Messaging Apps for Customer Service

Why You should be using Messaging Apps for Customer Service Today

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp each have over 1 billion monthly active users. That is very easily said, but just think about what that means for a moment. We know millennials (now heading into their mid thirties) are spending hours on end on messaging apps, but the similarity to SMS has also made messaging accessible to grandparents who want to get updates on grandchildren. There has to be relatively wide adoption to generate the sort of growth that Messenger and WhatsApp have seen.

Source: KPCB Internet Trends 2016

Messaging apps are closer in evolutionary terms to the phone, email and SMS, than they are to Facebook and Twitter. People use them for everyday communication and businesses should too. When Facebook opened the Messenger API in April 2016, allowing developers to provide the tools businesses need to handle customer support on the platform, a very real threat to the phone’s place at the top of the list of customer contact channels materialized. It has also been announced that a WhatsApp for business solution is in the pipeline, but there is no clarity as to when that will go live.

So from the business perspective, what does that evolution look like? Other than the fact that your customers are using them, why should businesses use messaging apps as a customer service channel? Here I have outlined the 3 key benefits messaging offers as a customer service channel, when compared to each of the top 5 channels by activity from 2015.

Source: New Voice Media — Volume of Customer Contact by Channel in Contact Centers in 2015.

Voice / Phone

71% of consumers cite waiting on hold as their number 1 customer service complaint. With messaging the customer sends his message and the agent responds when available, which means no more waiting on hold.

Phone is inefficient for the business because the agent can only deal with one customer at a time, while the customer often pays a significant rate for the “pleasure” of ringing a customer helpline. Asynchronous messaging enables agents to deal with many customers concurrently, while it is completely free to customers using WiFi or with a typical data plan.

It’s not possible to send images or links on the phone, so everything needs to be described or explained which leads to confusion. Messaging apps make it easy to send photos and links, which could be used to send tutorial videos or guides to quickly explain complex tasks.


The volume of spam being sent means people pay less attention to email and are wary of signing up to anything. Messenger requires a user to open a channel with a business and also provides options to “mute notifications” or “block” businesses who are sending annoying messages. This means genuine customer service communications have less noise to contend with.

After the exchange of just 2 or 3 emails the resulting unwieldy transcript makes it difficult to scan the conversation. A messaging interface is clean and consists only of the actual conversation, meaning it can easily be scanned by users and agents alike.

Changes to the subject line of an email starts a new thread and breaks up the conversation with a customer. All messages received from a business fall into the same message thread, regardless of content.

Web Chat

Web chat on mobile devices offers poor user experience, which is actually why we started working on Leapchat. The UI is fidgety and losing connectivity or receiving a phone call may result in your chat being terminated. Messaging apps were built for mobile devices. You could describe them as web chat for mobile, with asynchronous messaging resulting in huge benefits for both businesses and users alike.

Chat history is not readily available on web chat. On messaging apps both the agent and user can easily review previous chats, which provides the context agents need to provide truly personalized customer care.

Most web chats do not recognize returning users, so the agent won’t know who you are each time you connect. With messaging the agent gets your name and even profile picture straight away. All information provided to previous agents will also be available meaning questions don’t need to be repeated.


Sending bulk SMS can cost up to 6 cents per message (at least it can in Europe), which can add up very quickly if you’re doing weekly or monthly messages to all your customers. Sending group messages on messaging apps is free, provided the content is not of a promotional nature (Facebook for example will charge for promotional messages).

In most instances customers can’t respond to bulk SMS messages and many people find SMS from brands quite intrusive. With messaging the customer can start up a conversation with an agent by responding to the group message and can manage their notification settings as they see fit.

Discoverability is an issue for customers seeking to send a business an SMS. They need to know the service is available and then find the number. On the other hand customers can easily search for a business within a messaging app and the likes of Facebook are making a big effort to make it easy for customers to contact you on Messenger.

Social Media

Neither Facebook nor Twitter were designed for customer support. Businesses worked around some pretty clunky features (the old DM set up!) because that is where their customers were talking about them. Facebook explicitly state that Messenger “is a platform designed for businesses”. Just look at what they’ve done specifically for the airline industry as a case in point and you will get an idea of where their priorities lie.

While handling complaints well in public can sometimes be a positive thing, most businesses would prefer the opportunity to deal with issues in private in the first instance. Messaging provides the perfect mix of a medium that users love, but that is also private and functions well as a customer support channel.

Data protection has arisen in practically every sales meeting we have attended and on Twitter and Facebook it is oh so easy for a customer to post something confidential. The one-to-one nature of messaging removes this risk entirely and both WhatsApp and Facebook are now encrypting chats to further improve security.


I am not saying messaging has no weaknesses and there will always be customer service issues that are better served over the phone. But for the majority of queries, certainly the ones that fall into the categories of frequently asked questions, data retrieval and information updates, messaging is in a league of its own. And that is before the enormous potential of Artificial Intelligence and bots has been considered.

The case for using messaging apps as a customer support channel right now is compelling. Early adopting businesses will benefit the most, because offering excellent customer service is an area where businesses can really differentiate themselves in a busy market place and it won’t be long before serving customers via messaging apps is expected rather than being a novelty.

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