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Why You Need a Conversational Support Department! (And What You’ll Lose Without One)

February 21, 2023

More and more people prefer using messaging channels to communicate with brands, not just with their friends and family. A recent Forrester survey also found that messaging jumped from the fifth most popular customer service option before 2020 to the second most popular option in 2021.1

As being able to message with brands becomes the norm, the real differentiator won’t be offering conversational support. It will be creating an exceptional conversational support experience — one that’s personalized and engaging.

If you’re not already offering a smooth, curated messaging experience to customers, now’s the time to learn about conversational support. We’ve got you covered with this post.

What is conversational support?

Conversational support refers to companies engaging customers via digital-first messaging channels in the form of ongoing conversations. It's an evolution of support in which automation and chatbots are often used to assist your agents.

Conversational support is asynchronous, meaning customers can ask questions at any time — even when a live agent isn’t available — and expect to get an answer as soon as the company is able to respond.

Why customers love conversational support

Customers want a convenient way to communicate with brands. And for many shoppers, messaging fits the bill.

Zendesk’s 2022 Customer Experience Trends report found that customer inquiries via messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp jumped by 36% from 2020 to 2021.2

With billions of users globally,3 WhatsApp, in particular, has become a preferred customer service channel for many. According to Spectrm’s recent State of WhatsApp Business Messaging report:4

  • 57% of customers regularly communicate with brands on WhatsApp.
  • 70% say messaging has “positively impacted their perception” of a brand.
  • 66% have made purchases after communicating with a brand on WhatsApp.

This popularity isn’t surprising when you consider all of the ways messaging benefits customers.

They get real-time responses

According to Zendesk’s new 2023 Customer Experience Trends report, 72% of customers want immediate service and better response times from brands.5 Conversational messaging makes that possible when brands use chatbots to connect with customers, even when live agents aren’t available.

Customers increasingly care less about whether they get their answers from a live human or chatbot as long as the customer interactions feel friendly and natural. Zendesk found that:

  • 77% of customers find chatbots helpful for solving simple issues
  • 71% believe chatbots help get faster replies

Customer trust in chatbots is also increasing, with 67% saying that they believe chatbots often provide them with the right information based on their query.

They don’t have to repeat themselves

You can’t solve customer issues if you don’t have the ability to fully understand their problem. For that, you need context, something many companies still struggle to secure for their support teams. Zendesk found that 60% of customers have experienced interactions with agents who have little or no context of their issues, and 70% expect support teams to have full context.6

When agents aren’t familiar with their issue, customers have to repeat themselves, which they don’t like doing. Zendesk’s 2022 report found that 92% of customers will spend more with companies when they don’t have to repeat information to them.7

Conversational support allows agents to quickly find customer history details in the chat itself. Since all customer conversations are continuous, agents can quickly review each conversation to understand the full context behind the customer’s issues without having to ask them for it.

Person standing at desk in home office reading on his laptop while taking notes

How conversational support strengthens your whole business (not just support)

Leaders are realizing that investing in conversational support is worthwhile for their entire company. In Forrester’s8 survey of business decision-makers, participants reported that conversational support plays a big factor in:

  • Improved customer retention (60%)
  • Increased business efficiency (58%)
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction (58%)
  • Improved customer acquisition (54%)
  • Increased ROI (54%)

Here’s how conversational support can fuel growth and improvement across every team, not just your support department.

Allows you to easily capture customer data

Brands are realizing that effective customer engagement, conversion, and retention all start with being able to effectively capture customer data. But that’s easier said than done. According to Zendesk, 57% of businesses think they’re not collecting enough data.9

However, it's important to note that companies must collect opt-ins from customers before initiating conversations and may be legally required to notify users of any data collected and its possible uses.

