agents have to elevate the conversation to a higher service tier, if you need to check with a manager, or if there are any other issues at play, be honest with the customer about when you’ll get back to them, and then do it. Even if you’re just checking in to let them know you’re still working on resolving the issue, make sure you stay in contact.

Quick tip: Use outbound messaging over email for faster communication—and to ensure the message doesn’t get lost in junk mail.

Put rapport at the forefront of your messaging strategy.

While messaging has many benefits, it does make it more difficult to build customer rapport. Customers can’t see your face, hear your tone of voice, or make eye contact during difficult conversations. But there’s still a place for relationship-building over messaging.

Yes, building rapport is possible with messaging. It takes thoughtful conversations and strategic tools to overcome the digital divide, but messaging can be a key pillar in your customer engagement strategy.

How to Provide Friendly Customer Service with Messaging

We frequently talk about metrics and tools and systems for providing excellent customer service. While those are all critical aspects of a great customer experience, there’s one simple thing to remember, above all else:

Start with friendly customer service.

And we don’t mean that fake-smile, roll-your-eyes-when-you-turn-your-back service from department stores of the past. We mean true, genuine, friendly customer service.

Let’s dig into what friendly customer service looks like in the digital age, and why it’s vital to business success.

Friendly customer service is critical—especially online.

As commerce moves more and more online, it gets harder to convey friendly service. Customers can’t see your bright shining face, they can’t discern your helpful tone of voice. But those aren’t the only reasons friendly service is so important.

Customers have more choices than they used to. Products and services are harder to differentiate, so many customers rely on other intangible ways to decide between brands. Customer service is a great way to stand out—and having friendly customer service could put you miles ahead of your competitors.

In Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, customers ranked “Treat me as a person, not a number” as one of the top 3 actions that build trust. And 94% say how a company treats its customers influences their decision to buy.

Plus, customers’ opinions of customer service are often cumulative. Even small interactions add up to their overall perception of your brand. Customer experience was the top factor (43%) that drives customer loyalty for online shopping, according to a consumer survey from BrizFeel.

Keep reading for some friendly customer services tips.

What does friendly customer service look like over messaging?

Even this writer will admit it—enthusiasm can get lost over messaging. It’s easy to read helpful sentences as condescending or patronizing. And periods? Don’t even get us started.

But there are ways to appear more friendly through online customer service. Here are a few of them.

1. Start with a *digital* smile.

You’ve heard of service with a smile—and even how a smile comes through over the phone—but what does that look like for customer service messaging? It’s all about enthusiasm!

Start with an enthusiastic welcome and a few pleasantries if your customer’s time permits.

For example, start with something like this:

Hello! How are you this morning/afternoon/evening? What can I help you with today?

Even small variations from the standard, “Hi, how can I help you?” will make a customer feel less like a number and more like a person.

2. Use exclamation points!

Don’t be afraid to throw in exclamation points! At times, exclamation points have been controversial (do we use them in emails?), but messaging lends itself to more casual conversations. Use them, especially in intros and goodbyes (i.e., Hello! and Let us know if there’s anything else we can help you with!). Just be sure to pay attention to the customers’ sentiment. If they’re upset or angry, an exclamation point can rub them the wrong way.

3. Embrace emojis.

It’s hard for your customers to see or hear the tone in your text, so use emojis to help connect with them just like you would a friend. Okay, maybe not just like your friend. Avoid accidentally inappropriate emoji conversations by laying out which are and are not appropriate for your support staff to use.

As long as emojis fit within your brand voice, use them to punctuate a conversation, just like you would with real emotions in person. We’d stick with the simple smiley faces 😊 or a well-timed shocked face 😳.

4. Use sentiment check-ins.

It’s hard to tell when a customer is satisfied with the conversation, frustrated, or confused. Ask questions throughout the conversation to check in with them. Simple questions like “Do you have any questions?” or “Is that what you were looking for?” can help you assess how the customer is feeling.

You can also use conversational AI platforms to help track customer sentiment through written cues and even prioritize conversations based on it.

5. Use your manners.

Texting has shortened our written communications and eliminated a lot of the niceties of the past. But when you’re chatting with customers—it’s important to remember your manners. Say please when asking for information, and always say thank you after they’ve given it to you.

While many customers think manners are table stakes, it’s certainly worth repeating. Even though messaging is a much more casual communications channel, niceties work for every occasion.

6. Be mindful of customers’ time.

Your customers are busy! Although many digital communication channels are asynchronous (both you and the customer don’t have to be present at the same time), you want to keep conversations as short as possible—without losing that friendliness.

Sometimes that means skipping the small talk. While it works in person and sometimes over the phone, it rarely works over messaging. Asking about your customer’s day is fine, but if you’re getting short, clipped responses, that’s an indicator that they’re in a hurry. Most of the time, customers want to get in, get their questions answered, and get out. Respect that, and don’t draw out the conversations unnecessarily.

7. Respond as quickly as possible.

We know that this is a given (of course you’re responding quickly), but it’s important to remember. When you’re chatting with a friend, an instant response will always show more enthusiasm than one that comes 30 minutes later. Do your best to respond quickly to problems that your customers deem urgent.

Responding quickly is also more likely to reflect the pace of an in-person conversation, which customers might find more natural and friendly.

8. Don’t skimp on product knowledge.

When agents can’t answer questions, or spend the majority of their time searching for answers, friendly service can go out the window. While information is at your agents’ fingertips, they should still know as much about the business as possible.

Continually train agents on new products and services, along with ongoing soft skills training. It’ll keep agents on top of their product knowledge and keep them fresh and enthusiastic to serve customers better.

9. Be respectful.

It’s easy to get swept away in emotions, especially when agents have dealt with their 10th angry customer of the day. Customer service can be a difficult job, especially when customers are frustrated over products and services (or even with the world in general). While it’s easier said than done, agents should stay calm when chatting with customers.

Here are some ways to help agents get through tough conversations:

  • Step away if emotions get too high.
  • Loop in a manager or another support agent to help diffuse the situation.
  • Use role-playing to practice handling difficult situations.
  • Remember, it’s not personal.

Reducing agent stress will also help promote a more respectful environment for customers. When agents aren’t worried about meaningless metrics (only the important ones), or an unstable work environment, they’re much more likely to have friendly customer interactions. Only 15% of agents are extremely satisfied with their workload, according to Zendesk. That dissatisfaction will likely trickle down to your customers.

10. Be honest.

Ready for a cliche? Honesty is the best policy! Okay, maybe not always, but it’s certainly important when delivering friendly customer service.

Customers say communicating honestly and transparently is the #1 way to build trust, according to Salesforce. That means customer service reps should give real answers when customers ask why something went wrong and be upfront about internal mistakes.

Honesty also needs to be a top-down initiative. Agents can’t be open and honest with customers if they’re not getting the truth themselves. Incorporate honesty into every level of your organization and your customers will feel it.

Friendly customer service pays off.

Need some motivation to implement these friendly customer service tips? How about higher revenue?

According to Zendesk, 81% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. There’s more:

  • 74% of customers are more likely to forgive a mistake after excellent customer service.
  • 70% have made a purchase decision based on customer service.
  • 61% say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad customer service experience.

Friendly customer service is the key to building brand loyalty—increasing revenue as a result.

Remember: Friendly service first.

If you only remember one thing from these friendly customer service tips, let it be that friendliness trumps most. It turns mistakes into opportunities, bad experiences into good ones, and good experiences into great.

Yes, metrics and tools and processes and surveys are all important aspects of running a working customer service center. But friendly agents with heart are what make it truly successful.

Are You Tracking These 10 Help Desk Metrics?

Metrics are the lifeblood of help desks and contact centers. Most help desk leaders are using a variety of metrics to measure their team’s performance, but which data should you track?

Data can help drive success, but collecting the wrong metrics (and too many) can cause overwhelm and unnecessary stress on your team.

Traditionally, a help desk refers to IT or internal support. Over time, people have expanded the use of the phrase to include a service desk, general customer support, and customer service teams.

We’ve put together the 10 most vital help desk metrics you should track. Keep reading to learn what they are and how you can use them to improve your customer service.

1. Ticket volume

Your basic metric: How many tickets does your helpdesk receive over a given period of time? Use this information to track busy periods and make important decisions like how many agents you should hire.

2. Ticket channel distribution

This metric helps you track where your tickets are coming from. Do most of your customers use live chat (or web chat)? How many tickets come from Apple Messages for Business? Knowing how many tickets come through each channel will help you allocate resources. You’ll also know which channels to spend more time training your agents on.

3. Response time

Response time measures how fast your agents first respond to customers. This is a big deal for your customer experience. In fact, 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report.

Response time expectations often vary between channels. For example, customers reaching out on web chat expect an answer within minutes (if not seconds). Yet with channels like SMS/text messaging or email, customers are more forgiving of slower response times.

4. Open tickets vs. resolved tickets

How many tickets are coming in each day and how many are being resolved? This is a good indicator of agent performance and workload. A healthy help desk team will see roughly the same number of new tickets and resolved tickets each day.

You can quickly identify a problem with your team by looking at this metric. Too many unresolved tickets could mean you need to hire more agents, spend more time on training, or redistribute work so that tickets get resolved faster.

5. Average resolution time

Your average resolution time is a vital metric for measuring your help desk’s performance. How long it takes to resolve a customer inquiry directly impacts the customer experience. Resolution times will vary depending on the complexity of the tickets and your industry, but faster is almost always better.

Be sure to include the total time from when a customer first submits a ticket to when the agent closes it out. Yes, this includes response times too!

6. Conversations per agent

Track how many conversations your agents can manage over a given time period. Identify which agents are taking the most calls to see how you can redistribute the workload.

In a similar vein, you can also track your agents’ utilization rate (time spent solving customer issues divided by total time working). This will tell you which agents are overworked and which have time for extra tasks. Here’s a quick tip: Never aim for a 100% utilization rate. You’ll burn out employees and leave no time for administrative tasks.

7. First-contact resolution rate

Your first-contact resolution rate (FCR) measures how many tickets are solved on the first try. Since 80% of customers expect to solve complex problems by speaking to one agent, according to Salesforce, tracking this metric helps you identify if you’re meeting customer expectations.

Getting customers quick and painless answers often comes down to agent training and easy access to information. Use a conversational platform that easily integrates with your CRM or information databases so agents can pull product or customer info for a frictionless customer experience.

8. Containment rate

Containment rate measures how many people interact with a chatbot or IVR help options without speaking with a live agent. This metric helps you track how effective your chatbot conversations are. If too many people still need to switch to a live agent after talking to your chatbot, it can impact customer satisfaction.

Containment standards vary across industries, but with Quiq’s Conversational AI, contact centers see a 70% containment (or contact deflection) rate.

A word of caution: Use this metric with context. Containment shouldn’t be your top priority—helping customers should. While reducing agents’ workload (and operating costs while you’re at it) is beneficial, you don’t want to risk the customer experience to make it happen. Don’t make it more difficult for customers to reach live agents just to improve this metric. Instead, work to make your chatbots as helpful as possible while still giving customers the option to chat with a human.

9. Customer satisfaction

A fast and efficient help desk with the best metrics in the industry will still be the worst performing if customers aren’t happy. While numbers are important to keeping costs down, providing excellent customer service is the best way to keep sales up. According to Salesforce, 94% of customers say a positive customer service experience makes them more likely to purchase again.

Survey customers immediately after helpdesk interactions to ensure customers are leaving those conversations with answers and good feelings about your brand.

10. Agent satisfaction

While most of these metrics rely on agent performance, this one is surveying you. It’s easy to think you need agents to work harder and lower your operational costs. But don’t forget that pushing them too far will lead to stressed employees, burnout, and high turnover. Finding and training agents will cost you much more in the long run.

