Joshua March is one of the world’s leading authorities on social customer service. What he has to say is worth listening to.
And it turns out he’s got a whole lot to say, because he’s just written a book on the subject. ‘Message Me: The Future of Customer Service in the Era of Social Messaging and Artificial Intelligence’ is a fascinating read that will add value to anyone looking to enhance their understanding of an increasingly important topic.
Josh has been good enough to allow us to publish an extract from a book that any social media marketer worth their salt should read…
Message Me: The Future of Customer Service in the Era of Social Messaging and Artificial Intelligence
When I founded Conversocial at the beginning of 2010, we were building general social media software, designed to help the social media teams of big brands manage the growing presences they were developing on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
But over the course of that year, I came to a major realization: these platforms weren’t just the latest marketing gimmick.
They were profoundly changing how people communicated with friends, family, and with brands. I realized that as all communications continued to shift into smartphones, social media, and mobile messaging, these channels would fundamentally change how companies communicated and delivered service to their customers.
I knew that social media couldn’t remain as an island in the social media or marketing teams—it would need to be deeply integrated into every business unit, including customer service.
At the beginning of 2011, we started working with Tesco, a major, multi-billion-dollar retailer in the UK. They shared our vision, and asked us to help them integrate social media into their customer service team.
I started traveling to their major contact centers around the UK, watching as customer service teams attempted to deliver service over social media, but with tools that had been designed for marketing.
I sat with agents as they struggled to piece together the background to a customer’s complaint across several messages. I saw supervisors spend days painstakingly creating manual reports on productivity and performance—without the right data.
But at the end, I also witnessed thousands of customers who had turned to these channels for help—and were ecstatic that their issues were getting resolved, quickly and easily, in the same channel that they used to reach out.
This engagement crystallized what became the singular mission of Conversocial: to bridge the gap between the rapidly shifting world of social and mobile channels with the needs of large enterprise contact centers.
We had a vision for how the world of customer service was changing, and our mission was to help companies take their contact centers into this new world. Since then, we have built the leading solution to help companies deliver large-scale, enterprise-grade customer service over social media and mobile messaging channels.
We were the first platform to launch full livechat capabilities on Facebook Messenger, the first Instagram Community Management Partner, and we recently launched a new, exclusive partnership with Twitter where we are working together on unique customer service functionality for our clients.
Today, hundreds of the world’s biggest brands—from Google to Hyatt Hotels and Alaska Airlines—partner with Conversocial to deliver customer service over social media and mobile messaging. There’s no doubt the growth of social media has had a tremendous impact on the customer service world.
But now the world of customer service is about to change again—this time with an even bigger impact. Over the past couple of years, we’ve observed incredible growth in social messaging applications, the launch of bot platforms that allow deeper interactive experiences (and even payments) within messaging conversations and massive developments in artificial intelligence (AI).
The convergence of these trends will radically transform customer service over the next five years. Are you, and your organization, ready? Today, I can run my business almost entirely using apps on my phone, and I can order anything I can dream of at the touch of a button.
Yet when it comes to getting help, too often companies still make me call, wait on hold, and jump through hoops. I’ve intuitively felt all along—as an employee, CEO, and consumer—that effortless, convenient, and seamless experiences are key to keep customers coming back and recommending your brand to their friends.
That’s why making customer service easy for both consumers and brands is what Conversocial is all about. This isn’t just me. In the customer service world, there has been a growing understanding that the general approach to service that many companies take is not working.
With huge numbers of customers still phoning the call center (to great expense) companies have worked tirelessly to make it harder and harder to actually speak to a human. But with most digital channels still failing to fully deliver, most customers still end up phoning—after jumping through many frustrating hoops along the way.
A new mindset is required. The best summary of this thinking is Effortless Experience by Matt Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi from the Corporate Executive Board (now part of Gartner).
Reading this, I was struck by the book’s central insight that when it comes to increasing customer loyalty through customer service, a focus on lowering effort when there’s a problem or issue—not delivering over-the-top delight—is what moves the needle.
This insight flew in the face of decades of conventional wisdom that delight at all costs is what mattered. I highly recommend this book to anyone in the service world, and regularly send copies out to clients and partners.
However, although the research in the book is fundamental to my view of the correct approach to customer service, I believe the tools to actually deliver on the promise of an “effortless experience” are only now becoming widely available.
A massive driver of this is the growth of messaging. Messaging has become the default paradigm for all communication—social messaging apps among friends, Slack messaging among colleagues, and LinkedIn messaging among business contacts.
>> READ NEXT: Expert interview: Conversocial founder and CEO Joshua March <<
While WeChat has become the default place for businesses to transact and serve consumers in China, Facebook Messenger and Twitter have been adding functionality at a rapid clip to enable real-time chat, automation, and interactive experiences, making it easier for brands to create effortless experiences that get consumers the right answer, at the right time, whatever channel they are on.
But in the years since Effortless Experience was published, despite all these new developments, it seems it’s gotten harder, not easier, for service leaders to deliver seamless, convenient care.
More channels and more choices mean more confusion. Despite the incredible product advances by Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and the other social media platforms and third-party solution providers, it’s getting harder for brands to leave their legacy mindset behind and adopt a forward-looking vision for easy 21st century customer service.
There’s a gap between knowing you need to chart a new course to seamless service experiences and actually taking the concrete steps needed to start the journey. This challenge is only exacerbated by rapid advances in AI, machine learning, social messaging, and big data.
There seems to be more questions than answers. Where to start? What to stop? What investments will make demonstrable improvements in ease of use and customer effort? How do I make sense of the forces changing customer expectations right in front of my eyes?
It’s going to take a whole lot more than just a single platform or service to deliver the kind of “just-hit-the-easy-button” service that consumers expect in an age of social messaging and AI.
Service leaders will have to understand the forces shaping the modern service experience from the customer perspective and from the company perspective. They’ll have to be able to see around the corner to spot oncoming technologies poised to fundamentally alter the playing field. And they’ll need to take specific actions along key strategic fronts if they are to be positioned for success in this new era.
Part roadmap, part storybook and part toolbox, Part 1 of this book outlines the major forces that are shaping customer service today and tomorrow, then Part 2 sets out a clear outline of the steps service leaders and executives need to take in order to be ready for a future of care dominated by social media, messaging and AI.
My family is completely spread out across the globe. I’m English but live in New York City. My mother lives in Kenya. My father lives in Scotland. One brother lives in Australia, another in Germany, and I have uncles and cousins across the United Kingdom and the United States.
The only easy way to stay in touch is through messaging apps. We have various WhatsApp groups for different parts of the family and are always messaging, sending voice memos, photos and videos to each other. It’s how a modern family stays together.
And all day, I’m interacting with my industry and getting news from Twitter, and I’m on Slack with my colleagues. I live in an asynchronous, messaging, mobile world. If I need to get an answer from a brand to fix an issue, it’s incredibly easy for me to start a chat with them in Messenger or send them a Twitter DM—but only if they are there. I tell my family and friends to message me. Why can’t a brand just “message me”?