I recently spent my holiday break in Chile. While I enjoyed the warmer weather and beautiful coastlines, I was reminded of why I truly love to travel. I always find traveling helps me get out of my bubble and expand my perspective.
This brings me to my latest trip to Chile. While in Chile, I started to notice that everything we did was through WhatsApp. And I mean everything! We even booked our New Year’s Eve party tickets through WhatsApp. It just so happens that Chile as a country is one of the top users of WhatsApp. Having traveled around Chile for nearly two weeks, I can definitely attest to this.
This got me thinking about how my own usage of WhatsApp and messaging services, in general, has increased over the last year. For me, it has been WhatsApp and Instagram direct messaging specifically. We know Facebook Messenger has also been on the rise for some time now, which is why we recently added the channel to Dixa, but the important thing to notice here is that messaging services are continuing to rise in popularity. Whether you are in Chile using WhatsApp or in Copenhagen using Facebook Messenger, people are messaging each other more on other channels than SMS.
So this brings me to the top messaging trends for 2019:
1. Messaging channels are on the rise
It’s becoming more and more apparent that the ways in which we communicate with our friends are an indication of how we will eventually want to communicate with businesses. We’re seeing this with Facebook Messenger now and it will likely continue throughout 2019 and beyond. The ability to communicate with a brand the same way you would a friend allows you to get closer to the brand and have a more personal relationship with them. Messaging is a way for customers to get closer to brands and more importantly for brands to get closer to their customers.
How can you apply this?
The messaging channels people use can change dramatically simply based on where you live. That is why it’s important to know who your customers are and what channels they’re using. Then, support them on those channels. Don’t forget to pay attention to shifts in messaging channels too. Taking advantage of the correct channels to support your customers can help you build stronger bonds and foster long-term loyalty.
2. Chatbot backlash
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen more and more companies implementing chatbots that greet visitors and initiate conversations with them. The initial premise of being able to proactively engage visitors seemed great, however, poor implementations have made us blind to these types of chatbots. This is because they set the expectation that a real person is available to talk when in fact more often than not, no one is there.
Take my conversation with Nicole for example:
Even though Nicole asked me if I had any questions it quickly became clear that it was not Nicole asking me. It was in fact a robot. It even became apparent that the robot was not there to answer my questions, but simply to tell me that someone (maybe Nicole?) would get back to me.
Providing your customers with this kind of experience damages their trust in your brand and in the communication channel itself because their expectations were not met. So, next time they need assistance, they won’t use your chat. Additionally, every time they are confronted with the same experience in the future, they will become even more resentful of it, putting them at a higher risk of churning. I call this the chatbot backlash.
This year, we will see more customers wanting a real human being to help them and growing distrust and dislike for chatbots in general. Customers want to feel valued instead of deflected. Those that get frustrated with underwhelming chatbot experiences and struggle to reach a real person will eventually churn.
How can you apply this?
Even though chatbots bring a level of risk to your customer experience, there could be certain situations in your business where implementing one makes a lot of sense. If you find this is the case, be thoughtful about where you place your chatbot within your customer journey. Consider the different ways it could affect your customer experience and how your customers might feel getting assistance from a bot. Be sure to test it thoroughly before deploying it and pay close attention to customer satisfaction in the coming days and months after.
3. Magical to practical AI
Like with any new technology, initial expectations of what artificial intelligence could achieve were quite inflated. Over the past year, it has become increasingly obvious that AI is not magical or flawless, but rather an imperfect art that needs humans to teach it. It’s not as easy as pressing a button. In Gartner’s Hype Cycle we are currently at the Peak of Inflated Expectation with some businesses already realizing the AI isn’t as magical as initially thought.
This year, I believe even more companies will move away from the inflated expectations of AI and start to move from magical to practical AI.
With the move from magical to practical AI, we will see a combination of humans’ ability to effectively solve problems and AI’s ability to automate and scale. This means humans must solve problems first, before we can teach AI to do it better in the future.
How can you apply this?
Instead of thinking that you can solve everything with AI, start solving your problems with humans first. Then use AI or machine learning tools (hopefully Dixa will be one of those tools!) to automate and scale that behavior and continuously teach AI to be better.
Invest in Humans
Ultimately, humans are still a vital element in delivering top-notch customer experiences and even more so, if you have aspirations of implementing AI or machine learning in the future. Throughout 2019, it will be crucial for businesses to take a microscope to their customer journey and understand how they interact with their customers at every level. Without this knowledge, it will be very difficult to accurately identify where you can introduce new technology in the future. That is why I am saying: Invest in humans and understanding human experiences, because only humans can take us to the next level.
To summarize my 2019 predictions:
- New messaging channels will continue to appear and gain traction. Keep track of where customers want to connect and be there to answer them!
- Chatbots will continue to frustrate customers causing them to churn and trust in chatbots as a support channel will fade.
- AI will transition from magical to practical and become a tool we view as one in a box of many that can be effective in the right situations.
Here at Dixa, we firmly believe that strong bonds between companies and their customers results in long term loyalty and a healthy business. A crucial aspect of building that relationship is the interactions that occur between your support team and your customers and there is currently nothing that can replace those personal, human interactions.