Survey agents on a regular basis to gauge their workload levels, see if they have the right tools and equipment, and ensure all levels of management are providing the support your agents need.

3 help desk best practices to keep in mind.

Metrics are important to keep your customer contact center running smoothly, but they can’t measure everything. Here are a few additional help desk metrics best practices to keep your contact center running smoothly.

1. Design chatbot conversations to solve problems—not put up roadblocks.

Chatbots are an integral part of a winning customer service strategy. They give customers 24/7 access to help, they help streamline agent conversations, and they reduce ticket volume. But don’t design the conversations as barriers to overcome to reach your live agents. Your customers shouldn’t have to perform the 12 labors of Hercules to reach Mt. Olympus.

Instead, design chatbots to answer common FAQs, collect information, troubleshoot problems, and other helpful tasks. Make sure you include an easy way for customers to connect with live agents and review the conversation so no one will have to repeat information.

2. Don’t keep help desk metrics in a silo.

These metrics are incredibly valuable for your customer service team, but they can also benefit the rest of your organization. If you suddenly have an influx of new ticket requests, maybe there’s a problem with a product. Maybe your web team needs to redesign a customer flow. If you’re seeing a shift from tickets via web chat to Facebook, that’s a good indicator that your customers spend more time there—information that will be helpful for your social media team.

It’s also important to look at your own help desk metrics in context with what’s going on in your organization. Don’t penalize agents for a large backlog when a new product release isn’t going well.

3. Build up your self-service options.

Whether it’s a knowledge-base, FAQ page, or AI chatbot (or hopefully all three), spend time and effort building out these resources. Giving customers the option to help themselves will reduce call volume and reduce the number of menial questions agents have to answer (which they’ll likely thank you for).

And it’s not just for the sake of your help desk team. Customers actually want more self-service options. According to Zendesk’s CX Trends report, 89% of customers will spend more with companies that allow them to find answers online without having to contact anyone.

Pick the right metrics to see your help desk performance soar.

There are so many potential help desk metrics that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Zero in on those measuring the customer experience and your agency performance to gather the most relevant data and make the biggest impact on your business.

7 Mistakes You’re Making in Customer Service

We hate to break it to you, but the customer experience is getting worse.

Okay, maybe you already knew that.

With staffing shortages, supply chain disasters, inflation, and a looming recession, there’s a lot going on. And customer service seems to be bearing the brunt of it.

Forrester’s Consumer Index Ratings showed a big drop in the quality of customer experiences. CX fell for 19% of brands in 2022—the highest proportion of brands to drop in one year since the survey’s inception. Airlines and hotels are among the top industries seeing a drop, brought on by both internal and external factors.

While you can’t control the many economic factors contributing to this dip, there are some things you can control. Like your focus on customer service.

Avoid the pitfalls by fixing these top seven most common mistakes in customer service.

1. Making customers wait.

The mistake

Customers don’t like to wait. We repeat: Customers don’t like to wait. It’s an obvious point, yet in the past couple of years, customers have had to wait longer and longer for service.

There are some outside factors that have nothing to do with your business. The fast and thorough shift to online shopping left many businesses overwhelmed. Toward the beginning of the pandemic, almost 90% of customers experienced longer wait times than usual, according to CallMiner research.

And staffing shortages continue to be an issue, especially in positions that can struggle with keeping up morale. Even chattier callers (who’ve been devoid of human contact for much of the pandemic) have contributed to extended wait times.

But there are some things you could be doing to exacerbate customer wait times. Relying exclusively on one-to-one communication, like phone calls, can tie up agents’ time.

The fix

Turn to asynchronous communication channels, like text messaging, social media messaging, and in some cases web chat (also known as live chat). Asynchronous messaging doesn’t require both parties’ attention at the same time.

Pairing asynchronous channels with communication platforms, like Quiq, can make agents more efficient and cut down on your customer wait time. Agents can handle up to eight conversations at once—instead of being locked into a single phone call.

Embracing AI chatbots will also help reduce customer wait times by acting as your first line of defense. Chatbots help customer service teams move faster by fielding FAQs, collecting customer information, troubleshooting, and more.

2. Failing to create the right communications mix.

The mistake

There are two types of companies that make this mistake:

1. Company A: This is the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” company. They likely offer support through phone and email. Maybe they have a lightly-manned web chat feature on their site. The problem is, they don’t know that this way IS broken.

These companies are holdovers from a bygone era. They probably still think customer service is a drain on their company resources (instead of the moneymaker that it is).

Then there’s Company B…

2. Company B: They are excited and ready to hit the ground running. They’re on all the platforms, but they don’t have a strategy and they definitely don’t have a conversational platform.

While their enthusiasm counts for a lot, agents will be stretched too thin to serve customers everywhere at once. Being everywhere without a plan is just as likely to leave customers frustrated and unhappy.

Both companies are making the same big mistake: They’ve selected the right communications mix for their business, but not the right mix for their customers.

The fix

The fix for both companies is actually the same. Start with a strategy.

Meet the basics first. Give customers a way to instantly connect with your team. Ideally, that’s web chat (also called live chat), SMS text messaging, and voice.

Once you have their instant needs met, look to be available to customers on their terms. Do they hang out on Twitter? Instagram? Choose the platforms that make sense for your customer base. And don’t forget to add channels like Google Business Messaging and Apple Messages for Business to be easily accessible from your customers’ phones.

A key piece to making these multiple platforms work is having a conversational platform like Quiq. It can help agents manage multiple conversations across channels and ensure seamless customer experiences.

3. Using outdated methods of customer service.

The mistake

In the past, tiered customer service models reigned supreme. It treated customer service like a video game. Customers start at the first level, a typical IVR system or intake agent, and level up to the next “boss” until their problem got solved.

There’s a lot wrong with that model.

It perpetuates the “let me speak to your manager” attitude, making customers think they can get different answers than your agents are providing if they go one step up the leadership chain. Agents might not feel supported by their leaders, which could lead to low morale and faster burnout as a result. Methods like these are likely partially responsible for how customer service agents feel about their jobs. According to Zendesk’s CX Trends report, 38% say the service team is not treated as well as others in the organization.

It’s also not great for your customers. They’ll likely have to repeat themselves with each new person they speak with, which is a big pet peeve for many. In fact, 71% of global customers expect a company to share information so they don’t have to repeat themselves.

Plus, it simply takes longer to resolve. It prohibits you from giving customers the fast, frictionless experience they expect—and deserve.

The fix

Move to a collaboration model of customer service. Customer service tools like CRM software and conversational platforms make it easy for agents to work together to solve customer issues as they come up.

Managers, technicians, engineers, IT, or anyone on your team can pop into customer conversations to solve problems. They can read the conversation history, take a look at snippets, and review the sentiment analysis to see how the conversation is going and how they can help solve the problem. Customers are happy because they don’t have to repeat themselves, and agents don’t feel like they’re the blunt end of a battering ram.

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4. Ignoring touchpoints in your customer service journey.

The mistake

Is your team especially helpful until the customer hands over their credit card? Good customer service doesn’t stop at the sale. It also doesn’t exist just to answer post-purchase questions. What makes good customer service great is the attention to the entire customer service journey.

54% of customers say that customer service feels like an afterthought, according to Zendesk.

The fix

When you’re small, it’s easy to just wing customer service. You’re so busy that you simply deal with problems as they come up. But once you’ve scaled your customer service team, it’s time for a thoughtful strategy.

Take a look at every customer touchpoint and see what you can do to improve the customer service experience. After your guests purchase an airline ticket, can you provide FAQs about their travel destination? Can you do more early in the buying process to help ease decision-making? What about questions that pop up on social media?

5. Not proactively engaging with customers.

The mistake

Businesses with high volumes of customer server inquiries are especially prone to making this mistake. Your agents are busy handling myriad customer requests, which run the gamut from simple FAQs to more complex problems. Every day is a mixed bag, and it’s hard to adequately prepare.

The bigger problems are the complaints not being addressed. What are your customers dealing with that you don’t hear about? How much of your customer churn is related to service and product issues that you never even hear about?

The fix

The best kind of customer service is the kind that solves problems before they happen. Make note of the top FAQs and see what you can do to help customers find these answers without having to reach out. Some common questions, like “Where’s my order?” can be solved by sending outbound messages with tracking links and order updates. Minimize sizing questions by proactively offering sizing consultations. Share video tutorials. Getting ahead of these questions can free up your team for more complex problems.

6. Expecting agents to learn on the fly.

The mistake

You have a CRM. You have your product guide books/service manuals/insert whatever written learning materials you have—that should be enough to get new agents started, right? Not quite.

Only 20% of customer service agents are extremely satisfied with their training, according to Zendesk. But they’re not the only ones that notice it. Your customers do, too, with 68% saying it feels like most businesses need to improve their customer service agents’ training.

The fix

At the very least, ensure your agents have access to product and customer information at their fingertips. Your CRM software and product databases should be integrated into your conversation platform. Your agents should be able to access information easily and quickly to give your customers that seamless experience they crave.

But just because your agents don’t need to memorize as much product information as they used to doesn’t mean you can skimp on training. Shift training to focus on soft skills, like effective communication, conflict resolution, and creative problem-solving.

7. Not actively listening to your customers.

The mistake

Customer service often feels like “the complaint department.” When your customer service team deals with frequent complaints, there’s a risk of apathy. Agents can get overwhelmed and stop caring about customer issues. It’s too easy to deal with immediate problems without looking for long-term solutions.

The mistake isn’t just about not listening to your customers. It’s also about showing that you’re listening to your customers. You may have closed-door conversations about how to improve products and services—but if customers don’t hear it or see it, did it really happen?

The fix

This mistake takes a multi-pronged approach, depending on which feedback facet you’re facing.

When customers don’t feel valued when chatting with agents: It’s time for some empathy training. Sometimes it’s not enough to solve customers’ problems, they want to be heard and understood. Offer empathy training to your agents as part of the onboarding process, and offer refresher courses a couple of times a year. Your agents likely face the same outside stressors that your customers do, so help them manage stress during difficult times.

When customers feel like their feedback goes right into the trash bin: When customers voice larger complaints, the last thing they want to hear is a trite “Thank you, we’ll elevate this issue to the appropriate channels.” They want to know their complaint or suggestion was heard by the right people—and that someone is doing something about it. Create a systemized way to collect feedback and put it into action, then share your system.

When you’re only hearing crickets: No complaints. Great, right?! Maybe. Maybe you aren’t giving your customers the space to do so. Be sure to solicit customer feedback through frequent customer satisfaction surveys. Customers will have a place to be heard, and you’ll have valuable information to improve your products and services.

Refocus on your customer service.

When so many things are out of your control, the best thing to do is refocus on your customers. Avoiding these common mistakes in customer service will help you provide a frictionless experience that keeps them coming back for more.

Do You Know Your Customer Churn Rate?

Customer churn rate is a scary metric. Left unchecked, it’s a silent business killer.

It’s especially important for companies who rely on recurring revenue, such as subscription clothing services, meal delivery, or membership programs. But that doesn’t mean other types of businesses should ignore it. Repeat customers are important to any business—which is why understanding churn is critical.

Before we give you the strategies to improve your churn rate, let’s back up and discuss what it is and why it matters to your business.

What is customer churn?

Customer churn rate (or customer attrition rate) measures how many customers you lose over a given period of time. It’s also the exact opposite of your customer retention rate.

It’s important to look at churn along with your customer acquisition (which measures how effectively you’re acquiring customers). The two measurements and their respective strategies essentially keep your business running: One gets customers in the door, and the other tells you how to keep them.

Why is customer churn rate important? Because your average customer needs to stick around long enough (or make high enough purchases) to more than cover your customer acquisition costs. If they don’t, you’re operating at a loss.

