Which Digital Customer Care channels should I adopt?
There is no doubt that digital has become an essential part of customer care. Social networks have been some of the first channels for digital customer care. Primarily used by companies for marketing and communication, it has quickly been used by consumers to send their enquiries. Instead of being constrained by the opening hours of stores and call centers, consumers viewed the opportunity to contact companies at the time they chose. As the number of enquiries increased on these channels, companies understood the necessity to answer them and use digital for customer care.
Every company should now integrate digital channels into its customer care strategy. But with a significant number of channels available, choosing the right ones can be difficult. Some new channels, such as Viber or Messenger, have also appeared more recently and developed features for customer care. With GAFA planning to launch their messaging apps, more new channels will appear in the coming years.
Each channel comes with its own specificities in terms of features, usage, audience… Depending on your business, location and customer care strategy, the choice of the right channels will vary. The key is to be where your customers are and need you.
The growing importance of social media for Customer Care in the last few years cannot be ignored. Facebook, Twitter and most social platforms became mediums for consumers to get in touch with companies. 67% of consumers now use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to seek resolutions for issues. Each social media has its own specificities that you should be aware of to adopt the right ones.
Facebook started as a platform for peer to peer communication. As companies progressively appeared on it, Facebook developed specific features for them (business pages, advertising, …). These features were mainly for marketing purposes, one of Facebook’s main strengths being the opportunity to target users precisely (by demographics, interests, location…). But as brands became available on this channel, consumers naturally started to send them their customer care enquiries. Now, most companies have a presence on Facebook, where they should monitor what is said about them.
Facebook made its business offer evolve to adapt to customer service and help companies communicate more efficiently with their customers. One of the main strengths of Facebook for customer care is Messenger, available to businesses since 2016. Companies should encourage customers to contact them via Messenger rather than public comments. Facebook supports this approach, by offering a “Send Message” call to action for business pages.
Number of users: 2 billion
- Being present on Facebook becomes essential to monitor what is said about your company and answer
- Business pages can be used to bring customers on Messenger
- Popular social media for B2C industries
- Public posts: requires to be very reactive to avoid damaging its reputation, cannot be used to share private data.
- Mostly used for marketing purposes - difficulty to detect customer care enquiries among all the comments received
Twitter became one of the main channels for customer care. In the last 2 years, the number of tweets related to customer service has increased by 250%. This popularity can be explained by the conversational, public and real-time nature of Twitter.
As tweets are public, brands must be reactive on this channel to avoid damaging their reputation. Consumers understood the interest of using it to get fast answers from companies. 78% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour. This public nature can also have benefits: it is common to see satisfied customers send a tweet after a positive experience. Companies can use it to prove their customer service quality.
Whether a brand has a Twitter account or not, customers will talk about it on this channel. That is why it now became essential to be there to monitor what is said about your company and being able to answer. 77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand when their Tweet has been replied to : this finding proves that all brands should have a presence there.
Because of its character limit, Twitter is more efficient for short questions. The public nature of the tweets also mean that no sensitive data can be shared (customer number, phone number, email address…), forcing to switch to private messages or redirect on another channel.
One advantage of Twitter is its specific tone: due to the instantaneity and short format, companies can exchange with a less formal tone than on other social media. For example, many companies choose to include emojis or even GIFs, or sign tweets with the agent name.
Like Facebook, Twitter progressively launched new features to improve customer care on its platform. For example, businesses can now indicate that they provide support, display hours of availability and a more prominent button to start a private conversation.
Number of users: 330 million
- It becomes mandatory to monitor what is said about your company on this channel
- Allows to exchange with customers using a less formal tone
- Opportunity to show publicly the customer service quality
- Specific features for customer care: “provides support” badge, hours of availability, links to redirect to direct messages
- Shorter response time than on other channels
- Difficulty to share personal information or longer descriptions of issues
- Spam: Twitter has several accounts sending automatic tweets or false accounts. When monitoring tweets, companies should be able to filter that noise to only focus on the most important messages.
Instagram is currently more used for marketing than customer care, but due to its popularity and level of engagement, it’s essential for a company to monitor what is being said on this channel. Engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.
Due to this popularity, Instagram launched business features this year. It is mainly for marketing but it can also help companies manage customer service: business profiles include a Contact button enabling to either call, send an email or get the physical address.
