On the 3rd and 4th of March of this year, we held the OMQ Rooftop Event 2020. For the first evening, we invited our partner Userlike to an interview. Our CEO Sven Engelmann talked with Tim Berghoff about how chat systems and instant messaging improve customer customer communication and make it more efficient.
Sven: Tim, you work for the company Userlike, first tell all the others: What do you do, who are you and what is Userlike?
Tim: Userlike is a communication platform and what we do is that we compile all digital chat channels. The chat on the company’s website is one among others, but also all messaging channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram or even SMS. Our goal is that companies are able to use the communication channel that their customers prefer — to be honest, who likes writing emails nowadays? Nobody, actually. All of us use messenger services for a particular reason, namely because they are easy and comfortable to use. We made it our mission to compile all these channels and provide them for customer service. It is our vision to build long-term relationships with customers through these communication channels, because then you become much closer to them. When I speak to companies, I always say: If you accomplish entering your customers’ pocket — next to their friends, family, their mom — then you get trust points. This way, you have a higher chance to build a relationship with your customer.
These „new“ communication channels have already arrived in the market. Chat systems, like the ones you offer, are already used quite frequently. Have you already observed how chat systems change the customer communication?
Absolutely! As I already said, we use chat systems because of a given reason, which is the comfort and simplicity of using them. You do not write “Dear …”, but “I want to change my shipping address”. You want to get the problem dealt with as fast as possible and not be bothered with it any longer. Customer service wastes the customer’s precious time, therefore it is so important to be as efficient as possible in customer service. Messaging is simply the preferred way.
It is certainly difficult to introduce new channels such as this one. What requests do companies make to you when they want to integrate Userlike on their website? What demands exist from the buyer‘s perspective?
First of all, we have to acknowledge that these channels are relatively new-fashioned. Therefore it is the same with almost all companies that we are working with; the channel “messaging” is added to the traditional communication channels. The companies already offer their service over e-mail and telephone but messaging is, for the most part, a new ground. Hence it is so important that everything runs smoothly. Especially those who have to use it, aim for a simple integration and easy operation, so that there will not be any potential for frustration. In fact, our goal is to make it fun to use the software. On the other hand, when having many large businesses as customers, you should also display their complex structures in the software.
Well now, you have a lovely, new, modern communication channel, but in the end I would ask myself as a company: What benefit will I gain from it? The question is, what success do I have with such a chat system?
It takes a certain time until success will be perceived. When we collaborate with companies, we go step by step: First, they observe how many inquiries they get. Then we notice quite quickly that the processes behind it also have to match what comes out to the customers. You can see in the analytics how many chats were generated and you look how much the telephone contact has decreased. That is basically the goal — we do not want to generate extra effort and expenses, rather redirect it to a more efficient channel in order to answer these inquiries much better. Then you look: Are sales rising? Do I sell more through the chat? With our integrated analytics software, you can filter all that information. This way, you notice very quickly how well the channel is received by customers and where you have to readjust.
There also are customers who feel watched or who are skeptical towards the new communication channel because of other reasons. How do you deal with that?
Of course, you do not have to use that channel as a customer. Basically, that always ties in with the target group that is using the service. We have made the experience in such a way that even older generations are relatively open to it. For example, we have customers who sell clothes to elder women and I can tell you, the chat is on fire! The ladies are hammering on their keyboards so that the company even instructed their staff to make small talk with them.
Our experience shows that the acceptance for new communication channels is constantly rising.
So we can say that instant messaging has caught on with the market. But does it increase customer satisfaction as well?
If you can use the channel that you like to use the most, then this is an essential plus for satisfaction. And even more when you get a quick answer, without fuss, and possibly even automated thanks to a chatbot, then that is a huge advantage. Especially with such systems, with automated systems too, acceptance is constantly rising because people start to appreciate automated systems in certain situations. No human has to be involved in changing someone’s shipping address! The customer would rather have their change of address carried out automatically in the background.
You just mentioned the chatbot. We at OMQ also provide the virtual agent for Userlike. What is your opinion, how does the best symbiotic relationship between a virtual and a human agent look like?
In my opinion, there should always be the option to talk to a human agent in case the chatbot is stuck or if the customer wishes to do so. For such a symbiosis, the most important thing is that it runs smoothly. It is also important that both systems complement each other optimally, so that the customer has as many options as possible. It is one thing to let them write down an address but it is another to show a map where the location can be given directly.
As an expert, you could also share what you imagine happening in the future. Tell us - where is this taking us? In which direction are chat systems evolving?
That is a very good question and I wish I had a crystal ball. In any case, what I see is that the abilities of automated systems will grow more and more. They will be able to understand better and give more complex answers. There is a difference between you changing a shipping address and you offering competent and comprehensive advice. To this day, the latter is not yet possible. Soon, chat systems will be capable to fill in forms automatically or to finalize payment. The acceptance of the users will increase, and they will learn to appreciate the advantages of an automated system. There will be a healthy realism: People will no longer view it as a panacea, but they will see where these systems can be used and where they reach their limits.
Genuinely every day, the phone rings to someone saying “Mr. Berghoff, I need a chatbot”. And I ask them first what their experience with chatbots and the target group is. Many people just want to catch up with the hype, hear the word “chatbot” and now want to turn to more digital channels. However, you need to get a healthy grasp of reality and really contemplate the following: When does it really make sense to use a chatbot? And where can it unfold its full potential? You should not implement a chatbot just for the sake of implementing a chatbot system, because this will turn into a failed project from the start. In a lot of companies, there are other more pressing areas that have to be worked on first, for example a more intuitive website or digitalization and automation of other channels. And after that, you can consider the implementation of a chatbot.