How to calculate churn:

  1. Figure out how many customers you have at the beginning of a period of time.
  2. Find the number of customers you lost in that time period (don’t forget to account for new customers).
  3. Divide the number of customers you lost by the number of customers you started out with.
  4. Multiply by 100 to determine the percentage.

For example, here’s what it would look like if we had 100 customers at the beginning of the month and 90 customers at the end of the month:

  • Customers lost ÷ customers at the start of the month x 100 = customer churn
  • 10 ÷ 100 x 100 = 10%

In this example, your customer churn rate would be 10%.

The first step to reducing customer churn is to understand it.

Now that you’ve calculated your customer churn rate, it’s time to understand what that number really means.

Before you jump to sweeping conclusions (we’ve all been there!), take a wider look at your business. Was there anything unique happening in your business, the industry, or even globally that could be skewing your numbers? Make sure to account for it.

Next, figure out how to benchmark your numbers. Is there an industry standard? Are you comparing year over year? There’s no wrong way to do it—you just need to be consistent.

It’s also important to remember that despite your best efforts, you will have customer churn. And it isn’t always bad. If you’re revamping a service, targeting a new customer, or redesigning products, some churn is expected, or even a good thing, as long as it’s controlled with a new influx of customers.

Another example of expected churn is when subscription services, be it clothing, meal delivery, or SaaS, see a drop-off in the first month or two of service.

New customers are trying your service or product and determining if it’s a fit for them. When the product doesn’t click, they drop off quickly.

Now, if it gets out of control and you have a hard time keeping clients, you need to rethink your service. But it’s mostly an expected and planned occurrence.

Keep that in mind when you take a first look at your numbers.

Find the problem areas.

Once you have your churn rate, you can start figuring out how to reduce it. The best place to start? Customer surveys.

Survey customers at pivotal moments in their customer journey—particularly where you see the biggest drop off. Start with these three key junctures.

1. After their first purchase.

Theoretically, this is when they’re most excited. Use this survey to see how to capture that excitement and share it with all of your customers. Of course, the opposite could also be true. This is when they feel that first wave of disappointment. As uncomfortable as that is, you need to know when it’s happening and why so you can prevent it from happening again.

2. When they haven’t logged in or made a new purchase.

When customers aren’t excited, they often go silent. They forget you exist, forget they signed up for a program, or even that they purchased a subscription. Pick a time period that makes sense for your business and reach out with a survey. Maybe it’s 15 days or even a month. (Pro tip: Try to avoid those passive-aggressive, “Did you forget about us?” emails that no one likes.)

3. When they’ve canceled or gone completely silent.

At this point, you know something is wrong. Whether they haven’t made a purchase in six months or outright canceled your services, it really helps to know why. While it can be difficult to ask a customer who no longer uses your product to help you improve, this will give you the most valuable feedback on how you can reach customers like them in the future.

Once you have your churn rate and feedback from customers at these key stages, you can take decisive action.

4 ways to reduce customer churn.

There are many factors that go into your churn rate, but messaging is a big one. How you connect and engage with customers impacts their experience, whether you’re selling a flight to Rome or a healthy version of cacio e pepe.

Here’s how messaging helps reduce churn rate and where you should implement it.

1. Revamp new customer onboarding.

We tend to think that customer onboarding only applies to software technologies or online classes, and the like, but any business can build an onboarding experience. When a customer makes their first purchase, don’t just send an order confirmation. Craft an experience that walks them through the first purchase and leads them toward the next. Start with these messaging ideas:

  • Send a welcome email.
  • Share product or service information.
  • Point them toward a knowledge-base or FAQ page.
  • Invite them into a brand community and to connect on social.
  • Text them a discounted offer on their next purchase.
  • Tell them about your rewards program.
  • Encourage them to connect with customer support when they have questions.

Welcoming your customers with support and extra benefits will demonstrate your brand’s value right from the start.

2. Revisit brand and product messaging.

Your churn rate heavily depends on customer expectations. If customers expect something that your product or service doesn’t give them, they’ll be disappointed—no matter how great it actually is.

Take a look at your brand messaging, your product descriptions, and any other marketing materials. Is everything accurate? Are you overpromising? Make sure you leave some room to overdeliver and wow your customers from the first interaction.

3. Make customer service fast and accessible.

Churn rates are often attributed partly to the customer service team (although it’s merely a very important piece of a larger puzzle). And it makes sense to involve your customer service team. After all, the opposite of customer churn is customer retention. In Zendesk’s CX Trends Report, 60% of business leaders agreed that customer service improves retention.

Make your support team easily accessible from wherever your customers are. Save the call center for complex problems, and instead answer questions with business messaging. Start by identifying which digital channels they frequent most and make your service team available on them.

4. Be proactive with at-risk customers.

After you’ve collected data to help you determine your customer churn triggers (think immediately after the tutorial, after a week of not logging in, or on the checkout page), engage customers at those key points. See if they need extra support, resources, or help checking out.

Being proactive helps you prevent customer churn by solving issues early in the process before a customer disengages.

Embrace messaging to lower customer churn.

Now that you have a better idea of what churn rate is, you can take the steps to reduce it. When you spend time on keeping your customers instead of just attracting new ones, your business benefits on both ends (revenue and costs).

How to Anticipate Customer Needs (With Examples)

When was the last time you heard a story about exceptional customer service? Or an innovative way a company figured out how to meet customer needs?

You know the kind: An observant hotel employee rescues a beloved stuffed animal. The considerate customer service agent sends a gift card to apologize for a shipping error. A software company sees you’re having trouble with their platform and sends you a private video walkthrough.

These are all great examples, but what really makes a difference day after day is simply anticipating customer needs before they become problems.

Some companies seem to have an uncanny ability to get ahead of their customer’s issues. But it doesn’t just happen. Exceptional customer service is designed with dedication and built into company cultures.

We get it. Sometimes merely meeting customer needs is a struggle. Anticipating them? Now that seems daunting. After all, you can’t read minds.

The good news is that your customers don’t expect you to. (In fact, they often find it creepy when you know too much about them.) But they do want you to anticipate their problems and help them reach a resolution as quickly as possible.

For all of the work it requires to make anticipating customer needs happen, the payoff is well worth it. Let’s take a look at how to anticipate customer needs and what it means to your customer service.

What will you gain by anticipating customer needs?

In a word: loyalty.

We’ve touched on customer loyalty before, but we can’t stress its importance enough. In a digital-first age, customers have endless choices—and you need to make them choose you. Winning their loyalty has become more important than ever.

Customer service has become a major competitive advantage. According to Microsoft, 90% of customers say customer service is important to their brand choice and loyalty to that brand.

And should those customer service expectations fall short, 58% of customers show little hesitation in severing the relationship. The days of implicit loyalty are long gone.

While customer loyalty should be enough of a draw, here are some more benefits to anticipating customer needs:

  • Increased revenue. When your customers feel taken care of, they’re more likely to come back. They’re looking for easy, frictionless experiences and will frequent the businesses that give them that.
  • Less strain on your customer service team. You read that right. Making things simple for customers will have a direct impact on your customer service team. Even when you provide more customer service, it’ll still be better for your agents. Customers will have fewer questions, there will be less urgency in their questions, and they’ll be less frustrated overall.

Start by identifying customer expectations.

You’ve probably heard of the surprise and delight customer service strategy. It suggests that the best way to retain customers is to keep them guessing. Following its doctrine, you should go above and beyond the normal call of duty to give the customers something they weren’t expecting. The examples in the introduction are all great cases of using surprise and delight.

While it works when customers are already pleased with your company, it probably won’t make an angry customer come back. And since 55% of customers expect better customer service year over year, according to Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Service report, simply meeting expectations is often a struggle.

Hubspot’s Annual State of Service Report shows even greater numbers. 88% of respondents agreed that customers have higher expectations than in the past, and 79% said customers are smarter and more informed.

So what are customers’ needs? What do they expect from today’s businesses?

Simplicity.

They want frictionless experiences, easy-to-navigate interfaces, and fast solutions to their problems.

But you shouldn’t just take our word for it. The best way to figure out what your customers want is to ask them. More and more businesses are conducting post-purchase surveys to ensure customer satisfaction, loyalty, and more. According to Hubspot, 70% of businesses report they are tracking customer satisfaction/happiness—a jump from 60% in 2020 and around 55% in 2019.

Similarly, a majority of respondents—85%—say customers are more likely to share positive or negative experiences now than in the past.

While CSAT and other surveys can help you improve customer service, expand your research to include those that don’t buy from you. Ask why they didn’t purchase, and dive deep to figure out which of their needs weren’t met—and see how you can meet them in the future.

Give customers convenient service.

Regardless of whether they’re shopping for a vacation getaway, office supplies, or looking for subscription-based fashion, your customers expect convenience and fast service.

When you walk into a store, you expect orderly displays and friendly staff ready to serve you. When you visit a company’s website, you expect the same: A streamlined digital presence, complete with an easy-to-use website and customer service agents at the ready.

Just how fast? According to Hubspot’s Annual State of Service report, 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question—which customers define as under 10 minutes.

Here are a few ways to give customers fast, convenient service:

  • Make customer service digital. Customers don’t want to interrupt their day to call customer service, wait on hold to speak to a representative, or spend days waiting for an email response. These slower communication methods are helpful in a pinch, but customers now want something more. They want digital customer service.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that consumers are using mobile devices to communicate. Implementing business messaging to reduce wait times, deflect calls, and provide faster assistance disrupts and resets the consumer expectation that contacting a company for help is slow and inconvenient.

  • Be easily accessible. It sounds easy, right? If they found your website, surely they can find your customer service contact info hidden on your help page, which is hidden in your footer, or beneath a menu in your header. Yes, customers can probably find you, but make the process easier by being available to them wherever they are.

Have a web chat (also known as live chat) box on your website so customers can instantly chat with a customer service agent—no matter how far down your website rabbit hole they’ve gone.

Don’t stop there. Are your customers on Instagram? What about Twitter? The more places you’re available to answer questions, the happier your customers will be. They won’t have to go searching for help, and you’ll always have someone there when they need you.

Offer proactive customer service. Heading off a problem before it happens is almost always better than waiting for them to come to you. And customers agree— more than two-thirds want an organization to reach out and engage with proactive customer notifications, according to Microsoft.

Being proactive can be as simple as sending tracking links to limit “where’s my order?” inquiries. Consider collecting top customer questions and sharing them during the purchasing process, or feed answers to a chatbot for quick customer service response times.

At Quiq, we help our clients provide convenient ways for customers to engage with a brand and allow consumers to reach out to companies on their terms. Communicating with companies via messaging is still pretty new, and we’ve seen so many consumers respond with surprise and delight at the ability to text a company for help.

Stop communication inefficiencies before they start.

Many customer needs examples revolve around their time. As we mentioned above, inefficient communication just adds to your customers’ frustrations. You’ve likely experienced the struggle of having to navigate IVR systems (those interactive voice response systems that use automation to collect customer information and point them in the right direction). Whether you’re waiting on hold or waiting for an email response, that’s time you can’t get back.

During those moments of need, the last thing your customers want is to interrupt their day. Customer loyalty is won (or lost) in these critical moments.

Anticipate customers’ needs by working within their schedules and workflows. Here are a few ways to get started.

  • Make communication asynchronous. The biggest frustration when calling help centers is that you must put your day on hold to do so. Don’t force your customers to conform to your service center’s schedule. Instead, offer asynchronous messaging.

Communication methods like web chat and voice are helpful for getting answers to more complex questions, but they also require customers to block out their time and respond immediately. Asynchronous messaging, however, lets customers respond whenever they’re available. As a bonus, your customer service agents can handle multiple interactions at the same.

