2020 will go down as the year digital transformation hit hyper-drive. Quarantines and social distancing drove people to digital spaces, or as McKinsey put it, “consumers vaulted five years in the adoption of digital in just eight weeks.” In Latin America alone, 13 million people made their first-ever online purchase during the first two months of the pandemic.
Now that we live in a homebody economy, companies must wrestle with what customer experience looks like in the post-COVID age. How can brands take advantage of the best parts of digital experiences (e.g., scalable, time-saving, cost-saving, automated) while still making a human connection with customers?
Investing in mobile experiences — and the wide range of new channels and formats — is a way of nailing customer experience, driving higher customer loyalty, and futureproofing your brand during a super-speed, digital expansion.
Here are four key ideas to consider on that path:
Offer real-time utility throughout your customer’s journey
To deepen relationships with customers, companies need to deliver practical, personalized utility using mobile messaging.
What does personalized utility look like? At the most basic level, it means delivering notifications your customers want: order and shipping notifications, service downtime alerts, secure login verifications, appointment reminders, and personalized promotions (among many, many others). These just-in-time reminders and alerts are an important way to drive customer loyalty and satisfaction. Think of them as a way of supporting your customers at the moment they need information or help. One-way messaging is also highly scalable, able to expand quickly as your audience grows.
Beyond one-way reminders, there are so many more ways to engage customers on mobile. More on that in a bit. The other basic tactic companies need to get right is letting customers easily control the tempo of messages and customize what they want to receive using a mobile preference center. After a customer subscribes for messaging, you’ll want to offer options that are more nuanced than just “on” or “off.” Mobile preference centers let users control what they see and how often. Does a customer want promotional coupons? How many messages is too many? A mobile preference center signals you want to deliver a great experience.
Utility is critical, but so is delight
One-way notifications and preference centers are mobile CX fundamentals. Beyond those, how can companies enhance customer experience when so many interactions are done at a distance?
First: It’s important to treat messaging as a unique channel. A phone is usually in your customer’s hand or pocket, and mobile messages have high open rates because they appear on the open screen. It’s an always-on, highly personal channel to reach your customer, which means reaching them there requires care (and a dose of restraint). What kinds of messages will delight, versus fall flat? How can you ensure what you’re sending is welcome and valuable?
Matt Reid, vice president of omnichannel marketing at Vail Resorts, felt it could use the mobile channel to enhance customer experience by personalizing the messages Vail sends to skiers. He explained that the ways Vail was using messaging “was a great service for the guests, but it was more or less anonymous. We didn’t know anything about those customers. We decided it was important for us to create a more consistent, personalized experience for each customer moving forward, especially mobile marketing.”
The company uses mobile messaging to publish real-time ski reports, promotions and even playful messages to customers — all personalized by customer analytics. “The shift to mobile puts more of the experience in the customers’ hands, and you have to be clear about the value you add,” says Reid.
Delightful interactions aren’t only for “fun” industries like travel and leisure. In telecom, customers who may have problems installing new equipment or troubleshooting a problem may worry about inviting technicians into their homes. Sending how-to videos via messaging and even conducting technician visits via video calls are a way to bridge the gap and support customers from a distance. Remote service will probably become a new way of doing business in many industries even after the pandemic has passed. (Because who likes to “please be home between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm” to wait for a service visit?)
Balancing promotional, utilitarian, and delightful messaging is important because while the majority of customers like getting discounts and coupons on their phones, the approval ratings for promotional messages is lower than it is for other types of messages from brands. When it comes to promotional messaging, moderation is key.
Leverage AI-powered conversational messaging
Of course messaging isn’t just a one-way channel. Best-in-class brands are using two-way, conversational messaging to deliver even more value.
Deploying chatbots through mobile messaging channels, brands can give customers the answers they need in a fraction of the time. Whether it’s responding to routine customer service inquiries (e.g. requesting a return shipping label for a product exchange), looking up whether something you want to buy is in stock at your local store, checking appointment wait times, or even ordering a pizza, two-way messaging saves your customers time and saves your company money.
Part of the reason why mobile messaging is so much more powerful than a channel like email is that it’s always-on and ready to solve problems. An email can linger in someone’s inbox, but app-based messaging and SMS create a connection that’s like a launching point for a wide range of actions — from ecommerce and customer loyalty programs to customer support.
Research from Sinch shows people like the convenience and speed of chatbots. Of those who use chatbots (which is roughly half of those surveyed), 8 in 10 say they like using them because they get faster answers, chatbots offer them privacy, and they are “always on.”
Experiment with new messaging formats
What else is on the horizon for mobile messaging? Personalized, scalable, rich media interactions on mobile.
Even before RCS fully rolls out and brings new features to the native texting app, messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger let brands deliver highly interactive experiences using two-way conversations. In retail, a company can send a video featuring the season’s latest fashions, personalized to the individual’s shopping habits, with options to purchase from the messaging stream. A big box store can help expectant mothers and fathers create a gift registry for the new baby and circulate wish list items to friends via messaging. Or a healthcare provider can send out a health assessment via mobile, even asking people to share health analytics from their smartwatch.
The opportunities to deliver utility and delight using messaging are endless. There’s no time like the present to experiment with these new applications to future-proof your company.
Want to find out even more about how brands are using mobile CX to engage their customers and deepen relationships? Take a look at our series of reports: Customer experience in a transformed world.