Live chats used to be great. When they first came out, they were absolute craziness – they were the future.
And they still are a very useful tool. But – let’s face it – they’ve lost most of the magic they were surrounded by. Especially since the mobile revolution.
Countless companies introduced live chats in their business processes, being 100% sure live chats would save their customer service departments’ money and time. All of that, while ensuring an amazing, satisfying customer experience.
Reality proved to be quite different in most cases.
Live chats can be good to manage the sense of urgency for some requests, or when there are no “peaks”. But if you’ve ever found yourself in the position of contacting a company’s customer service for help or information, you know how frustrating that experience can be for a customer. You might not have to pick up the phone and wait for the company to reply while listening to “Vivaldi’s Spring” in loop, but sitting behind your deck and waiting for an operator to reply can still be stressful. Especially if you are in a hurry. Or if your internet connection is not stable enough to make you feel safe from losing your turn. Or if you are one of those impatient people like me who just need to do something else in the meantime.

Customers are not the only deceived party in that frame. We have daily conversations with customer care managers complaining about the fact that introducing a live chat didn’t quite ensure the performance they expected.
Live chat’s broken promises are what made us fell in love with Instant Messaging at first sight. We’ve been working on that for a few years, now, and we have had many chances to compare the two on a daily basis, measuring results. When our clients are looking for a solution to improve their processes and their customers’ engagement, in most cases we would advise them to go for Instant Messaging.
There are a number of reasons why, but if I had to draw up a ranking  of the top 5 it would be these.

1. Instant messaging reaches the customer in his/her comfort zone.

This statement has many applications. First and foremost, Instant Messaging is by far the most popular UX right now on the digital and mobile landscape, with almost 2 billion users worldwide. That’s because anybody easily learns how to use it, with no distinction of age, culture or else. It comes natural, as it uses a natural interaction and natural language. Doesn’t your mom send you WhatsApp messages on a daily basis, after all?
Chatting with customers in such a context means to be in the position of easily building a sense of intimacy, reaching them wherever they are – straight on their mobile phones.
That leads us to reason number two.

2. It is bi-directional (for real)

With live chats, you have most likely to wait for the customer to contact your company. That significantly restricts its scope and potential.
With Instant Messaging, instead, you can open broadcast communications or one-to-one communications, with the input coming from your brand itself. Whether it is a marketing initiative for all your customers or a specific CRM offer, you can really reach the right people at the right time, in the way that is most familiar to them. And without being perceived as too intrusive or interruptive.

3. It’s asynchronous

On a live chat you must reply in less than 30 seconds if you don’t want to indulge in a frustrating experience for your customer (that’s the so-called rule of thumbs). It’s a here and now interaction. When writing to a brand via live chat, one expects the reply to be instantaneous – “live”. But in case of peaks or in case of a small agents’ team, “live” is one of those goals difficult to reach.
With Instant Messengers, instead, people would normally expect a deferred reply. Just the way it happens for WhatsApp, they would drop a line, put their phone back in their pocket, and keep doing what they were doing before. They won’t lose their turn in the cue if the internet connection drops, nor there will be expired sessions on their way. And they know they will be notified as soon as they get a reply.

4. Has conversation log

This point is very strongly related to the previous one. Even with an army of operators ready to reply in a few seconds, managing a customer via live chat takes approximately the same time than it does by phone – as a matter of fact, it might take even longer, if you ask me. At least basing on my latest chat with one of the most famous banks of England: one and a half hour behind my keyboard to retrieve part of my credentials.
Anyways, that means contacting customer care twice costs both in terms of time and money. Instant Messaging allows a massive reduction of recall rate, simply by having the conversation log saved in the customers’ smartphone. If they wrote and asked for their flight number or for their PUK in the past, even months before, they just have to scroll the conversation back to find that information.
That translates into a higher customer satisfaction and, of course, into an increased efficiency of the overall service.

5. It’s not a “tunnel vision”

Hands up who did never experience a situation where they are live chatting with a company and the agent would ask you to switch to the email or to the call center to go through your request. That’s the result of most of the things we discussed before: need to go on with the cue, need for more time to retrieve a certain information information, and so on. Which also implies that the customer should start telling his/her issue over and over again, to different people, since the start.
Instant Messaging, on the contrary, allows longer pauses between a reply and another – if needed. And more likely the user and the agent can start just where they left off. Even switching seamlessly from one agent to another.

Which Instant Messenger would be good for your company?

While popular IM are certainly to be tapped, we always suggest brands to have their own instant messenger. That is not to compete with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, but to fully exploit Instant Messaging’s potential in a branded premise, where your customer’s data are just yours, and where you are able to interact with them the way you need to. That’s why we developed EIMe (Enriched Instant Messaging), our solution for companies who want to embrace the conversational paradigm.

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