  • Take advantage of chatbots. Chatbots are the key to giving customers the immediate responses they crave without overwhelming your customer service team. They’re always available to provide simple answers to questions or, at the very least, acknowledge the customer’s question and let them know when an agent will be available to chat.

You can also use chatbots to help you anticipate customers’ needs by having them prompt customers with messages as they navigate through your website. Start with a welcome message, offer product suggestions based on browsing history, or provide answers to FAQs during checkout.

  • Eliminate repetitive tasks. Speed up redundant tasks by creating pre-build responses for common questions. Not only will you be able to speed up response times, but you’ll also ensure customers get the same accurate and helpful information no matter which customer service agent they talk to.

Imagine how your customers would perceive your brand if they were able to text a question to your contact center and get immediate help and resolution. No interruptions to their day, no inconvenience or waiting involved.

Aligning your people, processes, and technology to reduce effort and streamline communications will do wonders for your customer service. With each positive interaction, customers will anticipate great service well into the future.

When your customer expects to be taken care of, they can engage with your company without feeling that they have to play offense, which leads to more pleasant interactions for both sides.

Empower CSAs to make the right decisions for customers.

Sometimes, anticipating customers’ needs means understanding that you can’t predict them all. Problems come up, mistakes get made, and website bugs happen. The trick is coming up with a plan to handle things that have no plan.

How do you do that? Empower customer service agents to take action to solve customer issues.

Unfortunately, right now, not everyone has that power. Around 20% of service agents say their biggest challenge is not having the ability to make the right decisions for customers, according to Hubspot. But it’s likely that many more face this issue on a regular basis.

Ensure your customer agents have the authority to do things like:

  • Offer discounts when customers encounter problems.
  • Expedite orders when shipments are lost or damaged.
  • Take as much time as they need to solve customer issues.

Without the authority to make these decisions on their own, agents have to wait for approvals or miss out on opportunities to surpass customer expectations.

Equip your team with the tools to meet future needs.

While you can’t predict every need that pops up (unless you found that crystal ball), you can ensure your customer service is always on point. Set your team up for success with the right tools to meet customer service needs now and into the future.

Regardless of the issue, the one thing you can anticipate is that your customer wants resolution in the fastest, most pain-free way possible. Quiq helps companies across multiple industries do just that with our Conversational AI platform.

Let customers talk to you the same way they chat with their family and friends. Whether a customer needs to text you to ask about an exchange or new car loan, needs assistance via chat in finding and buying the perfect gift, or wants to schedule a service and pay for it through Apple Messages for Business, Quiq messaging powers your customer connections.

How Messaging Helps Hospitality Get Personal

The hospitality industry is, by nature, a very human business. Whether you’re in hotel and lodging, travel and transportation, food and beverage, or recreation, hospitality is all about creating a unique and personal experience for your guests. Have you considered how technology like SMS hospitality messaging can actually make guest experiences more personalized?

While technology has changed the game, it can sometimes feel antithetical to the warmth the hospitality industry is beloved for. However, when messaging tech is used correctly, it helps you do what the hospitality industry has always done best: Make human connections.

SMS hospitality messaging connects you to guests on their terms.

It’s exactly for this reason that messaging can help transform the customer experience by giving service providers a way to connect and engage with guests in an easy, convenient, and preferred way.

There are major opportunities to leverage SMS hospitality messaging in a way that doesn’t detract from the human connection—but adds to it. Messaging liberates guests from standing in line, waiting for an email, or sitting on hold.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can use SMS hospitality messaging to connect with customers and personalize the industry.

High tech and high touch.

Providing a memorable guest experience is part physical and observable. What thread count are the sheets? What’s the ambiance of the restaurant (do they have table cloths and sommeliers or barstools and air hockey)?

The intangibles are just as important to the overall experience—the care and attention of the staff, the ease of changing bookings, how payments are handled, etc. These smaller details are often your differentiators and play a big factor in how you make your customers feel.

SMS messaging can make all the difference. Instead of forcing customers to stand in lines, wait on hold, or hunt down information on in-room pamphlets, you can bring the service to them.

In fact, guests now expect it as a standard part of their hospitality experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruption in the hospitality industry.

While travel is starting to return to 2019 levels (along with occupancy rates and room revenue, according to Accenture), it has permanently influenced customer expectations.

There are fewer business travelers, more local vacationers—and more digital nomads. This is reshaping the hospitality industry in everything from loyalty programs and digital amenities to a demand for SMS booking.

And customer service has only increased in importance.

Accenture’s Life Reimagined report says 53% of consumers think customer service has become more important than price—and 54% of consumers believe it will continue to be so over the next 12 months.

Transparency, clarity, and simplicity have become top decision drivers. More than half of customers who have reimagined life due to the pandemic say they would switch brands if the brand doesn’t create clear and easy options for contacting customer service, according to Accenture’s report.

For hospitality, text messaging is a natural step toward delivering high-touch experiences. Customers are already using their mobile devices to find fun things to do (70%), research destinations (66%), and book transportation or airfare (46%).

With so much emphasis already placed on mobile, a move to messaging is a natural and organic option that customers are likely already looking to do. Continuing to use customers’ mobile devices throughout their stay just makes sense.

In fact, messaging can enhance the customer’s experience across the entire guest journey.

Tap into the power of SMS hospitality messaging.

Messaging allows you to connect and engage with guests in a way that is already an important part of how they communicate daily.

SMS text messaging upgrades your customer communications with more than simple text conversations. Rich messaging brings the hospitality experience to your guests long before they reach your doorstep. With rich messaging, you can:

  • Process secure transactions, from SMS booking for hotel rooms and excursions to in-room upgrades and payments.
  • Send reservation reminders, confirmations, and up-to-the-minute notices.
  • Increase guest excitement with content like images, GIFs, videos, and more.

Easy ways to start using SMS/texting in hospitality.

Getting started with hospitality text messaging may seem overwhelming at first, but there are many ways to introduce it into your existing customer journeys.

Here are some examples of ways you can use SMS hospitality messaging to elevate experiences in hotels, restaurants, and recreational activities.

SMS for hotels.

  1. Answer pre-booking questions. While your website is a great booking tool, nothing beats one-on-one conversations. Your guests may have simple questions about things like early check-in or room preferences. Messaging helps you address these questions quickly and secure the booking right from your customers’ text messages.
  2. Use SMS booking. Schedule stays and process payments right from SMS/text messaging using rich messaging features. Your guests can book their trip right from their phones without ever having to make a phone call or wait on hold.
  3. Get guests excited about their stay. Your guest experience begins before they even arrive. Build the anticipation with a welcome message, semi-personalized itineraries, and local sites and events. If you know guests are there with children, send them itineraries that include amusement parks, a trip to the local zoo, or some family-friendly live shows. For couples on a romantic getaway, suggest date night ideas, local spas, or more secluded beaches. Sending a text message with these personalized touches will go a long way to build excitement and make guests feel welcomed.
  4. Streamline the check-in process. While we love vacations, traveling to get to them is another story. And it’s only gotten worse in the last few years with travel restrictions, fewer flights, and more crowds. When travelers finally reach their destination, they’re tired, frustrated, and likely want as little interaction as possible before reaching their beds. (In other words, they’re 3 of Snow White’s 7 dwarves: Grumpy, Sleepy, and Bashful.) Have guests complete the check-in process through SMS messaging so that all they have to do when they get to their destination is pick up their key. Digital keys are also becoming more popular and complete the contactless check-in experience.
  5. Handle in-room requests. Instead of forcing guests to decide between the front desk, guest services, maid services, and other departments on the hotel phone (not to mention waiting on hold), centralize in-room requests via SMS/text messaging. Quiq’s clients, including those within the hospitality segment, have found that servicing customers via messaging has reduced service costs and work time and increased customer satisfaction scores by 5–10 points.
  6. Close out stays with a bang. Offer a contactless checkout, removing the last bit of friction guests face as they leave your hotel. Plus, give them one final reminder of the excellent service and attention they received with a thank you message.
  7. Ask for reviews. If you’ve given the guest a memorable experience, they may be enticed to share it with others and become your brand ambassador.

Today, reviews are a critical part of the buyers’ process, and word of mouth can build or block that path to purchase.

Not only is this a great opportunity to instantly address any negative feedback, but you can also send exclusive offers and discounts to encourage guests to come back.

You can also encourage guests to share their positive comments about your business with their social networks.

SMS for restaurants.

  1. Accept reservations. Use rich messaging features to schedule reservations right from your guests’ mobile phones.
  2. Send reservation reminders. Help customers remember the reservation they made (especially if you’re booked out for weeks) with a friendly reservation reminder. A text message won’t get lost in junk mail, and you’ll decrease no-shows. SMS hospitality messaging to the rescue!
  3. Enable easy cancellations and rescheduling. Instead of holding a table for no-shows and missing out on potential revenue, give guests an easy way to cancel or reschedule their reservation ahead of time. They’ll be happy with the streamlined customer experience, and you’ll be able to fill those seats with last-minute reservations and walk-ins.
  4. Provide directions and parking information. Sure, everyone has Apple Maps or Waze, but parking can be a beast if you live in a high-tourism city. Add a link for directions and parking information to your appointment reminder to ensure your guests make it to your restaurant.
  5. Streamline take-out orders. Take-out has grown in popularity over the last few years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, even fine-dining restaurants have jumped in on the action. 54% of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is essential to the way they live, including 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z adults, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report. Use SMS/text messaging to confirm you’ve received an order, that it’s ready for pickup, or that it’s out for delivery.
  6. Ask for reviews. Restaurants live and die by their online reviews. Encourage guests to leave feedback on a popular review site and offer them an incentive. If you’d rather collect feedback directly, send them a link to a survey and be sure to answer any questions and address concerns quickly.
  7. Get the opt-in. SMS marketing is a great way to connect with customers, and the open rate for text messages often far exceeds that of email.

Ask for permission to send marketing messages, then craft a strategy that personalizes offers and earns repeat business.

SMS for recreational activities.

  1. Book through text messaging. Rich text messaging is a simple way to answer questions, book a reservation, and securely collect payments all in one place.
  2. Take special requests. SMS/text messaging is a convenient and private way for guests to ask about special accommodations like wheelchair accessibility, assistance for people who are hard of hearing, or private tours.
  3. Send links to helpful information. Don’t send guests hunting for information on your website. Send them links to details, like what type of attire participants should wear, dos and don’ts, parking information, and more.
  4. Send reminders. Email reminders get lost in all the itinerary bookings (and junk email) your customers are likely dealing with. Send reservation reminders and any up-to-the-minute notifications via text messaging.
  5. Suggest their next adventure. SMS messaging is a great marketing tool for small business operators, like tour guides, but it’s also easy to scale for larger operations. Once your guests have finished their activity, use text messaging to suggest their next adventure.

If they took a ghost tour of downtown, offer suggestions to other haunted hotspots. If they went on a guided hike, suggest kayaking or another outdoor activity. Personalize messages and include timely discounts to increase the next booking.

Disrupt with SMS hospitality messaging or be disrupted.

The time for hospitality text messaging is here. There’s endless opportunity for hotels, resorts, restaurants, and others within the hospitality segment to simplify and personalize the customer experience.

With new expectations born from the pandemic and an ever-increasing number of millennial and Gen Z travelers, it’s even more critical for the hospitality industry to embrace text messaging.

At Quiq, we help companies in the hospitality industry (and others) engage with guests in personal and meaningful ways. Our Conversational AI Platform makes it easy for customers to connect with your business, so you can provide the information they want in the way they want to receive it.

Connect with customers—and let them connect with you—using Quiq.

How to Rewire Omnichannel Service with Messaging

Omnichannel customer service is changing.

It used to be about being everywhere. About connecting your in-store customer experience to your website to your social channels. Omnichannel meant that your customers would get the same excellent customer experience no matter where they found you.

