For many millennials at the tail end of their generation and for Gen Zers, the preferred means of electronic communication are messaging apps. They use them to connect not just with friends and the more tech-savvy family members, but to organisations whose goods and services they use.

One study found that 68 per cent of consumers say they prefer using messaging to communicate with businesses. Another survey found that 46 per cent of Generation Z and 47 per cent of millennials have used social media to communicate with customer service, and 27 per cent say that not being able to contact customer service through their preferred channel contributed to bad customer experience.

Customer service centres geared to receiving customer enquiries by phone, web or email now are challenged to be able to accept and respond to customer communications from multiple social media applications as well.

Get going with mobile messaging

How to get started? A good option is to begin with some of the most widely used messaging apps.

According to the Most Popular Messaging Apps website, WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, is the world’s most popular messaging app; as of March, it had more than 2 billion monthly active users. Facebook Messenger is a close follower with 1.3 billion monthly active users. WeChat, the leader in China, had 1.13 billion monthly active users worldwide as of Q2 2019.

Other major messaging apps that predominantly serve local audiences outside the United States include Viber, Telegram, QQ Mobile and Line.

Many of these apps are making it easier for businesses to leverage their services. WhatsApp, for example, has introduced the WhatsApp Business API to help companies use the app to communicate with customers. Similarly, LINE offers multiple APIs and tools on its developers’ website, as does WeChat.

These APIs enable their respective messaging services to be integrated into a company’s customer service ecosystem so that queries can be handled efficiently no matter where they originate. In an omnichannel world, customers expect their interactions to be as seamless as possible: A conversation started with WeChat should not have to be repeated to a live agent.

Companies can even build conversational interfaces into any application for their omnichannel customer contact services. Amazon Lex, for example, lets businesses create chatbots that leverage a natural language processing model with which users can interact to ask questions, get answers and accomplish other tasks. An incoming query from a user’s messaging service can connect through to the customer contact system; callers can interact with the service by voice to request information about their orders, for instance. The contact centre system can retrieve the appropriate information and deliver the response via the messaging app.

It is clearly important for organisations to be able to effectively accept and respond to customers through new messaging apps, but they also need to be able to integrate these into existing communication channels for an optimal customer service experience.