The good news is that modern messaging apps, like WhatsApp, include features to help simplify ethical data collection. With message templates and API integration to connect with your automation and customer data systems, you can ensure your customers have opted-in, been notified, and that data is only moving between the systems you designate. To see just how easy it is, check out this resource on collecting opt-ins via WhatsApp from our partner Infobip.10

Once customers have opted in, conversational support can help collect data more effectively. Just set up your chatbots to automatically ask new customers about the information you need like their email address or what products they are interested in.

With customer data from chatbots, you can use that information to personalize your messaging and keep your audience happy. Zendesk found that 59% of consumers want businesses to use the data they collect about them to personalize their experiences.11

Beyond enabling personalization, customer information from messaging chats can help brands prioritize bug fixes and new features. Brands can more easily recognize the types of support questions they are receiving, identify common issues, and prioritize fixing them to decrease ticket volume.

Makes support agents happier

Conversational support can spark improvement and growth across your company, but it all starts with helping your support team. If your agents are overwhelmed and unhappy, chances are they won’t have the energy or motivation to offer customers excellent support.

According to Zendesk, only 15% of support agents are satisfied with their workloads, and just 14% are happy with the career paths offered to them.12 Take work off their plates by using bots to handle repetitive, tedious customer questions, leaving the agents to do more meaningful work.

People using messaging apps to socialize can easily participate in several conversations at once. The same goes for agents. Messaging platforms allow them to work more flexibly and take on several customer queries at a time.

A 2020 Zendesk study found that support agents are 50% more likely to engage with customers via messaging platforms because it affords them the freedom to multitask.13

A study by Forrester found that adding Meta Business Messaging as a support channel improved agent efficiency by 35%. Forrester estimates that this improved agent efficiency has a return on investment of nearly $467,000 for medium-sized brands and $4.7 million for large companies over the course of three years.14

Two people smiling while working on their laptops in their home office

How to offer conversational support training

Set your agents up for success by providing them with the training they need to thrive in this new environment.

Teach agents about customers’ preferred messaging channels

No two companies have the exact same needs when it comes to customer support. That’s why the first step when planning a conversational support strategy is choosing the right channels.

There are a number of channels brands can use to offer conversational support — including messaging apps, SMS, live chat on websites, and more. The goal isn’t to offer messaging on every app possible. Focus on the ones your customers prefer using.

When implementing your messaging channels, it’s important to resource your teams for the task. Have a plan for implementing, managing, and analyzing results from chatbots. Provide training for teams responsible for creating message templates and conversational flows on each channel. Support agents can help in this process by offering feedback on what types of interactions customers respond to best, based on their day-to-day activities and observations.

Monitor chatbot effectiveness

Chatbots can handle a large variety of simple customer support interactions, including:

  • Checking stock levels
  • Initiating returns
  • Checking on order/shipping status
  • Providing resources on product usage/best practices

However, chatbots can’t solve every customer issue. It’s important to see where your automation and AI are having difficulty to either address the issue with training or technology.

Review support ticket history to isolate tickets that took too long to resolve or required escalations to human agents. Look for patterns in topics or issues that are impacted. This information can help you know where to focus your training resources.

Prep agents to handle complex issues

With simple tasks handled by the chatbot, your agents will ideally have more time to handle complex requests. Find areas where your team can stand to benefit from extra resources or training and focus on improving them.

A common example of upskilling your agents could be providing cross-functional training to enable them to solve issues that they would typically need help from other teams to solve. You might also identify a need for improving soft skills so that you’re confident in their conversational skills when assigning agents to focus on high-value, high-touch customers.

Once you have an idea of how much time and effort your conversational strategies are freeing up for agents, evaluate where allocating those resources will give you the best results.

The Harvard Business School has a great resource on how to successfully create an upskilling program that best fits your company.15

Person sitting on chair reading a message on WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the perfect channel for delivering conversational support

Billions of people around the world use WhatsApp to stay connected with their friends and families.16 Why would their preference for connecting with brands be any different?

Practice proactive support by giving customers what they want — convenient and secure conversations via their preferred channel.

For a more detailed look at why messaging is the pillar of engaging and effective customer experiences today, check out this resource.

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