Today, messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Kik and Whatsapp are the fastest growing category of smartphone apps in terms of usage.  They have more than 5 billion monthly active users, and people spend more time on messaging apps than they do on social media.

For several years already, messaging apps have been the most popular channel for communication between friends and family, and nowadays that's expanding to include businesses, too: a study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) showed that 69% of Gen Y prefer communicating with businesses by messaging rather than by phone or app.

A new medium for communication

But text messaging has been around for ages... If you're not a regular user of messaging apps, you could be forgiven for asking, "what makes messaging apps different from regular SMS?"  Here are just a few of the reasons that messaging apps have supplanted texting:

  1. Free and unlimited
    Messaging apps use the internet rather than the telephone network, so you're free to send as many messages you want to whoever you want, no matter where you or they are in the world.  (As long as you both have internet access)
  2. Media-rich
    Unlike regular texting, messaging apps allow you to easily send images, videos, files, voice notes, and other content, enriching communication and making it feel much more alive.
  3. Persistent and searchable conversation history
    Conversations that take place inside a messaging app can be stored in the cloud, which means they are synchronized between devices, and you can easily search through your conversation history.

These reasons may help explain why messaging apps have become so popular for communication with friends and family, but to understand why it has also become the preferred medium for interacting with businesses, we need to go deeper.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

The evolution of consumer expectations

Over the last decade, there's been a marked shift in consumer expectations as more and more of the products, services, and content we enjoy have moved to the digital realm.  Suddenly, on-demand is the norm.  We've grown accustomed to personalization, instantaneous response times, and 24/7 availability.  Our patience is at an all-time low, and even something as innocuous as a sluggishly loading web page can spell disaster for a customer's experience.

The preference for messaging-based communication reflects this evolution in consumer expectations: as the pace of life accelerates, the pace of communication must match its stride.  Postal mail has all but died as a means of communication, businesses that still use fax are perceived as quaint relics of a bygone era, and even those that handle customer service via relatively modern call direction systems ("For inquiries related to billing, press 2...") are, at best, mildly frustrating.

Photo by Berkeley Communications on Unsplash

Staying ahead of the curve

The bar has been set high and the stakes even higher: consumers are quick to punish poor service with scathing Yelp reviews, but they're also quick to reward those that make them feel cared for and important.  That's why companies like Starbucks, Lyft, Sephora, and Whole Foods, which consistently rank among the best in the world for customer service, have embraced instant messaging as a mainstay of their customer experience.  They stay ahead of the curve by being engaging, responsive, and constantly available via the preferred communication channel of their clientele.

But how can regular businesses keep up with the industry leaders?  How can your club offer best-in-class customer experience without maintaining an entire call center of customer service agents?  Stay tuned for our upcoming post on artificial intelligence and the power of automation.

Members interact with CoachAi via messaging apps, the same they communicate with their friends and family. Learn more 👉