I joined Google this past spring, but haven’t had a chance to actually work in the office or meet anyone from my team in person. It’s funny, because I’ve spent the better part of my career working on communications and collaboration products, exactly the areas that have been challenging from a work perspective. Over the last few months, we’ve seen workplace interactions transform at a pace none of us ever imagined. While I look forward to coffee chats in the cafe, the serendipity of hallway conversations, and the bonds formed by meeting in person, staying connected with my colleagues has not been as difficult as I thought it would be.
And those connections are crucial. In this new work-from-home world, it’s important for people to spend less time traversing video and chat applications, and more time getting things done.
The same is true for people when they’re not at work. They want to make connections, and they want the process to be as hassle-free as possible. This past summer, Google partnered with Forrester Consulting and found a similar trend playing out with consumers who are interacting with businesses. More specifically, the study highlighted just how important fast and seamless communication experiences are for all users.
Acceleration of digital experiences
Consumers gravitating to digital channels is nothing new; we saw an e-commerce boom back in the late 1990s. What is new is the accelerated rate of digital adoption by consumers and the breadth of choice consumers have to communicate across channels, platforms, and devices. We are in the midst of an extremely disruptive moment for businesses, as consumers shed old habits and build new ones. Since the onset of the pandemic, 34% consumers say they complete more transactions online than ever before.
The Forrester study found that chat and messaging are growing in popularity, especially among younger generations. Consumers want speed in their preferred channel — it’s the most important factor in their interactions with businesses — and are increasingly turning to chat because they find it more convenient. In fact, consumers decide where to buy based on brands’ communication channels. As many as 68% of the respondents indicated that, if they can choose where to make a purchase, they are more likely to go with the business that offers convenient communications.2
The opportunity to delight
My own experience digitally interacting with brands has been mixed. Some do a great job, whereas in other cases the experience can be rather frustrating — mostly on account of long wait times or the lack of follow up. I find Warby Parker's Home Try-On experience to be delightful. Simply pick five frames from their website and within a couple of days you are able to try them on at home, without ever having to visit a retail store or talk to a service rep. But consumers may not visit the website or download the app for every business they engage with. This is where Google’s Business Messages comes in, combining the power of Google Search and Maps with the speed and efficacy of messaging.
Australian retailer Woolworths surfaces product availability via Business Messages. Walmart, Safeway, Meijer, and Levi’s, among a host of other brands, serve existing and potential customers via Business Messages.
The need to invest in asynchronous chat
Firms are increasing their investments in communications technology. Specifically, 60% expect increases in their budgets in the next year. What firms do with this additional budget is critical, and, while asynchronous chat is currently nascent, adding this channel can give firms a competitive edge. We found that the benefits of investment in asynchronous chat increased contact-center efficiency and improved customer loyalty. We define asynchronous chat as any communication channel where the consumer has control over the conversation cadence (such as text, social media, third-party messaging, and chat through a mobile app). For example, a consumer might send a message to a business, walk away for a few hours, and return to the conversation right where they left off.
Better communication, better performance
Asynchronous chat will become an important element of customer service that provides customers with additional choice, the convenience of communicating on their time, and a record of their conversation. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Firms with advanced communications offerings achieved better business results, including 19-point higher net promoter scores, 9.5% increased customer satisfaction, and 5% or greater growth.
You can download the full study here.
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