Messaging Is The Medium

Originally posted on the Apptentive Blog on May 6th, 2015

I’m writing from the floor of the sold-out Collision Conference to share my take on a particular theme that holds a special place in the hearts of all of us on Team Apptentive.

The theme, so eloquently presented by Robert Stephens (@rstephens) of the Assist founding team, is a familiar one for our readers and deals with the role of messaging in today’s customer experience. In a session titled “Messaging is the Medium,” Robert expressed his belief that consumers exceedingly want and even expect brands to solicit, acknowledge, and respond to their feedback. Messaging is the needed medium to accomplish just that, and companies that are slow to jump on the messaging bandwagon face serious threats from their more agile customer-first competitors.

Robert proceeded to point out how primitive the messaging strategies are among even today’s top companies. Messaging remains a largely one-way communication tool, where even if a customer manages to find a way to leave feedback after being put on hold or re-routed through a web of support emails, their inquiries and comments go largely unacknowledged in the black hole of customer support. Even worse, companies put up intentional barriers to messaging, leaving the whole process looking a little like this:

Complaint Department

Yet, this isn’t the way it needs to be. Nor is it the way it should be.

There is a growing opportunity for brands to really listen and respond to their customers in a personalized manner – one that builds loyalty and earns customer love. The companies that do manage to break away from the mold and empower with their customers with a voice will reap the rewards not just in customer satisfaction, but in retention, lifetime value, and referrals.

Providing an open channel for 1:1 messaging is a fundamentally better way for companies to talk with their customers. It allows customers to voice their feedback directly in a private and controlled setting, one in which issues can be dealt with before they even manifest in a nasty review or negative word of mouth.

When companies leverage this sort of direct messaging, it becomes a powerful brand interaction channel.

At Apptentive, we’ve found this to be true.

Retention Data - Apptentive

Companies that take the initiative to not only listen to their customers but to proactively solicit feedback at key points of engagement throughout the customer journey see retention rates 2-3 times higher than those companies that do not.

Companies often assume people want to deal with a human. However Robert mentioned a study that found that we as consumers prefer automation over human contact, granted that the automation is done well. Automation helps the conversation start further along because it can provide the customer service agent relevant information about you. The eventual conversation starts further along in the support process, saving both parties time and energy.

In addition, with direct messaging, the consumer and the company can track every step of the conversation and provide the consumer with a copy as an acknowledgment that their feedback is important. Sadly, the same cannot be said of customer service phone calls.

Robert believes as I do that everyone in the company is in marketing, and everyone is in customer service. It is the marketing team’s job to focus everyone on supporting the customer. In his words, “unhappy customers are a disturbance to the force.” It is critical to pay attention to what customers are saying and respond to them.

There is a huge opportunity for us all to improve the way we message and engage our customers. But first, we need to listen.

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