As customer behavior changed, more businesses moved online—and so did customer service.

Customers are harder to get, harder to please, and harder to retain. So omnichannel messaging is bringing the complete purchase experience to the customer.

While it’s critical that customers can still reach you on any of their preferred channels, now they can also complete the entire customer journey—including purchases—right from their messaging apps.

First, let’s discuss traditional omnichannel customer service and how you can level up your customer experience.

Your customers don’t want to be treated like strangers.

What’s the most important factor about omnichannel customer service? Personalization.

Delivering “in-store” customer service isn’t enough. Customers want the experience of a small-town, high-end boutique. They want personalized recommendations, purchase history, and some personal information available to agents whenever they engage with customer service.

An overwhelming 75% of respondents want a customer service agent to know who they are and their purchase history. And this isn’t a new expectation—it has remained steady for the past five years.

Yet it’s still far from customers’ reality. In Microsoft’s 2020 survey, respondents reported that only occasionally (31%) did the agent have this information.

The customer service stakes are higher than ever.

While online shopping has made it easier than ever to connect with your customers, it’s also made it easier for them to jump ship. According to Zendesk, 60% of customers are willing to walk away after just one bad experience. It’s a scary statistic that we often repeat. In the online e-commerce world, it doesn’t take much to shatter brand loyalty.

And omnichannel is an expectation—not a benefit.

The same Zendesk survey reported that 72% of customers expect agents to have access to all relevant customer information. That often includes when the customer checks in for the first time after a purchase, talks to a new agent, or switches communication channels.

These high expectations extend to omnichannel service. 73% of customers want the ability to start a conversation on one channel and pick it back up on another.

How is messaging changing the omnichannel strategy?

More and more messaging channels are popping up and gaining popularity every day, and it’s changing the omnichannel landscape. There are two significant factors influencing omnichannel strategies:

1. Customers are eager for help.

More channels mean more access to customer services—and consumers are open to it. Zendesk reports that 64% of U.S. customers want help when buying or returning an item. Before, customers might have been more likely to choose various chat options. Now, they’re more willing to reach out to customer service, even for simple transitions.

2. Customers are more likely to jump around on channels.

According to a 2021 survey from Airkit, 40% of consumers have used three or more conversation channels to engage with customer service. Customers want to be able to connect with your customer service team wherever they are, without leaving the app. Since they’re becoming more comfortable switching apps, your customer service team needs to be able to keep up.

The benefits of omnichannel customer service.

While omnichannel once meant having a seamless in-store and web experience, it’s expanded to include the multitude of communication channels available on the web and mobile devices.

The majority of customers use 3 to 5 channels to get their issues resolved, according to Zendesk. And since they’re bouncing around channels, your team must be able to serve them anywhere they are.

Take a look at the benefits of introducing and perfecting an omnichannel strategy.

Meet your customers everywhere.

When customer service issues strike, your customers never have to go far to find you. Not only will this please your customers, but it’ll also expand your reach.

The same can be said for when the inspiration to make a new purchase strikes. If your customers are able to make a purchase from anywhere, whenever they want, you have a better chance of making the sale.

Deliver a flawless customer experience.

Improve customer satisfaction and meet high expectations when you deliver a true omnichannel experience. Your ability to help customers with their specific problems on whichever channel they prefer improves overall customer satisfaction—and increases the likelihood they’ll buy from you again.

Increase selling opportunities.

Every touchpoint with a customer is an opportunity to increase sales. According to Zendesk, 51% of customers are open to product recommendations from agents. Agents can use the interaction to cross-sell additional products, recommend items based on the customer’s purchase history, or provide an opportunity to renew subscriptions.

Collect more relevant customer information.

Since omnichannel service relies so heavily on continued conversations and customer history, it gives your team an opportunity to collect information on customer behavior. Use this information to make key decisions on which products to buy, how to talk to your customers, and how to improve customer service.

How to improve your omnichannel strategy.

From omnichannel marketing to customer service, you need a well-rounded plan that can serve your customers across the web.

Dive into these omnichannel service strategies and tips to elevate your customer experience.

Be omnichannel, not just multi-channel.

To truly be omnichannel, you need to provide a united front—a seamless customer experience. Customers don’t see a company as individual departments but as an overall brand. They expect consistency in their experience, whether their issue is about the latest sales promotion or dealing with a support complaint.

In order to provide the best customer experience, you have to eliminate the silos and truly provide a singular experience across channels and issues.

How do you achieve this internally? Make sure the lines of communication are open, and departments share systems, goals, and metrics. A unified and consistent approach to service will be a significant step forward in improving the customer experience.

Don’t pick channels over service.

Despite the name, omnichannel customer service doesn’t mean you have to be on every messaging and social platform. It’s more about giving your customers a frictionless experience from one channel to the next. So start with quality first, and increase the number of channels accordingly.

A great (bad) example to look at is live chat. Live chat is a great tool when used correctly, and it can give customers an experience similar to what they’d expect from in-store shopping.

And while most companies have a live chat component on their website, many don’t give it the attention it needs to be successful. This leads to long wait times to chat with an agent or ineffective chatbots that are little more than glorified FAQ search engines.

The moral of the story? Don’t prioritize new channels over customer service.

Pick the right channels for your customers.

You likely already have an idea of which channels your customers use frequently. (If you don’t, your marketing team probably does.) A common rule of thumb is that older demographic groups prefer traditional channels like voice, Millennials prefer text, and Gen Zers opt for social channels like WhatsApp.

However, that’s changing. With technology adoption increasing, more and more people—no matter their age—are using a variety of communication channels. The best option? Ask your customers! Use those valuable insights to focus on the channels your customers are the most active.

Then, make sure you staff, resource, and empower your employees in those channels to best represent the brand.

Ensure customer service agents have information at their fingertips.

This is the key to making an omnichannel customer service experience work. Information like purchase history and previous conversations is what will help your customer service team connect with customers.

Make sure customer service agents have access to a CRM and conversation history right from within their messaging platform, no matter which channels your customers are using.

Include self-service in your omnichannel strategy.

Many businesses think of self-service as a static FAQ page or web forum that’s wholly separate from your omnichannel strategy. But self-service is just another channel you can offer customers when they’re looking for answers.

In fact, many customers prefer it. Microsoft reports that 86% of respondents expect a self-service option, and two-thirds try self-service before contacting a live agent. Investing in your self-service options will not only improve customer satisfaction, but it’ll also lighten the load on your customer service team.

Lean into omnichannel marketing.

Omnichannel doesn’t stop with customer service. The benefits of omnichannel marketing mirror those of omnichannel customer service. Marketing through communication channels, like SMS/text, can help your business connect with customers on their terms.

And when combined with payment integration features, customers can complete the entire customer journey without ever leaving their preferred messaging channel.

Quiq: Your omnichannel solution.

It takes a few key capabilities to have a successful omnichannel presence. Your customer service team needs access to customer information and the ability to continue conversations across channels.

With a multi-channel conversational engagement platform like Quiq, you can serve customers however they prefer from one simple solution.

Omni-Channel Customer Service

Omni-Channel Service: The Customer-Driven Path Forward

The Omni-channel experience has been hailed as the Holy Grail of customer service for a great reason. It provides the highest level of seamless, personalized customer experiences.

Studies have shown that companies with an omni-channel program enjoy 24% greater annual returns in company revenue and a 55% decrease in the number of customer complaints. As stated by Aberdeen: “Omni-channel programs are not hype or a temporary best practice.  When implemented properly, omni-channel serves as a key long-term differentiator.” All the evidence points to the fact that the omni-channel experience is a “must have”, not a “nice to have”. However, it is important to note that less than 1% of all organizations have deployed an omni-channel strategy.

Focus on What You Can Control

Tip 1: Present a Unified Front

Customers don’t see a company as individual departments, but an overall brand. They expect consistency in their experience, whether their issue is about the latest sales promotion or dealing with a support complaint.  In order to provide the best customer experience, it is imperative to eliminate silos. Make sure the lines of communication are open internally and that departments share the common systems, goals, and metrics. Providing your frontlines with the authority to do what is in the best interest of the customer and company will ensure small issues don’t blow up into social media nightmares. A unified and consistent approach to service will be a significant step forward to improving the customer experience.

Tip 2: Quality First, More Channels Second

Of course customers want you to be where they are, but it is counterproductive to be somewhere and not effectively serve your customers. A prime example of this is live chat. While a growing number of companies are offering chat, a good channel option, it must be resourced correctly.  In many cases, customers have to wait for an agent to join a chat session, or they receive the dreaded “Not Available” screen, or they start a chat conversation and walk away from their computer for a moment only to come back and find the chat closed. All this showcases that companies are not efficiently managing resources and are spreading themselves too thin. Customers can forgive you for not offering a channel at all, but they won’t forgive bad service on channels you do offer. The lesson here is that customers do not care about the breadth of your “omni-ness”, but rather about the quality of the service delivered. It’s better not to be in a channel at all if you’re not able to do it well.

Tip 3: Pick the Right Channels

More channels do not necessarily equal greater success. However, being in the right channels for your customer, does.  Make sure you know which channels your customers want to engage you on and focus on those first.  How do you know the right ones?  Do you keep phone support, cut email support, and add messaging? Study your customers. Understand not only their age demographic, but also how and when they typically try to connect with your organization. Other option is to just ask your customers! Based on that valuable insight, focus on the channels where you know your customers are most active and would benefit from direct, two-way communication with your company. Then, make sure you staff, resource, and empower your employees in those channels to best represent the brand.

Tip 4: Quality Service Over Quantity

Many companies are subscribing to the philosophy that more channels are better.  Too many channels actually strain resources.  A Harvard business study reveals that customers are actually very flexible; few customers care about the means they use to engage companies. Most choose to make contact through whatever channel they perceive best meets their needs for the specific task. In fact, the same Harvard study found that only 16% of customers are “means-focused” (committed to a certain channel of preference, regardless of rather it fits the task), while 84% of customers are “ends-focused” (focused on solving their issue, regardless of the channel used).  So, limit your customer service channels to the ones you can support well.  Once again, customers can forgive you for not being there, but they won’t forgive a bad customer service experience.

Tip 5: Try New Channels

While the phone remains the go-to communication method of choice for some difficult or urgent use cases, text messaging and Facebook Messenger channels are fast gaining acceptance, and not just with millennials. All age groups are using SMS/text messaging more than ever. In fact, the fastest growing channel is “text messaging”. A recent Forrester study highlights that “The pervasiveness and familiarity of text messaging makes it an ideal channel to win, serve, and retain customers who require assistance from a contact center agent.” Consumers agree. In one study, 66% of respondents said that one of the reasons they preferred to send a text to a company’s customer service department was because it was less time-consuming. In addition, 42% said they preferred to do so because it was more convenient than using the telephone, and nearly a third said that sending a text was less frustrating than calling the company.

Summary

While the omni-channel experience may be the holy grail of customer service, the true prize is a loyal customer.  The priority should always be to provide a helpful, positive experience that will enhance the relationship with a customer.  Therefore, continue striving for customer service excellence.  Dedicate the resources, embrace relevant new technologies, and know your customer’s channel preference.  The investment will ultimately be worth it.

9 Ways to Reduce Customer Returns with Messaging

Looking into reducing customer returns? You’re in the right place.

And you’ve been there as a consumer yourself, I’d venture to guess.

Maybe your nephew is between sizes. Your partner tends to overestimate their technical ability. The 100-lb model does little to show you what the clothing item looks like on the average person. You didn’t realize how big a 9-foot rug actually is. The color of the product looks nothing like the image.

So you returned it.

Returns are a problem for most retail businesses—even more so for online stores. Some larger retailers have even made a successful business out of easy, free returns.

The problem is not every e-commerce business is set up for free, easy returns. But customers expect them to be.

