How asynchronous messaging is shrinking disruption in customer care

Asynchronous messaging empowers customers ensuring that brands wait for the customer, not the other way round

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Adam Muspratt

Customers utilize asynchronous messaging every single day, but they predominantly use it with friends and family. Can we take lessons from how we communicate with those close to us, and apply it to CX? We can and we should at least, that is the view of Cliff Bell, senior director, innovations group, AppFoundry at Genesys.

Asynchronous messaging in customer experience

Asynchronous messaging refers to a method of communication where both parties need not be consistently active in the conversation. This is in contrast to synchronous messaging, where semi-immediate responses are required to continue the discussion. Picture a standard synchronous chatbot conversation: the customer fires off a question; waits for a response; gets a response; and has to reply immediately to keep the discussion active. This loop continues until the customer is satisfied, which can take any time from a few minutes to a few hours. That unbroken period, no matter how long it is, is what the customer has to dedicate to the brand interaction.  

With asynchronous messaging, the customer can send a message, continue with their day and respond at a time convenient for him or her.    

No matter how fast a customer representative is on the phone or how speedy a chatbot is, customers do not want to take a chunk of their day to dedicate solely on a brand interaction. Synchronous messaging removes power from the customer, as they are abiding by the SLAs and response rates of the brands agents and representatives.

On the other hand, asynchronous messaging flips this power dynamic, as it is the brand that has to patiently wait for the customer.

Read: Petplan on the power of letting the customers do the talking

This may sound counterintuitive in the context of CX. After all, at CX Network, we have no shortage of content highlighting the fact that today’s customers want efficiency, speed and comprehensiveness in their brand interactions.

However, another huge aspect of CX is offering choice. Instead of spending five minutes dedicated to a customer service conversation, customers can spend 10 seconds a handful of times throughout the day and interactive with brands around their own schedule.

Herein lies the value:The brand interaction feels like any other interaction that the customer has throughout the day instead of an entirely separate event.

From a business perspective, Bell says, “this is the place where engagement is happening at a personal level. This fire-and-forget method of communication is what people are using every day, from Facebook Messenger, to text and WhatsApp. The benefit to the business is that they can occupy the space where the customer is already spending their time.”

Not only does this benefit the customer, it also benefits agents, as they are not held to the same extent as a traditional live chat session. An agent will be able to sensibly balance hundreds of conversations at the same time. Similar to conversations with friends and family, agent do not lose sight of what has happened since the time elapsed.

What will asynchronous messaging look like in practice?

Time frames and flexibility
There is still a lot of experimentation and research that needs to be done in this space such as the length of time in which asynchronous message threads stay live. Feasibly, they can stay live forever, says Bell, but at what point in time when do you shut down the chat?

It may depend on the seriousness of the topic at hand. For example, if a customer requested a simple account balance request and did not return to the conversation for 10 days, it might be safe to say that they will never open the conversation again.

Asynchronous messaging as the default
Ideally, asynchronous messaging would be the default, with the ability to switch to synchronous messaging, says Bell. Brands should aim to give customers control to decide which method best suits them for the immediacy of the issue at hand. Millennials and newer generations will drive this adoption. 

To increase the choice offered to customers, asynchronous should have the capability to transfer back to synchronous messaging and change topic without having to restart the entire discussion.

Read: Shep Hyken's five steps to eliminate customer service friction

VR and AR is asynchronous messaging
There are a lot of new rich features that are being pushed into asynchronous messaging, according to Genesys, such as images, payments and videos.

Further into the future, AR and VR will be incorporated into asynchronous messaging. Agents will be able to provide immersive experience examples of how to solve a particular problem, such as fixing an internet router. Again, the customer will be able access these immersive experiences in their own time.

Measuring success
Traditional metrics such as first call resolution, handle time and old state metrics for contacts centres are not as applicable in an asynchronous world, where conversations can continue for weeks. The solution is to apply AI to look at the efficiency in terms of CX and real business efficiency, such as discerning how quickly chats are resolved for similar topics.

Human and bot relations
Regarding the bot and human dynamic, it will be similar to the current system used in synchronous live chat. An AI-based bot will answer as many questions as it can and when it cannot, it will bring an agent in to pick up complex questions.

The challenge for agents is around the complexity of tasks. As AI advances and bots are able to tackle increasingly intricate questions, the types of tasks agents have to do will get increasingly difficult and complex. Agents, foreseeably, will become more specialized in their roles and ability to retain knowledge. This is already allowing agents to feel more fufilled in their roles as they are not chained to churning out mundane tasks against the clock.

Will asynchronous messaging become the default mode of communication?

Asynchronous messaging puts the power back into the hands of the customer with unparalleled freedom. As it stands, asynchronous messaging can become the default mode of communications for customers interacting with brands. As younger generations grow up, they will push for a method of communication that does not deviate from the way they are communicating already on a daily basis.

Read: Building a customer first culture labelled as the toughest CX challenge

Asynchronous messaging within CX is still young. Therefore, some questions that need to be answered, such as the length of time in which chat sessions will remain open, how many simultaneous sessions an agent can balance and how quickly an agent should respond when they receive a message from the customer. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how brands tackle the issues.  If a brand can work out the answers to implementing asynchronous messaging, customers will be encouraged to interact with brands with more frequency and in a more seamless and naturalistic way they are doing already.

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