Why your company should use personal messaging apps and which app is best

Philippe  | 

With one look at your phone you can already tell that personal messaging apps are taking a central role in your daily life. Maybe even right before reading this, you asked your wife on WhatsApp what you’ll have for dinner or you reconnected with an old friend from high school through Facebook Messenger.

And you’re definitely not the only one. If these apps are so ubiquitous in people’s lives, we can clearly also use them to our advantage in our business. But what are these advantages and which are the best apps you can use? That’s what you’ll discover in this blogpost.

Reach more (potential) customers

Today there are more than 1.4 billion active users that use a personal messaging app. So the potential for using these channels in your customer support is already big. But it’s about to become even more interesting. By 2018, Series-A partners estimate that this will increase to 2.5 billion people worldwide. According to eMarketer, that translates to around 80% of all smartphone users.

So ask yourself: can you afford to not be present on the channels that you’re customers are using the most?

Increase your customer satisfaction

There’s a reason why so many people keep using messaging apps: they love them. It’s an easy way to stay up-to-date with their friends and to talk to them. But their love is not limited to their circle of friends. Also when interacting with companies the same love is felt.

Research by TNS Nipo, for example, found that 80% of people were very satisfied about their interaction with companies through a personal messenger. Other research showed that 95% of users would use personal messaging apps again with companies.

Which messaging app is the most popular?

The messaging landscape is widespread with many apps trying to win over the largest audience. And depending on which part of the world you’re in, you probably have a different combination of apps on your phone. But for your customer support, the most viable channels are those with the most active users.

There are two messaging apps that clearly have the upper hand: WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. FB Messenger announced in July 2016 that they’ve reached a billion users, a milestone WhatsApp reached five months earlier.

FB Messenger actually gained 100 million active users every three months, in the first half of 2016. In part, that’s because Facebook forces everyone to download Facebook Messenger, when they try to access their messages on a phone. So over time, the 1.7 Billion (and growing) Facebook users will all have Facebook Messenger installed.

Clearly they’re on a trajectory to outgrow WhatsApp very soon. And if we can believe the research of Global Web Index and OnDevice, they already comes out on top as the most popular messenger.

The geographical spread

With cultural and language differences, it’s no surprise that the most popular messaging apps differ for different countries. But in general, we see three patterns so far:

  • Western countries: The battle in this area is clearly on between FB Messenger and WhatsApp. In North America, Australia and the majority of European countries, we see that FB Messenger has taken over the lead. In the other countries, the split is reversed. But generally, they're head-to-head.

  • South America, Middle East & Africa: As opposed to Western countries, WhatsApp is still the strongest here. But make no mistake, FB Messenger is also gaining ground fast. For example, in the Middle East, WhatsApp and FB Messenger are being used almost to the same extent.

  • Asia: Asia is a bit of an exception in that there are a lot of local messaging apps (like WeChat, KakaoTalk and Zalo). That means that WhatsApp and FB Messenger are being used to a lesser extent.

So for your company that means that it really depends on where you’re customers are from. If you focus more on Western countries, then FB Messenger should probably get your preference.

The best app for customer support

With only one person resolving questions, WhatsApp and Facebook behave pretty much in a similar fashion. Their native applications get the job done perfectly. But as soon as you want more out of the messaging apps, a difference between the two quickly becomes apparent.

If you, for example, want to have multiple colleagues interact with customers on the platform, the native applications become less convenient (if not unworkable). So you’ll want to connect these channels to a third party customer support tool that allows different agents to resolve questions. But without an API, that isn’t possible. And so far, FB Messenger is the only one that supports an official API.

Yes, a WhatsApp is coming at some point. But we don’t expect it before the beginning of 2017. And yes, there are a few support tools that offer a WhatsApp integration. But because of a lack of an official API, this is a far less reliable solution. After all, WhatsApp can change anything at any time. And the solution that you’ve connected to WhatApp might experience some downtown. Not the ideal situation for your customers.

What about chatbots?

China’s favorite messaging app, WeChat, is a great example of how chatbots will fit into the future of customer support. WeChat has built a complete ecommerce platform that consumers use to do transactions with (like booking a table at a restaurant, making an appointment with the government for a passport renewal, pay utility bills, etc.).

Since Facebook opened up the entry for chatbots in April, 18.000 chatbots have already been created. The first signs that Facebook is emulating WeChat’s model can be seen with the introduction of allowing users to order Uber rides or checking flight statuses with KLM.

On the other hand, WhatsApp is not (yet) moving in that direction. There have been announcements that WhatsApp is working on an API that will allow businesses to communicate with customers. But so far, it doesn’t seem like it will be go as far as WeChat or FB Messenger in their commerce capabilities.

In conclusion

The two most popular messaging apps, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, are both valid options for customer support. Especially if you start small and have one colleague taking responsibility over answering questions.

Also for both WhatsApp and FB Messenger, there are solutions to offer support with multiple agents. But if your requirements go further than that and reliability becomes absolutely key, then FB Messenger with its official API is your only real option at the moment.

Looking for a customer support tool that combines email, live chat, FAQ and Facebook Messenger?