Between 2019 and 2020, online retail sales more than doubled (for obvious reasons).

Shoppers took to the interwebs in drove—much more frequently or for the first time. But with increased sales came a deluge of returns.

The National Retail Federation reported that approximately $102 billion of e-commerce merchandise was returned in 2020. That came from $565 billion in e-commerce sales in the United States.

And 2021 didn’t do much better. E-commerce websites saw a 15% return rate, according to an IRMG report.

It has become a problem. Reducing customer returns is (or should be) a top priority for online, product-based businesses.

While returns are undoubtedly the cost of doing business online, a little customer service problem solving can go a long way. Continue reading for some strategies to reduce product returns with messaging.

The actual cost of returns.

Returns don’t just signify lost sales—they cost you money. The National Retail Federation survey found that for every $100 in returned merchandise accepted, retailers lose $5.90 to return fraud.

But fraud isn’t the only cost of high returns. Here are a few other costs incurred by frequent returns:

  • Shipping costs
  • Warehouse time spent verifying returns
  • Customer service time spent emailing customers
  • Operations time tracking shipping status
  • Warehouse time spent restocking items
  • Lost inventory due to damaged products

Simply ignoring returns and chalking them up to the cost of doing business online won’t work. It’s important your team learns about reducing customer returns—and even how to prevent them.

9 ways customer service can reduce returns.

When done well, customer service problem solving can help customers decide on the right product to begin with and help them post-purchase.

All it takes is thoughtful and frequent customer communication.

Here are 9 ways your support agents can use messaging to prevent frequent returns—and encourage repeat business from your customers.

1. Get ahead of problems with a few simple questions.

The first big question you should ask your customers is why. Why are they returning your products? Some returns are unavoidable, but some can be prevented with a little more information.

Is your sizing chart off? Is there a defect? Are the product photos misleading? Ask these questions with every return to identify easy changes you can make to your website or sales process to prevent them in the first place.

Have a more technical product? Collect frequently asked questions from your customer service team to post on your website or even send to customers once they’ve made a purchase.

Send an SMS/text message with common FAQs to ensure your customers see it (instead of getting buried in emails).

2. Use AI assistants to walk customers through simple troubleshooting first.

Is there an easy fix you can share with customers before they chat with your support team? Use bots and AI assistants to collect customer information, identify their support requests, and walk them through simple troubleshooting.

Make sure to keep it simple: Think “turn it off, wait ten seconds, then turn it on again” type instructions. Then loop in an agent to tackle more complex problems.

This could prevent returns from customers who think they may have purchased the wrong item, might have a defective product, or believe it’s too complicated.

3. Prioritize unhappy customers.

Customers (especially the unhappy ones) hate waiting for customer service. But during peak periods, a short wait is inevitable.

Using messaging and a conversational AI platform like Quiq can help you identify irate customers and prioritize them first with sentiment analysis. Quickly responding to angry customers gives your team the chance to turn the conversation around and troubleshoot issues before it leads to a return.

4. Get the message to the right person.

Another issue that leads to customer frustration: Call transfers. Even though they’re commonplace in call centers, customers hate them. They want you to solve their problems quickly and efficiently, but complex issues require extra help.

The last thing you want is to have frustrated customers giving up and returning their products.

Instead, lean into messaging. If you’re strategizing around reducing customer returns, messaging makes it easy to quickly identify the customer’s problem and get it to the right person (without multiple transfers, extensive hold times, repeating information, or awkward introductions).

5. Be optimistic instead of apologetic.

While empathy is a great customer service tool, you should always follow it up with optimism.

Try swapping out statements like “I’m sorry I don’t know how to fix this” for “Let’s get this solved. I’m going to bring in an expert to help us out.” Customers are more likely to respond to the second statement since it’s outcome-oriented.

Since you lose voice inflection with messaging, showing enthusiasm is even more important.

Don’t be afraid to use exclamation points (if your brand voice allows it). Find a balance between helpful eagerness and to-the-point problem-solving to fix customers’ issues and make them feel good about it.

6. Give customers a record of the conversation.

Giving customers information and directions over the phone is difficult. They could mishear things, skip steps, or forget the instructions immediately after the conversation.

Written instructions via messaging are much easier to follow.

You can walk your customers through troubleshooting at their own pace, and they can refer back to them whenever they need to. You can even email conversations to your customers so they can reference them whenever they need them.

7. Offer visual and interactive instructions.

Are instructions getting lost over the phone? Some customers respond better to visual instructions over voice and written directions.

With rich messaging, you can bring in diagrams, pictures, videos, and even augmented reality to help customers solve their product issues.

Rich messaging also works both ways. When customers have trouble describing their issues, they can send videos and pictures to show your customer service agents.

Your team will figure out the problem and how to fix it much faster than relying on imperfect customer descriptions alone.

8. Make it easy to loop in third parties.

Sometimes longer resolution times are unavoidable. Maybe there’s a system problem that needs help from a developer, or you need to reach out to a third party for replacement parts.

With messaging, customers can pick up conversations at a later date to check-in. Or they can opt to have the conversation emailed to them for quick follow-ups.

Plus, everything is documented. You can easily pass along the conversation to the third party without anything getting lost along the way.

9. Identify real problems.

Messaging makes it easy to track and document problems. This allows you to take a step back and identify opportunities to tweak other pieces of the sales puzzle.

Are shoppers surprised by what the product looks like? Maybe there’s a problem with your product images. Are customers disappointed with the results? Maybe your descriptions are overpromising. Are products arriving damaged? Are you not selling the product to the right demographic?

Use customer service messaging to identify problems that need to be addressed by your larger team, ultimately reducing customer returns.

Bonus tip: What to do when the product is actually defective.

Sometimes it’s not a user error or a problem that can be fixed from afar. Or maybe the customer is just genuinely disappointed with the product. What should you do then?

Restore their faith in your company. When you can’t prevent a return with excellent service, show your customers why they should continue doing business with you.

How companies handle returns (are they gracious and helpful, or do they make it as difficult as possible) has a big impact on customer perception. This is where you earn a repeat customer.

Reduce customer returns with messaging.

You may not be able to get rid of returns completely, but you can certainly lower them.

Messaging is a great way to engage your customers before and after a purchase to ensure they’re getting the right products and know how to use them.

Reducing customer returns starts with a good website, amazing products, and great customer service. Once you have those things in place, it just takes a little strategy.

6 Ways to Improve Online Retail Customer Satisfaction with Messaging

Retailers have had a tough few years. The pandemic threw businesses into a tailspin. If you’re like the rest of the industry, you either had to build an online shopping experience from scratch or seriously ramp up your web-store capabilities.

This meant your customer satisfaction took a hit.

E-tailers were still struggling in 2021. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, customer satisfaction with online retailers dropped 1.3% in 2021—more than double the 0.5% decrease across the retail industry.

At the same time, customer expectations increased. And online retailers have a harder time building brand loyalty. If customer expectations aren’t met, Microsoft reports that 58% of customers show little hesitation in severing the relationship.

So what’s an e-tailer to do to improve online retail customer satisfaction?

Embrace messaging.

Even if you’ve adopted various forms of business messaging, there are many ways to elevate your strategy and improve your customer satisfaction.

Read on to see why messaging has become a vital part of online retail, along with 6 ways to use it to improve customer satisfaction.

Why messaging is essential in online retail.

Messaging is changing the way online retailers do business, but it’s more than a box that needs checking. You shouldn’t just roll out an SMS/text messaging or WhatsApp program and staff it with customer service reps from your contact center. To make the most of it, you need a well-developed strategy.

Text messaging especially has the potential to improve the online shopping experience. Four out of 5 customers send a text message on a daily basis, and nearly half of consumers prefer messaging as a means to connect with businesses. Your customers are telling you that they want to interact via messaging—why not listen?

Here at Quiq, we’ve seen rapid adoption of messaging by online retailers. Brands like Overstock, Pier 1, and Tailor Brands have experienced tangible benefits, including more natural customer engagement, lower service costs, and a reduced workload.

6 ways to improve online retail customer satisfaction with messaging.

E-tailers struggle with customer satisfaction. There are some aspects out of your control (ahem: shipping and manufacturing anytime after March 2020), but there are things you can do to alleviate your customers’ struggles.

Messaging is a big part of that. Having reliable communications—and using them strategically—helps promote customer satisfaction. Here are 6 ways you can use messaging to improve your online shopping experience.

1. Help shoppers find the perfect product.

The biggest argument against online shopping for years has been the lack of personalized customer service. Shoppers can’t ask for recommendations (and algorithms hardly make up for it), sizing help, or general advice.

Messaging helps your team close that gap (along with the support of chatbots and AI). Yes, it’s great for post-purchase interactions. But customers also want help before they checkout. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64%) of customers use messaging when they want to make a purchase or a booking/reservation, according to our Customer Preference for Messaging report.

Quiq lets you help customers when they need it most. You can provide the on-demand service they need while shopping your site, viewing your products on social media, or browsing your app. You’re giving them that in-store, personalized experience while they’re going about their day. And it doesn’t hurt that helping them before they make a purchase can boost sales.

2. Provide transparent interactions.

When customers call your support line, are they greeted with a “This call may be recorded” message? That’s a great tool for your business, but what about the customer? Once they end the conversation, they have no record of the interaction. They can’t refer back to it later, check to make sure they heard everything correctly, or prove that the conversation even existed. Yes, some companies offer a confirmation number, but that does little to help your customer access the information.

Even popular web chat solutions can be session-based—meaning when the session is over, the conversation disappears. Customers can’t refer back or naturally start the conversation back up when a related question pops up.

We know the importance of asynchronous communication. Customers aren’t always available to respond instantly, and sometimes new questions appear once their first ones have been answered. That’s why Quiq’s web chat conversations are persistent—they start right where they left off. Plus, customers can request to have their web chat transcripts emailed to them.

You get an even longer messaging history on channels like SMS/text and Facebook Messenger.

Mobile messaging adds an additional layer of transparency. Message history can stretch back even further than the last conversation on SMS and Facebook Messenger, giving the customer access to older messages and more conversation details.

3. Staff for multiple messaging channels.

An omnichannel messaging strategy can greatly enhance your online customer experience—when it’s done right. Customers frequently ping-pong across platforms. Zendesk’s 2022 CX Trends report found that 73% of customers want the ability to start a conversation on one channel and pick it back up on another.

Yet, it’s all too easy to add messaging channels and hand them over to your call center agents. While it’s feasible to cross-train your customer support team on both phones and messaging, there’s a little more to it than that.

First, you need to ensure you have available staff to cover multiple messaging channels. Asynchronous messaging does save time over traditional phone calls. But if your team is already stretched thin, adding additional channels will just feel like a burden. Plus, we all know that customers hate to wait.

Try assigning staff members to your messaging channels. While Quiq clients can serve customers on the platform the customers prefer, it takes a trained and available support team for a great omnichannel experience.

4. Reduce wait times.

Speaking of waiting—customers hate it. While you might think the pandemic has made customers more patient and understanding, the opposite is true. Frustrated customers want things to return to “normal” and have higher expectations of all business—e-tailers included. According to Zendesk, 60% report that they now have higher customer service standards after the pandemic.

And with 61% of customers willing to switch brands after just one bad experience, all it takes is one surge in call traffic to create call center chaos and cause you to lose business.

Messaging helps smooth the peaks of inbound support requests when you need it most. Since agents can respond to messages at different speeds, they can handle multiple inquiries at once. A message doesn’t require their full attention for a fixed amount of time. As a result, Quiq clients report work time is often reduced by 25–50%.

5. Delight your visually-driven audience.

Why spend 5 minutes describing a problem when you can take a picture of it in 5 seconds? Phone calls only give you one way to interact with your customer, and emails are too slow for problems that need immediate attention.

