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PHOTO: Jack Sharp

Social messaging apps are apparently having a moment. According to a recent Zendesk report, the use of social messaging apps more than doubled last year (up 110%) and the use of these apps in customer service saw a resultant bump.

“More customers say they prefer to message a company through its own website or app, but social messaging apps are also a popular choice. Support requests over apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger spiked significantly during the pandemic,” the report stated.

Before introducing yet another new customer channel, learn how to use these apps effectively. Marketers offered the following tips.

The Response Timeline Is Even Shorter on Social

People turn to social messaging when they need immediate contact with their friends and loved ones, said Martynas Kavaliauskas, TrackingFox co-founder and CEO. When they send a message, it gives them a feeling that they are within reach. If a business is going to use the same technology, you need that same feeling, that assurance that you will see their messages instantly and that you will respond almost instantly as well.

We're all looking for quick solutions, especially given all of our current time online, said Avinash Chandra, BrandLoom founder and CEO. The same goes for your valuable customers, he continued. "When customers get quick responses, they are likely to engage more with you. It helps you build brand loyalty.”

Kavaliauskas agreed, warning of the dangers of allowing messages to remain unanswered for too long. “If necessary, hire and train chat operators for this purpose. You have to take advantage of the private nature of this medium. If you do respond fast enough, customers will not have to seek your attention through other, more public channels that may not actually turn out to be in your favor.”

However, one of the worst practices would be using canned responses in order to reply quickly, Kavaliauskas cautioned. It’s the connection that matters, and if you use canned responses, then the connection will be difficult to foster. It will look forced and fake. “You might as well just use email if that’s how you’re going to utilize social messaging for your customer service function,” he said. 

With email brands have the time to craft responses specific to that particular customer, which will compensate for the longer response time, Kavaliauskas added. A little delay in the responses will be better than replying instantly but using canned responses.

“The very essence of social messaging apps is personalization,” Kavaliauskas said.

Beyond answering quickly, Chandra recommended choosing the right support channel. Direct messaging through social media might work for some companies, but not all. Research what types of messaging apps your customers are already using and make your choice with that in mind.

Related Article: Why Businesses Need a Social Response Protocol

Understand Messaging App Limitations

Messaging apps aren’t for everything though, warned Mara Vicente, Pipedrive global head of customer support. “Longer threads of discussion or nuanced conversations should be avoided over chat. Complex, impactful decisions require greater focus.”

If the messaging app includes an automated chatbot, Vicente reminds brands to remember that customer interactions are about the human. “Make the chatbot a member of the team," Vicente added. “Think of your chatbot as a tireless team member who instantly engages your website visitors 24/7. Be sure to customize how it looks, the questions it asks, and how it replies. Tailor your chatbot’s questions on different web pages, and depending on visitors’ answers, qualify them immediately or route them to an available sales rep if desired..”