For companies with a large following on Instagram, some of its customers will send enquiries. That is why they should monitor the comments to identify the ones requiring an answer.
Instagram also offers private messages, and is planning to launch a standalone messaging app. With this announcement, Facebook applies the same strategy as with Messenger a few years ago. Given the popularity of Instagram and messaging, we can expect that this new app will encourage customers to send more enquiries via this channel.
Number of users: 700 million
- Higher engagement rate than other social media
- Answer enquiries on one of the most popular channels
- Direct Messages
- Mostly used for marketing purposes
- Not suitable for all industries. Especially relevant for fashion, food and turism industries etc...
Like Instagram, the main strength of YouTube is its visual nature. Other social media platforms also want to take advantage of this trend and now offer their native video players. However, it remains relevant to use YouTube as a distribution channel: this will allow to make videos accessible by all of your customers even if they have no social accounts, and make them rank in search engine results. YouTube videos appear as thumbnails on results pages and benefit from good ranking.
The platform’s popularity can be leveraged for customer service needs. For example, many brands choose to release How to videos, answers to common questions, product tours. It is also common to see brands producing videos to introduce their customer care website or mobile app. Videos are also a great content to support a self-care strategy: for example, telecom operators are often producing troubleshooting videos to help customers solve technical issues themselves.
YouTube being open to comments, these types of videos can bring customer questions. YouTube is often seen as a content distributor and many of these comments remain unanswered. However, just like on any other social media, ignoring a customer’s question is bad for the brand’s reputation. If your company has a presence on Youtube, make sure to monitor the comments and answer them when needed.
Number of users: 1.5 billion monthly users
- Popular channel: second largest Search Engine
- Visual nature can support a customer care strategy
- Good ranking in search results to answer specific questions (self care)
- Public comments
- No specific customer care features
Messaging is now becoming the privileged means of communication for consumers. Apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber are some of the most popular messaging apps. Messenger and WhatsApp are now gathering 2.6 billion users. These apps are taking a growing importance in consumers’ lives. They do not only allow to communicate, but also develop features like payment, news which makes users spend more time on it. In the same way as it happened with emails, popular messaging apps are being used for customer care.
One of the main advantages of messaging is its asynchronous character. Unlike live chat or phone calls, messaging does not require instant answers: customers can send a message and be notified when the answer is available. For companies, it also simplify the management of messages, as more than one interactions can be managed at the same time.
Messenger is one of the most popular messaging apps, and it officially became available to businesses in 2016. This launch helps companies to make the most of Messenger popularity and communicate more efficiently with their customers. Rather than treating enquiries through public comments, companies can now do it in a private mode. This allows to transfer public conversations on Facebook walls to a private channel. Messenger is more adapted for customer care, and Facebook pages can become again platforms for marketing and communication.
Messenger encourages the development of chatbots. The platform now counts more than 100,000 monthly active bots. This makes Messenger one of the main channels for brands to experiment with this technology.
This year, Messenger launched Messenger Customer Chat, a plugin allowing to start a conversation from a company’s website without leaving it. This innovation brings a new conversation mode, between messaging and web chat.
Number of users: 1.3 billion users
- Asynchronous channel: no need of instant answers, users receive notifications when the company answers
- Conversation history
- Avoids having messages on the public wall
- More privacy to exchange personal data
- Specific features for customer care: greetings messages, responsiveness badge, Messenger Customer Chat
- Third party channel: no control of data and of new features
- Shorter response time than on Facebook
Viber is the fifth largest messaging app in the world, used by 900 million people around the world. It is especially popular in Asia (270 million users), Eastern Europe (110 million) and Africa (55 million). It rich features are very similar to the ones of Messenger and WhatsApp: images, stickers, audio and video messages…
Businesses can have a presence on Viber through “public channels”, that users can follow and contact via messaging. Depending on the countries where you operate, adopting Viber can be relevant if your audience is using it.
Number of users: 900 million users
- Rich features to talk with customers
- Messaging benefits (asynchronous, conversation history…)
- Not relevant in every country
WeChat is a messaging & calling app currently used by 938 million people. Its specificity is that it includes not only messaging, but also allows users to pay, read news, play games, order food... Its main market is China, where it is used by nearly 500 million users.
