2020 was a year that saw plenty of new technologies and customer journeys entering the mainstream as businesses had to get creative in replacing traditional, face-to-face interactions. This trend continued throughout the holiday season and into 2021 with consumers flocking to contactless and omnichannel options like curbside pickup.
Like omnichannel customer journeys, chat apps have been around for a number of years. However, in 2020 their use really extended from personal messaging and interoffice collaboration to business-to-consumer communication.
Chat apps enable businesses to interact with their customers in a more informal and free-form way. They provide the benefit of being a seemingly low-stakes form of communication while also giving brands more opportunity for engagement with their customers and target audiences. They do, however, come with some unique challenges for businesses, especially when it comes to testing the CX to deliver an enjoyable and intuitive end user experience. Here are three things organizations should keep in mind when developing a chat app.
1. Make User Experience the Priority
A customer’s experience with a chat app will determine whether or not that app is successful. Having the chat app provide the correct answer is (of course) of vital importance, but if the user experience isn’t up to par, the customer is unlikely to return to the chat app again — even if they did end up with their answer.
To deliver an excellent chat app experience to end users, brands should first make sure they understand why they are building a chat app, i.e., what problem are they looking to solve. Only then can they determine the right course of action and decide what kind of chatbot they should build and what tone, ethos and persona the chat app will take on. These are all informed by the purpose of the chat app and will directly impact the user experience and customers’ relationship with the app.
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2. Chat Apps Must Account for Various Inputs
A big selling point of chat apps is they allow brands to interact with customers on a more personal level. While this has its benefits, it can also be wildly unpredictable. One doesn’t have to search far to see why this is the case: messaging apps and chat platforms are littered with different inputs, from emojis and gifs to images, slang and abbreviations. Never mind that misspelled words and oddly phrased sentences are also bound to occur.
To be successful, chat apps have to be prepared for these inevitabilities and be ready to respond appropriately, regardless of the input.
Sourcing the right data during development is the key to having a chat app understand the end user and respond in the most correct way. When building a chat app, development teams should focus on sourcing a large amount of data that is not only high quality and from trusted sources, but that is also diverse and matches the target audience. This will help limit unintended biases and also help the chat app understand and provide the right answer when faced with otherwise unexpected inputs like emojis and slang.
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3. Meet Audiences on Their Favorite Channels
A great benefit of chat apps is that customers can interact with them anywhere and anytime. They provide a level of convenience and availability that is unmatched by the majority of other customer journeys.
Yet, many consumers are still apprehensive about using chat apps. To ease these concerns — and ensure that customers can use the chat app where they are most familiar — brands should make sure that the chat app is available wherever their target audiences are most comfortable navigating.
This means making the chat app available across different channels of access. Not only should the chat app be built into a company’s website and mobile app, but social platforms like Facebook Messenger should also be considered to make the experience for the user as easy, intuitive and seamless as possible. Consumers are used to personal messaging on these types of platforms so it makes sense that they would prefer to communicate with their favorite brands in much the same way.
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Keeping the End User Experience Front and Center
Chat apps are most successful if they are engaging, intuitive and useful. To make sure that a chat app checks all these boxes, keep the end user in mind throughout the development process. Chat apps should be conversational, so they need to understand natural language on a deep level in order to detect user needs and appropriately act on them. Bringing user experience, various data inputs and sources, and a broad perspective into the fold during the development stages will only help a chat app become more useful and widely engaged with.
Inge has been designing and testing web, mobile, voice and multi-channel experiences for more than 20 years. She builds and leads UX teams and evangelizes customer experience principles throughout organizations.