Messaging_Apps_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

Your customers would much rather text you than call you. That’s among the findings of the International Smartphone Mobility Report recently issued by data tracking firm Infomate. The millennial generation, in particular, has definitively chosen texting as their preferred communications channel. Time spent texting outpaces time spent on the phone by a margin of four to one.

 

This communications shift impacts all sphere of life. Texting is quickly catching up with email as customers’ preferred way to contact businesses, both for personal transactions and professionally. More than three-quarters of survey respondents told the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that they have a more favorable impression of companies that can be reached via mobile messaging.

 

Yet many small businesses continue to use phone calls as their default customer service channel. Social media accounts for only three percent of all customer communications, according to New Voice Media, which provides cloud-based communication services to businesses. The disconnect between customer preferences and business practices can’t be expected to last for long. Companies known for providing superior customer service, such as Zappos, have already begun using messaging apps as a customer service channel.

 

Here’s what you need to know should you decide to do the same:

 

Messaging_Apps_PQ.jpgWhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat are the most popular messaging apps

There are dozens of messaging apps, and no one business will be able to effectively use them all. It makes sense to use the mostly widely embraced apps, which include WhatsApp (900 million users), Facebook Messenger (800 million users) and Snapchat (100 million users).

 

Messaging apps can serve several purposes

In addition to serving as a customer service channel to answer questions, address complaints and more, messaging apps can also serve as a valuable branding and sales tool. Hellman’s mayonnaise regularly sends recipes featuring its products via WhatsApp. Jewelry retailer Rare Pink sells very high end engagement rings via Snapchat, which allows customers to have in-depth conversations online about specific products without triggering any retargeter ads that might ruin the surprise should one’s sweetheart glance at their significant other’s social media.

 

Messaging apps require oversight and prompt, professional response

Customers expect a prompt, professional response no matter what channel they use to reach you. Assign one or more members of your team, as appropriate, the responsibility of monitoring and replying to any messages sent to you by customers. Make sure your team knows exactly what that means. For example, using emojis might be fine, while non-traditional Internet spelling is to be avoided. Establishing clear guidelines at the embrace of a new messaging channel will help avoid confusion later.

 

 

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