What is customer messaging?

Customer messaging platforms like SMS and webchat have emerged as forerunners in the way that customers prefer to communicate with the companies they do business with. It is sometimes referred to as instant messaging, webchat, online chat, texting. This kind of two way messaging allows two or more parties to have a conversation via a common platform.

Why is customer messaging preferred?

It’s personal

Customers prefer to communicate with real people in real-time. Instead of being led through a series of choices using a keypad, customers can ask questions and receive answers in a way that is familiar to them. But even more importantly, customers prefer when another human is on (or perceived to be on) the other end of the conversation.

Shorter interaction time 

Customers don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to work through a problem they are having, get the information they need, or schedule an appointment. The average attention span of mobile users is short and getting shorter. The less time customers spend on an interaction with a business, the better experience they have. 

It’s easy to use

Customer messaging meets customers where they already are. Mobile apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are used by billions of users every day. Messaging is comfortable and commonplace. Customers message in their everyday lives. They send Facebook messages to their friends, text messages to their families, and countless studies have shown that webchat is often preferred to sitting on hold with helplines. With two-way messaging, a customer doesn’t need to change platforms to communicate with a business. It is a seamless transition from personal to business communication.

A word about friction and the customer experience

All customers, no matter the service or product used, expect high-quality customer experiences.

Not only is the customer experience a key differentiator for modern shoppers when deciding where to spend their money, it’s also directly tied to business outcomes like increased revenue, greater customer loyalty and repeat business. Optimizing the customer experience is an almost surefire way to achieve financial gains; 84% of companies that focus efforts on CX improvement report an increase in their revenue as a result.

So how do we gauge the quality of a customer’s experience? Customer interactions are a good starting point since the quality of those interactions has a major bearing on overall customer engagement levels.

To improve customer interactions, companies should focus on reducing the amount of friction in them. In this context, friction is anything that detracts from the quality of the interaction. We can get a good idea of an interaction’s friction levels by assessing four aspects:

  • Total time spent on interaction – less is more
  • Impersonal/Personal Service – customers prefer a relatable entity
  • How issues are addressed – the more directly, the better
  • Ease of communication – how much effort must be put into this interaction?

Keeping these four markers in mind, let’s consider the three different types of customer messaging platforms: text messaging, live chat and messaging apps.

Types of customer messaging

SMS/two-way text messaging

  • Interaction time: Low
  • Personal: Yes
  • How issues are addressed: Directly, but with potential delays
  • Ease of Communication: High

The earliest form of text messaging is, of course, the pager (remember those? Ah, how far we’ve come). It has since evolved into a platform that not only sends text but also links to helpful things like maps and websites. Most customers are completely at ease with this mode of communication. There are an estimated 5.1 billion users of text messages. Today, people do not just send text messages to their family and friends but to businesses as well.

Business messaging is an emerging way that customers interact with businesses. It is a natural extension of everyday text messaging. So much so, that it is being integrated into customers’ devices. Take the Apple family for example. With Apple business chat, a user looking at search results for a business on Safari or Maps can ask for information, schedule an appointment and even make purchases without opening another application. Apple business chat takes a familiar system and utilizes it to improve the customer’s experience in communicating with a business.


  • Interaction time: Low
  • Personal: Not Always
  • How issues are addressed: Directly and quickly
  • Ease of Communication: High

Webchat enables users to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. The oldest form of webchat is “Clippy.” In early editions of Word, a small paperclip popped up with helpful information about the document you were writing. Webchat improves upon this idea. When customers visit a website, webchat enables them to resolve issues or questions by using the chat feature. This interaction can seamlessly transition from a chatbot answering questions about item specifications to an agent providing personal recommendations.

Messaging apps

  • Interaction time: Low
  • Personal: Yes
  • How issues are addressed: Promptly
  • Ease of Communication: High

Messaging apps are a close second to text messaging in terms of users worldwide. Every day more than 2 billion users log on and send messages. Giants like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp boast capabilities such as eCommerce, sharing media, and even playing games with friends. Most customers already use messaging apps to communicate with family and friends. Now, like SMS, users of mobile apps can communicate with businesses. Customers can switch between conversations with their friends to conversations with businesses.

How to start customer messaging

If you haven’t started using customer messaging platforms already, the time to do so is ASAP. Follow these steps to start using targeted messaging to interact with your customers. 

1. Unify customer interactions 

The first step is having a single platform through which all customer messaging is handled. This ensures that no matter which channel they use to interact with your business, all the necessary customer information is available and they never have to rehash what they’ve already discussed during a previous conversation. 

2. Personalize conversations

Tailoring your conversations to each customer creates the positive feelings of personal service we touched on earlier. To do this, use a messaging platform that’s integrated with your CRM. An integrated platform makes it easy to pull details from the customer profile, like the products they own and their interaction history, and incorporate them into your conversations in real-time. 

3. Build a knowledge base

Customer messages are a rich source of data you can draw upon to create a highly useful knowledge base. By turning your most frequent inquiries into easily shareable articles, videos and other resources, you’ll empower more customers to self-resolve their issues and help agents provide the right troubleshooting resources faster, which increases customer satisfaction.

To message or not to message?

To get customer messaging right, here are a few helpful hints to keep in mind. 

Brevity is your friend. Use short, concise language that gets right to the point. This not only helps keep interactions speedy, but aligns with the norms customers are used to using on messaging platforms. 

Balance automated tools with live agents. Even the best chatbot can’t handle 100% of interactions. When deploying automated messaging solutions, make sure customers always have a way to reach a real human agent if necessary.

Be proactive. The great thing about a customer messaging platform is that you don’t have to wait for the customer to come to you. Send outgoing messages to confirm appointments, remind them of upcoming payment due dates, and more, which will also help to mitigate incoming volume.