Rich messaging is the next step to improving your customer service experience. Found in Apple Messages for Business, Google’s Business Messaging, and more, rich messaging amplifies your customer conversations. From GIFs to images to videos, there are plenty of features to engage your audience visually.

You can even take it to the next level and build an entire customer experience with rich messaging. Process secure transitions, schedule appointments, and send reminders, all through messaging.

See how TechStyleOS integrated rich messaging with Quiq >

Improve your customer satisfaction and boost engagement with these advanced features that are sure to delight shoppers.

6. Entice customers to come back.

Remember those high customer expectations? Unfortunately, customers are quick to switch brands—which means you need to consistently give them the best online shopping experience.

It doesn’t stop at the sale. A good messaging strategy includes post-purchase engagement to encourage customers to come back. While email is currently the preferred method for online retail, it comes with low open rates and even lower click-through rates.

Instead, lean into outbound text messaging for post-purchase communications. Here are a few easy examples to get started:

  • Send an order confirmation
  • Share a shipment tracking link
  • Ask for a product review
  • Send a special discount code
  • Notify them when similar products go on sale
  • Ask them to join your rewards program

With nearly a 100% read rate, outbound text messaging is a more engaging way to connect with customers.

Messaging is the way to customer satisfaction.

Online retailers face many challenges, but engaging with customers shouldn’t be one. Messaging is already helping many online retailers establish a stronger relationship with their customers by tackling common shopper struggles. For many retailers, adopting a messaging platform gave them a customer-centric way to chat with their shoppers.

Messaging has become a vital part of the online shopping experience, and implementing these smart strategies will help skyrocket customer satisfaction. And Quiq is there to help.

Part 2: 10 Criteria for Choosing the Best Messaging Vendor

The Messaging Mandate

This post is part 2 in a three-part series. Part 1 focused on why messaging is so critical for customer service. This article shares how to evaluate potential messaging providers. Finally, part 3 will discuss factors to consider as you implement your new messaging service.

From our last post, you know that customers are demanding messaging options from customer service providers. (When they don’t even call mom, what makes you think they want to call your support agents?)

Your customer service center needs the latest technology to facilitate meaningful, effective communication.

More and more, consumers want to speak directly with brands and businesses in the most convenient ways.

From SMS/text messaging to other familiar platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, your company can provide fun, easy messaging options that your customers prefer.

But first, you need to pick a messaging platform partner.

We know—it’s overwhelming if you’re just getting started. It takes thoughtful consideration, but we’re here to help.

Here’s what you need to know to choose the best messaging vendor for your business.

Determine your business objectives

It’s easy to jump into research without a plan and hit a wall of information overload. Before you even start your search for a business messaging vendor, you first need to decide how you’re going to use it. Start by asking a few key questions:

What demographics are you targeting with messaging?

Who’s your customer? While messaging is on the rise in nearly every generation, how you wield it may change depending on your target demographics.

For example, millennials and those from Generation Z (also known as Zoomers) are more likely to be comfortable with chatbots than their older counterparts.

According to Zendesk, 60% of millennials and zoomers agree that automation/bots are helpful for simple issues, while only 50% of baby boomers do.

And when in a hurry? The generational divide was even larger: 40% of millennials and zoomers said they’d prefer to interact with a chatbot rather than a human agent when in a rush.

In comparison, merely 28% of Gen Xers and 20% of boomers agreed.

Determining your target audience will help you decide which features are a must-have and which you may not even need.

How will you use messaging?

A business sending marketing messages via messaging will have very different needs than one using messaging for customer support.

Are you planning on messaging your customers? Do you also need to give them the capabilities to message back?

Hint: Your customers definitely want the option to message you.

What are your goals?

You know you want to grow your business, but what other objectives do you have for your messaging platforms? Are you simply trying to offer better customer service? How will you measure success?

Don’t forget to identify other peripheral goals, like cost savings.

Identify your cost-savings goals and how you plan to use your messaging platform to meet them.

For instance, do you hope to reduce the volume of inbound customer calls and lower staffing needs?

Which messaging channels will you need?

While many vendors offer multiple messaging channels, some may excel on certain platforms.

If messaging is part of your overall omnichannel support strategy, you’ll need to ensure you’re using the right platforms to reach your customers.

Here are some common messaging channels to consider:

Now that you know who you’re targeting, what your goals are, and which platforms you want to use, you’re in a better position to research and choose the right chat tools for your business.

How to Select Business Messaging Tools and Vendors

You know what you’re looking for, but now you need to start exploring which vendor is right for you.

Here are 10 criteria you can use to make your decision.

1. Experience and knowledge

Practicality wins over flash every time. While long features lists seem like an easy way to benchmark vendors, be sure to ask how those features work in the real world.

Ask for customer stories, previous clients, and reviews. Find out if all those features are tried and tested in real applications.

Also, consider if they’ve worked with customer service teams before. It’s an easy way to ensure that their chat apps have actually worked for your needs.

You’ll also get to tap into their industry knowledge for in-depth insights that help you address your company’s thorniest challenges.

2. Customer-obsessed culture

Make sure your new vendor has the same customer-first mindset you do.

Listen carefully to vendors pitch your organization or walk you through their pilot cycles. Are they asking thoughtful questions about your business?

Your goals should be their goals, so if you’re looking to increase customer engagement, they should have various resources to help you do that.

Do they have genuine insights for improving your customer service, messaging, and overall success?

Even small details of your messaging platform affect how you and your customers communicate.

A vendor that prioritizes customer needs helps you position your organization as a responsive industry leader.

3. Product features and capabilities

Features and functionality are vital factors to help you pick your vendor. To start, you need to know which messaging channels they offer (and ensure they align with your selected channels).

But don’t stop there.

Think about the platform’s functionality and how your customer support agents will use it on a daily basis. Don’t hesitate to spend a lot of your time working through the platform to ensure it meets your needs.

Since features are such an important factor, here is a list of questions to help you determine the right fit.

  • How does the product treat customer requests?
    • Does it create a ticket that goes into a queue, or does it facilitate a real-time conversation with a single customer service agent?
  • How many messaging and chat apps does it support within a single interface?
  • How skillfully does the tool allow agents to move between simultaneous conversations?
  • How well does the system prioritize customer communications? (Does it prioritize them at all?)
  • Can agents quickly consult with a colleague or supervisor when they need help?
  • Can supervisors easily monitor conversations and step in to assist as needed?
  • Do supervisors have reporting tools to help them track agent productivity and results?
  • Can the platform work on its own and integrate with other customer service applications or order management systems?
  • How easily can the platform scale as you grow your business?

4. Security features

Trust but verify. The days of blindly assuming your (and your customers’) data is safeguarded are long gone. The average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.2 million, according to IBM.

Most people today know how vulnerable their personal data is, and they want to ensure it’s protected.

To protect your data and reassure your customers, you need to find a messaging platform vendor that prioritizes security.

When you talk to different vendors, ask them what security protocols they use for their messaging tools.

Inquire about both the technology and servers on which it runs. If you’re looking at cloud-based messaging tools, determine whether the vendors can ensure your data will never mix with other companies’ data.

Pull in your IT team and let them do their due diligence. Ask how often they perform security audits and what they’d do in the event of a breach.

5. Automation and artificial intelligence

If your goals include reducing costs and increasing efficiency, pay attention to this next part.

Automation helps your support agents streamline conversations. And artificial intelligence sends your automation into hyperdrive.

As you research vendors, figure out how they use automation to simplify and streamline your agents’ processes.

How do automation and AI help with your customer support workflows?

For starters, a platform could prioritize customer messages and decide which your agents should engage with next—ideally accounting for customer engagement and SLAs.

See if your platform vendor automates customer messages, no-contact lists, or even full-on conversations. Do they offer a chatbot? And is that chatbot merely a glorified FAQ, or is it powered with AI to answer customer questions?

Talk to your potential vendors about the level of automation they provide and how they tailor the automated solutions to your needs.

6. Ease of use

How easy is it to use the platform? How steep is the learning curve?

A messaging platform should have an intuitive, easy-to-navigate interface. It should offer quick, efficient messaging options and practical ways for agents to move between simultaneous conversations.

Bring in support agents and managers to help you test out the product for yourselves.

You want to ensure you can use it, but also that the people using it every day enjoy it too. It’s likely they’ll also be the ones to help with training new hires on using the platform.

A dense, complicated product will make onboarding a struggle.

The platform should also be easy to implement on multiple devices, such as desktops, laptops, iPhones, and Android phones or tablets.

It needs to provide simple, at-a-glance ways for supervisors to use reports to track agent productivity if necessary.

8. Integrations

A conversational platform works best when it works with the flow of your business operations. Ask if it integrates seamlessly with your CRM platforms like Microsoft Dynamics 365, Zendesk, Salesforce, or Oracle.

With easy integrations, you can do things like pull up customer information, view knowledge base articles to help answer customer questions, and track interactions for next time.

Be sure to discuss your overall business operations and existing platforms with your vendors to determine how well your new messaging software will fit in.

7. Templates

Templates are a great feature to improve messaging software usability. Just like call scripts for agents, messaging templates ensure faster response times and help agents speak with a unified brand voice.

You can collect frequently asked questions and create templates that agents can then personalize during customer conversations.

Ask potential vendors about their templates. Do they have a library of pre-made templates to help you get started? Can you add new ones and customize them to fit your brand? How easy are they to use?

Templates can be a valuable asset to your bag of chat tools.

9. Value

We’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the price. While you want to get the messaging platform that’s a perfect fit for your business goals, make sure it’s in line with your budget.

The most sophisticated business messaging app in the world, with seemingly limitless bells and whistles, won’t be worth it if it significantly restricts your budget in other areas.

On the other hand, price shopping will leave you with the bare minimum product that you’ll need to upgrade in a few short years.

Be upfront with each messaging provider as you evaluate your options.

Have a realistic idea of your budget, and select a conversational platform that will give you the best return on your investment.

10. Innovation

When you choose a messaging platform, you want to know it’ll only get better and better.

As you talk to vendors, ask about their product roadmap and plans for future development.

Find out what new capabilities they want to see in their tools and how they plan to make those goals a reality.

Does your chosen vendor have plans for increased automation, or does it have ideas for how to make agents more efficient and productive?

Enthusiasm, conviction, and clear plans for the future are valuable indicators. They can often tell you how well you’ll work and grow with your messaging tool over the long term.

Is Quiq on your list?

Choosing the right messaging platform takes thoughtful consideration and careful research.

Ask us these questions and see if Quiq is the messaging platform of your dreams.

Our platform blends performance and value to deliver intuitive, meaningful conversations with your customers.

Get best practices for implementing messaging into customer service in part 3. And if you didn’t catch part 1 in our Messaging Mandate series, go here to read how important messaging is for your customers.

9 Reasons Why Customers Want to Text You

People love their phones. The average American will spend nearly a month and a half (44 days) on their phones in 2022, according to a survey from Reviews.org. And they check their phones a staggering 344 times per day—up 31% from 2021.

But making a phone call? That they don’t love.

So if people aren’t making calls, what are they using their phones for? They’re checking social media apps, consuming news, replying to emails, and texting. People prefer SMS text to connect with family and friends—even businesses.

In fact, Juniper Research reported that global mobile business messaging traffic hit 2.7 trillion in 2020, up 10% from 2019. And customer service requests over SMS jumped 28% in 2021, according to Zendesk’s CX Trends Report.

Customers know what they want, but businesses are slow to respond. Nearly 93% of consumers want to communicate via text message, says Forbes, yet less than a third of consumers report getting text messages from them.

People want to send text messages. So why do so few companies offer it?

Business messaging includes SMS/texting, but it isn’t limited to it. There are many text apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, as well as messaging support through Google Business Messages and Apple Messages for Business.

