How Brands Can Develop a Closer Relationship With Consumers Through Messaging

84% of people use messaging for general product and service inquiries

When was the last time you woke up saying, “I’d love to chat with my insurance company?” That probably hasn’t happened.

Messaging with a business is not the same as messaging with a friend. You’re not reaching out to your cable provider to send them the latest meme or tell them about that funny thing that happened last night on the train. You have a problem or a question, and you want it taken care of. So, how do businesses use messaging to be conversational but not intrusive? How do they provide utility for people while also driving results for their brand?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the answer lies with your customers. When thinking about your messaging strategy, it really comes down to digging into why people are messaging your business in the first place and how to maximize the personal connection you make with your customer.

So, why do people want to message your business?

Use it as a sales channel

First and foremost, it’s about confidence in the channel. According to a new study, over 55 percent of people surveyed are more confident contacting a business using messaging over email, and over 58 percent are more confident in messaging over filling out a form on a company’s website or reaching out to it on the phone. Not only is messaging increasingly becoming people’s preferred method of communication, but it gives the power to the customer to connect with a business on their terms, when it’s most convenient for them. By reaching people on messaging apps where they are already spending time, businesses can be there for their customers in an unobtrusive and cost-effective way.

When thinking about your messaging strategy, it really comes down to digging into why people are messaging your business in the first place.

When done right, messaging can do a lot more than solve a quick customer problem. According to people surveyed who message businesses, they are reaching out to brands from inquiry all the way through to purchase. For example, 84 percent of people surveyed said they use messaging to make a general inquiry about a product or service.

People are also open to using messaging further down the funnel, with 71 percent of people surveyed who message businesses saying they use messaging to schedule an appointment. With messaging, businesses can reduce friction and steps that can often make digital appointment booking cumbersome and confusing. And if people have questions along the way, they can ask them all in a single conversation.

Respond quickly

Responsiveness and efficiency are two key factors that tip the scale in messaging’s favor. Responses to email inquiries or contact forms take hours, if not days, and people often become frustrated when they are forced to navigate a lengthy interactive voice response (IVR) tree or are unable to reach a live representative. Responses via messaging apps are often instantaneous, especially when businesses are able to automate responses to frequently asked questions. And people are noticing: According to the same study, nearly six in 10 people surveyed say that messaging businesses offers them faster responses than other communications channels.

Of course, being responsive is only the first step. Once the conversation has started, you have the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with your customers. But it’s important to strike the right balance of personalization and personal space. Overwhelming someone with unsolicited offers can drive them away, and too little communication ensures you’ll miss the right opportunities.

Automate and innovate to maximize the channel

Once you understand why and when people message your business, you can build a strategy accordingly. Don’t be afraid to start small. You may begin using messaging just to complete simple tasks or respond to questions, and then based on the signal you get from your customers, you can start expanding your messaging offering to include add-ons like form-fills or the ability to book an appointment.

It’s also important to think about discovery. Just because you built a messaging experience doesn’t necessarily mean people will know to reach out. Think about integrating messaging into other touch points with your customers, such as giving people the opportunity to receive their receipt via a messaging app as part of the checkout flow on your website or including a plug-in on your product pages prompting people to message you with questions.

While messaging is still a new channel for many marketers, it is clearly a medium that people prefer for not only communicating with their friends and family but connecting with businesses as well. So, while people may not be waking up thinking about messaging their insurance company, if using messaging will help them get what they want, when they want it, that insurance company should be ready for the pings.

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This story first appeared in the October 1, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.