Customers have changed the way they engage with brands and crave greater control over their communication with them. But one-way communication just isn’t useful anymore, as Sinch’s annual customer experience report found that 89 percent of consumers want two-way conversations via messaging channels and apps.
To help brands deliver smarter customer experiences, Sinch surveyed about 3.000 consumers globally. Its report, Brave New World: Customer Experience in 2022, shows that the key to sustainable business growth is delivering rich interactions that add value.
From 2019 to 2020, consumers who received “abandoned cart” reminders more than doubled in countries including the US, Canada, Germany and India. It’s unclear what these shoppers’ next steps were, but Sinch found that more than half of customers are frustrated when they receive mobile messages they can’t reply to.
When asked what they want from their in-message interactions:
- 90 percent of consumers said support or to ask follow-up questions
- 89 percent want to arrange returns, exchanges or refunds
- 77 percent said to complete health assessments with doctors
- 69 percent want to be able to fill out loan applications
Still, one-way messages can be useful and even expected. Businesses must find ways to increase these messages’ value, namely by building the possibility of action into them. For example, package arrival notifications are helpful and relied upon by many industries and consumers. But giving shoppers the ability to change the timing, recipient or location of the delivery without having to reach out to a separate customer support line can boost the value of the engagement.
Sinch’s tips for giving customers real business value via messaging:
- Let customers check delivery times in Messenger or WhatsApp. Offer options in the text stream to customize notifications or arrange a return—about 90 percent say they’d like this two-way option.
- Don’t just send a fraud alert to a banking customer. Give customers options, like to freeze a card or request a replacement using conversational artificial intelligence in the messaging stream or banking app.
- Turn on two-way functionality across all channels, including email and messaging. Let AI-driven chatbots answer routine queries and send more complex ones to online resources or customer service.
- Don’t ignore the power of SMS for confirming a restaurant reservation, approving a big-ticket purchase or refilling a prescription.
Businesses that are already aware of the type of help their customers most often need and the questions their customers ask shouldn’t wait to reach out with rich media and personalized support. Brands must be proactive when it comes to adding extra value to the customer experience. In doing so, businesses can create higher quality dialogue, and increase satisfaction and brand loyalty.
The types of messages consumers would find most useful include:
- Video tutorials based on a recent purchase (83 percent)
- Personalized video tours (81 percent)
- Buying guide based on previous purchases or activity (76 percent)
Brands are increasingly utilizing the social commerce tools that TikTok and Instagram afford, but unfortunately many still treat these platforms as one-way opportunities to promote—as opposed to tools for conversation. That’s alarming given that 48 percent of respondents said they shop on social media channels but that brands don’t engage with them there.
Roughly 25 percent of consumers that do message brands on social media report that the response time is one day or more—something these individuals say will make them less likely to purchase from that company on social channels. And fifty-two percent of respondents said it takes brands several hours to respond.
Eighty-seven percent of consumers across all generations avoid buying from brands they don’t trust, especially boomers. To earn consumers’ trust, brands should aim to create positive experiences and convey strong data security. The banking sector, for example, has reported a strong correlation between trust, positive experiences and data security.
Delving deeper into this phenomenon, Sinch’s research found that high-trust relationships between banks and customers are overwhelmingly associated with banks that answer questions quickly, protect their customers’ interests, know their customers’ needs, offer useful financial advice and keep information and accounts secure.
Even within a high-trust relationship, many consumers, especially older ones, are reluctant to talk about financial matters via messaging. Still, brands can find ways to reassure customers as Sinch found only 15 percent of younger generations are unpersuadable.
Here’s what would make customers more comfortable discussing sensitive financial matters via mobile messaging:
- Connecting with a human instead of a chatbot (54 percent)
- Receiving clear verification from the bank that mobile conversations are secure (37 percent)
- Using the messaging feature inside of a secure banking app (32 percent)
- Being able to switch from a chatbot to a live customer service agent (29 percent)
In the healthcare industry too, mobile messaging has the potential to become customers’ top choice. Perhaps due to the potentially emotional nature of the interactions in this space, 62 percent of respondents are comfortable discussing personal or sensitive health matters via mobile messaging.
In addition, 89 percent of respondents would like to receive medical tests results via messaging, 87 percent want answers to medical questions via messaging channels and 77 percent want the option of filling out health assessments on their phones.
Sinch’s tips for smoothing the path from first point of contact to purchase include:
- Give customers control over their experiences by offering real-time visibility into inventory, staffing availability and wait times.
- Rather than send a one-way “abandoned cart” reminder or “back in stock” message, notify customers with a buy button inside the messaging stream.
- Don’t make customers remember awkward IDs and complex passwords. New mobile identity and security solutions offer one-step sign-ins using the customer’s cell phone number.
- Offer features such as mobile badges that confirm callers’ identities.
Interactions with chatbots are growing with 76 percent of shoppers having interacted with one in 2021 – up from 51 percent in 2020. Of these, over half appreciate the immediate availability of an automated response. But rather than view chatbots as a standalone solution, brands should let customers escalate complex issues instantly from a messaging chat to a voice call. In fact, 95 percent of respondents said this option would be useful.