What does this mean for your customer service team? It’s time to embrace business text messaging. Your customers want to text you, and here are 9 reasons why.

1. Customers want options.

Too many choices may lead to feeling overwhelmed, but that doesn’t stop customers from wanting them. There are countless ways to reach out to businesses. Customers have tasted the power to choose, and they want more.

People pick the method of communication that fits their problem. According to Zendesk’s 2020 CX Trends report, 40% of customers choose a channel based on the complexity of their issue. Simple questions may only merit a text, while explaining more complex issues over a phone call is probably easier.

It’s important to remember that you’re not replacing your call centers. You’re merely providing another option.

2. Your customers are busy.

Multitasking has become an art form with your customers juggling hundreds of tasks daily. They’ve been taught to maximize their productivity and not let one second of downtime go to waste. They even spend their free time (which they value more than ever) bettering themselves with restorative activities.

So it’s a big deal when they have to drop what they’re doing to call customer service—let alone wait on hold. Calling a support center when all they need is a quick answer breaks up the flow of their day.

Meanwhile, email support still feels like a more formal medium. People spend longer drafting messages, which wastes more of their day. Plus, they don’t know how quickly (or how long) it’ll take to receive a reply.

Customers want businesses to value their time.

Sending a text message fits your customers’ lifestyles and won’t disrupt their hectic days.

3. Your customers don’t want to wait.

They’re too busy optimizing their day for maximum productivity to wait on hold for customer service. According to a survey conducted by Arise, nearly two-thirds of customers say they’re only willing to wait 2 minutes or less before hanging up.

An aside: Though not the topic of the survey, 15% of Arise survey respondents said they do not contact customer service by phone. This implies that these customers never use the phone to connect with brands.

Customers also don’t want to wait for a response over email. That’s why texting is the goldilocks of the customer service world. It falls somewhere between instant in-person answers and delayed email responses.

Efficiency is critical for your customers as much as it is for you. Being able to ask a question, get a quick response, and move about their day will make them more productive and give them the confidence to do business with you again.

4. They just need a quick answer.

Simple questions don’t need a phone call. Getting answers to common queries like, “When will this be back in stock?” or “Where’s my order?” shouldn’t require a phone call and a potentially long wait on hold.

You likely have this information on your website, but you want to make it as simple as possible for customers to get answers. Sending a text is the simplest way for people to get answers—and it’s even faster when you use AI chatbots to tackle them.

Then customers get service without tying up your customer support agents on phone calls or even text responses.

5. Texting isn’t limited to millennials.

If you serve any generation other than millennials and Gen Z, you might think texting doesn’t apply. But it does—messaging isn’t just a young kids’ game.

It’s true that the younger the generation, the more likely they are to send a text message over making a call. But text messaging is still used by baby boomers and older generations.

AARP reported in 2018 that 9 in 10 adults over 50 use their smartphones to send instant messages, texts, or emails—and it’s likely that number has gone up dramatically since.

Because almost everyone uses text messaging to communicate with someone, it’s also a less technical way for people of any age to reach customer service.

Other messaging channels may require downloading an app or using unfamiliar social media. Text messaging, however, is ready to go on everyone’s device.

6. They can text on their terms.

What if your customers have a question outside of business hours? Waiting until 9–5, Mondays through Fridays, crushes their need for instant gratification. More than that, problems rarely occur on a set schedule.

Not only is sending a text faster than connecting over email and phone, but it’s also asynchronous. In short, that means both parties don’t need to be present for the conversation to continue. Your customer can send a message and then go about their day while waiting for a response. They control the cadence of the conversation.

This also benefits your customer service team. Instead of spending all their time on one call, agents can manage up to 8 conversations in the time it would take for one call.

7. They just prefer texting.

We’re all guilty of hitting ignore on a well-intentioned phone call or putting off making an appointment. More and more, people perceive a phone call as invasive and time-consuming.

According to a Bank My Cell survey, 75% of millennials avoid phone calls as they’re time-consuming. And 81% get apprehension anxiety before summoning up the courage to make a call. While millennials have a reputation for being phone-averse, it doesn’t stop with them.

Why do so many of us dread phone calls?

Among many reasons, it’s because they’re unpredictable. A customer service call can take a few minutes or half an hour, so customers don’t know how to prepare.

Business texts are quick and efficient, but they’re also just really convenient.

8. Customers want a better experience.

Your customer service team’s goal is to give your patrons the experience they want. Adding business messaging as a customer support channel and also a tool in your text message marketing arsenal—a relatively moderate lift on your end—will exponentially improve the experience for many of your customers.

In fact, customer satisfaction scores over messaging are 8–14 percentage points higher than other channels.

And the value of a great customer experience is higher than you might think. Customers are even willing to pay for it. PwC reports that 73% of people say customer experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions.

From sending support messages to answering questions and even making purchases, you can create a complete customer experience right within a native texting app.

Plus, you’re likely to improve customer perception and help boost revenue as a result.

9. Customers want more than words.

When you think about business text messages, sending GIFs, emojis, and product videos may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

But it should be, especially if you’re doing SMS marketing, because “rich messaging” (as it’s been named) can seriously boost engagement with your messages. Think about it: How many times do you race to open an incoming message with a GIF or video link, vs. a standard text message?

Rich messaging can mean the difference between customers feeling like they’re texting a business, and feeling like they’re messaging a family member or friend.

By enabling additional media via SMS/text, you can help customers complete a whole slew of actions, including:

  • Completing transactions
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Browsing and selecting products

Your customers want to text you.

What are you waiting for? Companies that have enthusiastically embraced messaging have taken the customer experience to a whole new level.

Texting a customer and accepting incoming messages is one of the best ways to connect with them.

Whether you’re looking to strengthen your customer service game, or simply provide another avenue for customers to share feedback, messaging is the way forward.

7 Customer Experience (CX) Predictions for 2022

The last two years have been hard to predict. Actually, it’s been hard to predict what will happen in the next few weeks, let alone for the entire year.

While we may be sick of hearing about unprecedented times, we can’t deny that the last two years have turned multiple industries upside down. The pandemic forced many businesses online and accelerated digital transformation for countless others. 

Throughout it all, you’ve worked hard to maintain a seamless customer experience (CX)—rising to elevated expectations even while battling supply shortages, staffing challenges, and delayed delivery services.

Customer experience has become a higher priority for all types of businesses. 63% of CX managers say their company prioritized CX more than a year ago, according to Zendesk. And half of customers say that customer experience is more important to them than a year ago.

Last year’s priority shift has set the stage for a game-changing 2022. Here are our predictions for the CX industry.

1. Personalization will become table stakes.

For years, CX professionals have advocated for more personalized experiences—especially in the online space. While it used to be a differentiator, It’s now a must-have. 

According to a report from Segment, 70% of consumers wish brands knew more about them, particularly their style preferences and household needs. And 45% will actually take their business elsewhere if they don’t receive a personalized experience.

So what does this look like in practice? It’s more than remembering a customer’s name. Lean into a well-rounded omnichannel experience. Maintain customer conversations across media channels and devices, curate personalized collections, and always ensure user data is secure.

2. Customers will embrace social commerce.

Have you bought something directly from Instagram in the last year? What about Facebook?

About half of U.S. adult social media users have made a purchase via social media in the past year, according to a survey from Insider Intelligence. And we expect the trend to pick up steam in 2022.

Instead of sending customers from social platforms to your own website, customers can make purchases right within the platform. Between marketplaces, influencers, and your own brand presence, it’s often more effective to keep transactions within the platform’s ecosystem. 

As a result, expect to spend more money on social media sites like Instagram to increase purchases directly within the platform. 

Marketplaces have made it easier to display goods and services, and selling through direct messaging has grown in popularity, too. Customers can see a product, ask questions, and make a secure purchase without ever having to leave the platform.

With its increasing popularity, it might be easier to send traffic to these platforms over brand-owned websites. It’s certainly worth some testing in 2022.

3. Brands will face the same old customer issues.

Whether in the contact center or on the sales floor, customer conversations will continue to center around the same age-old questions:

  1. Where is my order? 
  2. When will it get delivered? 
  3. When will you have more available?

The supply chain woes and overburdened last-mile delivery services we all faced the last two years will still be a problem. Unfortunately, we can’t say goodbye to it just yet.

As a result, your contact center will continue to face these repetitive but easy-to-answer questions. You can lean on AI-driven chatbots to handle the influx or hire more agents to keep up with customer demand.

Bonus lesson: We’ve also learned over the last couple of years that current events can send customer inquiry volumes skyrocketing. With this knowledge, you can prepare your team whenever global issues trickle down to the customers

4. The talent shortage will shift contact centers’ tactics.

With unemployment low and the demand for talent high, staffing your contact center will continue to be a challenge. 

To continue delivering a stellar customer experience, brands need to focus on productivity solutions and conversational platforms that will streamline customer interactions. 

There will also be an emphasis on flexibility within the contact center. Brands will focus on solutions that quickly and easily scale up or down with customer needs. Because hiring challenges will continue, it’s likely this need will be filled with other options, including AI, chatbots, and self-service options.

5. Contact centers will focus on empathy.

Empathy was the big topic of 2021, and we expect to see brands taking action on it in 2022. Expect to see it play out on two levels: brand empathy for customer service agents and agent empathy for customers.

49% of people want customer support agents to be more empathetic, according to Zendesk.

The talent shortage will force brands to increase agents’ wages—and give them higher-value tasks as a result. The push to streamline customer service and create more self-service options means live agent interactions will be even more valuable as a result. Instead of answering “where’s my order” questions, agents will be available for more high-touch interactions at every step of the buying process. 

What does this mean for the customer service agents? Brands will be competing for talent, so perks like flexible working arrangements matter. Higher wages and higher-value tasks will lead to better engagement and hopefully more overall job satisfaction.

6. Adoption of digital payment platforms will accelerate.

pay to chat apple payMillennials and Gen Z will continue to expand their buying power, and as digital natives, they’re more likely to use digital payment platforms. No one wants to manually enter their credit card data anymore (we can relate).

Brands will need to adapt to the next generation’s buying habits. In 2021, 4 out of 10 smartphone users in the U.S. have made a contactless mobile payment at least once, according to Statista. And digital/mobile wallets are responsible for 29.3% of e-commerce transactions in the U.S

We expect to see these numbers grow as more people resist manual credit card entry and rely on mobile payment platforms, like Apple Pay or Paypal.

7. People will put down their phones. 

A crazy concept—we know. People have felt like they need to be available at all hours of the day, and the pandemic only increased this “always-on” mentality. It’s led to a rise in burnout and just an overwhelmed society. According to McKinsey & Company, 42% of women and 35% of men reported feeling burned out often or almost always in 2021.

We expect to see more customers silencing their email notifications and turning off their phones in 2022. What does it mean for the customer experience? A heavy reliance on asynchronous messaging.

Rather than dealing with customers through live messaging and voice conversations, expect customers to pop in and out of conversations as their day permits. In fact, this 2021 Gartner press release predicts that 80% of customer service organizations will abandon native mobile apps in favor of messaging by 2025.

For your CX team, this requires a different approach to conversations. They’ll need to juggle multiple requests across platforms and be able to pick up conversations where they left off. To give customers the best experience, lean on a conversational platform that helps your staff manage it all.

Strengthen Your Customer Experience in 2022

Even though the future is uncertain, brands have the ability to give customers a top-notch experience with every interaction. You can be the bright spot in a customer’s day, a moment of reprieve in an otherwise tumultuous week. 

Use these CX predictions to anticipate what’s to come in 2022 and plan ahead. And if you need help facilitating customer conversations, scaling, or meeting your customers where they are, Quiq can help.

Ready to take a deeper look at the power of a conversational platform and see what Quiq can do for your customer service team? Schedule a quiq demo