- The main messaging app for Chinese consumers
- Complete platform with several features
- Messaging benefits (asynchronous, conversation history…)
- Only relevant in specific areas, mainly Asia
In-app messaging provides rich in-app communication between a company and its customer though its mobile application. Concretely, its interface looks like a messaging app like Messenger or WhatsApp, but is integrated into the company’s application. This means that it can adapt to the brand’s specificities (visual chart, identification with customer account…) and doesn’t require customers to leave the brand’s app.
- Seamless experience for customers: they do not have to leave the company’s app to send a message
- More control on data and visual identity
- Rich features
- Can be used by customers who are not on social media or messaging apps. They will have more trust in the company’s app than in other digital channels.
- Requires the company to have a mobile app
- More technical implementation than external messaging channels
SMS are a very good way to communicate with customers, and is mainly used for marketing purposes. These messages allow to communicate in a simple and efficient way and have excellent open rates. Text Messages can also be used for customer care by enabling customers to send enquiries to companies. The growth of messaging apps reduce the use of text messages, but this channel remains relevant in particular in areas with a low 3G/4G coverage. SMS could soon be replaced by RCS (Rich Communication Service), a format developed by Google aiming at integrating more features (file sharing, localisation, stickers...)
- An universal format not requiring an app or account
- Can be used in regions with low 3G/4G coverage
- Its use is decreasing
- Less features than messaging apps
Email was one of the first digital channels for customer care in B2C. Even if its use is decreasing in favor of social media and messaging, you should still integrate it into your strategy. Emails give customers the opportunity to express themselves with more details than on other channels.
Response speed for emails is on average 48 hours (progressively switching to 24 hours), which lets you more time to answer. If you manage to reply faster, you will exceed customer’s expectations and that only can be positive.
- Essential channel for customer care
- No character limit
- Can be used by customers not present on social or messaging channels
- It has a more “official value” than other channels
- Basic questions can take several days to be solved (back and forth emails)
- Longer response time than on other channels
- Emails are longer and more complicated to treat compared to messages on other channels
Live Chat / Web Chat
Web Chat or Live Chat are website tools allowing a visitor to talk with a customer agent in real time. It can be accessed from a window on websites. The advantage of chat is that it can assist your customers in real time. It can be especially effective for presales: thanks to behavioral targeting, you can offer the chat option at the right moment. For example, it can be activated when a visitor is viewing certain pages or has products in his basket.
However, you have to be aware that chat is a synchronous channel: agents and customers have to be available in front of the conversation, meaning that fast answers are required. As it is based on sessions, no conversation history is saved. In the same way, if you use it on mobile and receive a phone call, you will lose the session.
- Provides information about customers’ behaviors (pages viewed, shopping cart..)
- Live conversation: provides instant assistance, contributes to upselling
- Triggers depending on specific situations (basket content, pages visited…)
- Especially adapted to e-commerce, sales
- Not mobile friendly
- Synchronous channel requiring fast answers
- No conversation history
- Availability limited to certain times
Forums are composed of members which can interact between each other. This type of platforms can have different objectives: users can ask questions and receive answers from the community or company’s experts. Companies can choose to answer themselves new questions from consumers (dynamic FAQ) or moderate answers from members. It can also be used to gather ideas from customers. The company or selected members can act as moderators to ensure the platform brings reliable answers.
This channel is not suitable for all industries. It will be especially relevant for industries in which 50% of answers can be public (for example tech products) but not adapted when more privacy is needed to answer questions (bank, insurance…).
Unlike other channels, forums are indexed in search engines and can improve a company’s SEO. When customers type questions related to a company on a search engine, they can access the platform. Forums and communities are especially relevant for self care, to answer basic questions. However, such platform must be well structured to allow customers to find the information they need easily.
- Provides self care
- Appear in search engine results and improves the company’s SEO
- Adapted for basic enquiries : customers find instant answers, companies do not need to answer
- Can be a way to ask employees to contribute
- Requires to moderate the activity
- No business objectives (upselling, retention…)
- Can provide a bad customer experience if the platform is not structured
As we have explained, digital becomes essential for customer care. With as many channels available, there is a number of factors to consider to adopt the right ones. Your business activity, your audience’s preferences and location will influence this choice. After choosing the right channels, offering a seamless experience between them will be the next step. Omni-digital consumers, who exclusively rely on digital channels and not on physical ones (stores, call centers...) are expecting to have the choice to interact with companies on their own terms.