The Messaging Mandate

This is Part 2 in a 3 Part Series focused on The Messaging Mandate. Part 1 highlighted why your company should consider adding Messaging to your customer service organization. This article discusses the criteria against which to rank consumer to business messaging providers. Finally, Part 3 will outline things to consider when implementing messaging. We hope you enjoy the series.

Messaging is the next disruptive technology for the contact center. Consumers demand the ability to communicate with brands and businesses on their own terms, via messaging. Consumers’ interest, preference, usage, and demand for business messaging is evident, as noted in Part 1

For the first time, consumers are the ones driving organizations to a new support channel. Messaging is pervasive in consumers’ lives on a daily basis. Now, they expect to start one-on-one conversations with companies through their preferred channels. Messaging platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp and rich business messaging channels like Apple Business Chat and Google’s Business Messages are now part of their purchasing norm.

Research shows that companies that fail to implement customer service messaging will be passed up by the competition. The good news is that with the right customer service vendor, it’s not hard to give consumers what they want.

While the decision to implement messaging in your contact center is fairly straightforward, choosing the right messaging vendor may not be. You’ll really want to assess your organization’s specific requirements as you choose the best messaging vendors. 

What Are You Trying To Accomplish: Define Your Objectives

This is a pretty obvious first step, but it’s not uncommon for companies to come to us without knowing exactly what to expect from adding Messaging as a new channel. 

Messaging solutions are no longer new. Customers are accustomed to seeing a messaging button available when they visit your web site, find you on Google search, or reach out to you on social media. Establish goals and a clear vision of what the customer’s experience should be. Here are a few possible points for consideration:

  • Review the demographics of the customers you currently serve and their likelihood to message you from their mobile device.
  • Is the messaging technology you want primarily for inbound (customers coming to you for help) or outbound (your company promoting or communicating to customers) communications? Or, do you want to be able to handle both? Messaging vendors typically specialize in either inbound or outbound. The holy grail is a solution that handles inbound, customer-initiated inquiries, as well as company-to-consumer communications where the consumer can respond.
  • Do you have a focus on increasing overall customer satisfaction? Are there particular call drivers for which CSAT is low today? Messaging could help, as it has been found to have the highest satisfaction levels of all channels.
  • Is identifying cost savings opportunities a company objective this year? Offloading 20% or more phone calls to messaging would be a good alternative.
  • Are you an innovator striving to set your contact center or customer service organization apart from the competition? Be the first to lead the pack and acquire new customers.
  • Is connecting with consumers a priority? Messaging makes your brand more accessible to consumers.
  • Will your company be announcing a new product targeted at a highly mobile demographic? Messaging is their number one preferred way to communicate with brands.
  • Are you pursuing an omnichannel support strategy and messaging is an integral part of that?

Have a firm understanding of the strategy and goals for adding a new channel. This will ensure you choose a messaging vendor best suited to your particular needs.

Which Customer Service Messaging Vendor Fits Best: Evaluating Vendor Capabilities

After identifying your goals, pick a few of the best messaging providers to assess.  There are 6 criteria against which to compare vendors.

  1. Vendor Expertise & Experience

The majority of vendors in the messaging space recently entered the marketplace. It would be wise to review the backgrounds of the executive team. 

    • Is this their first company? 
    • Where have they worked before? 
    • Do they have the experience to build and grow a successful technology solution and company? 
    • How familiar are they with customer service and support?
    • How ingrained are they with customer experience and the contact center?

Look for a vendor that has a proven history of success developing solutions for customer service teams. Without this experience, there will be a lack of knowledge and understanding around the key challenges faced by customer service teams. How can the vendor build out a new channel, like messaging, if they don’t understand your business operations? Understanding the technologies already in use, the workflow, or the key metrics are critical to the success of the project.

  1. Customer-Obsessed Culture

It’s important to choose a vendor dedicated to customers. A customer centric culture makes the difference between decent vendors and great ones. You’ll know if the vendor is customer-centric by how they handle the sales or pilot cycle. 

    • Do they ask questions to understand where messaging can drive value for your business? 
    • Do they offer suggestions for customer service, messaging, and your business success?

The service this vendor offers affects the way you and your customers communicate. It’s essential to see them not only as a messaging vendor, but as a partner. Together, you should be dedicated to not only a successful implementation but also customer satisfaction as a whole.

  1. Messaging Product Capabilities

Messaging vendors can all start to sound the same when reading their websites or marketing materials. A better way to narrow down the pack is to drill into the core, out-of-the-box functionality. This can be quite a long list, so we will suggest a short list of critical capabilities relevant for every industry and size of support team:

    • How is the incoming customer request treated in the technology? Is a ticket or case created and put into the queue for attention? or is it considered a real-time conversation that remains with the same agent for seamless resolution with the customer?
    • Does the product support multiple messaging apps within the same interface? For example, can an agent receive conversations from text, web chat, and Facebook Messenger  within the same interface? 
    • Which additional messaging apps will be added and supported in the single interface?
    • Can the product handle multiple, simultaneous conversations that the agent can move between easily?
    • Does the system automatically prioritize which customer conversation needs to be responded to next?  Does it do so based solely on configurable SLAs or can the conversations also be prioritized based on the customer’s level of engagement?
    • Can conversations be routed to the most appropriate queue?
    • Can an agent transfer a messaging conversation to another agent or to a manager?
    • Can an agent collaborate with another agent or manager when they need help with a customer issue?
    • Do the managers have single screen visibility to monitor all their messaging agents and the active conversations?  Can a manager open up an active conversation? Can they take over a conversation if necessary?
    • Is it easy for supervisors and managers to see and use real-time and historical reports to track how productive their agents are?
    • Is the messaging solution available stand-alone if you don’t already have a customer service solution? Does the messaging product easily integrate into other applications like Oracle Service Cloud and Zendesk?

Does the messaging solution allow for integrations inside its interface, such as an order management system or knowledge base, to make agents even more efficient answering customer inquiries.

  1. Scalability & Security

Every customer service organization faces peaks and valleys of customer inquiries. Whether tied to a holiday, a season, or a product release there is usually an ebb and flow. 

For that reason, you need a messaging solution that can expand and contract with the flow of your business. The biggest concern tends to be making sure vendors can scale to meet peak demands. Share your volumes and ensure the vendor you select can handle the potential demand.

Security is getting more important than ever. Dig into what the messaging vendors has in place for security protocols. Thisapplies to their technology and for theservers they run on. Everything is “in the cloud” these days. It’s vital to make sure your data is secure, doesn’t mingle with others, isn’t accessible, and is never lost. Ask the vendor about their security audit and documentation to ensure you can rest easy.

  1. Continuous Innovation

Select technology providers that grow alongside you and encourage mutual development. Your prospective vendors should have a clear roadmap of future innovations. This vision should resonate with your own. Ask the following questions to get a better idea of where the vendor stands on innovation:

    • Do they have a plan to improve their customer service messaging approach in a holistic way?
    • Do these plans include new features, increased automation, and improvements around agent productivity?
    • More importantly, are they dedicated to actually implementing their proposed innovations?

A vendor that shows enthusiasm toward improving their own service will be better suited for a long-term partnership. Growth-based mindsets and business models are both contagious and conducive to success.

We all agree Messaging is the next channel to enter the contact center. As you determine when and how to add this new channel to your portfolio, we hope our tips to understand your business objectives and our list of vendor evaluation criteria are helpful. By following these steps you will ensure that you end up partnered with a customer service messaging vendor that understands and values your business needs.