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Do you WhatsApp your customers?

A surge in consumers’ use of messaging and social media is transforming their expectation of service, recent research from BT and Cisco revealed.

The research “The Digital Customer 2017 — Chat, tap, talk: eight key trends to transform your digital customer experience” surveyed 5,000 customers across China, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, India, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the US.

The result suggests that a growing number of consumers find it easier to deal with organisations through messaging and social media, a trend  driven by a surge in their personal use of apps such as WhatsApp. The trend is particularly clear in China, where 37% of respondents said that they use the messaging app WeChat for customer service.

Almost half (48%) of respondents get frustrated if text-based “chat” is not available when dealing with organisations (rising to 58% in Singapore) while 70% of those aged 18-34 years said they are sourcing more and more of their products and services through social media.

Overall, 58% of respondents said they get a quicker, more instant response when using messaging compared with the phone, while 37% said they would choose to contact an organisation through Facebook or Twitter if they had a problem which needed solving urgently, peaking at 65% in India.

When asked how they would like to receive support from an organisation while accessing its services online — for example, while using an organisation’s app or researching a product on its webpage — 65% of respondents said that they prefer to use webchat, up from 45% in 2015.

With more than three quarters of consumers (76%) saying that they buy more from companies that are easy to do business with, the findings suggest that organisations should upgrade their contact centre capabilities to support messaging and social media to help drive business growth.

Despite the growing trend for messaging and social media, consumers’ use of dedicated customer service phone lines fell only gradually between 2010 and 2017. 31% of respondents in the UK and US said they had called a contact centre within the last two weeks, compared with 38% in a similar study seven years ago and 43% of respondents aged between 16-34 years said that they still want the option to call.

Andrew Small, vice president, unified communications and CRM, Global Services, BT, said that while “typing” to request customer support is increasingly popular, the research shows that people still want the option to “talk”.

While “typing” to request customer support is increasingly popular, the research shows that people still want the option to “talk”.

“This creates a challenge for contact centre operators as they now need a technology platform that can handle both the evolving mix of apps that customers wish to use and traditional service channels such as the phone,” she added.

Tom Puorro, VP/GM, Unified Communications Technology Group, Cisco added, “We live in a world where customers will change providers if an app is slow or it takes too many clicks to get a question answered. This research underscores that consumer-facing organisations need an integrated omni-channel strategy to be successful. Such a strategy will help them engage, innovate and be proactive to improve sales.”

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