Businesses Put Chat Apps to the Test

Customer using chat app

2020 was a year that saw plenty of new technologies and customer journeys entering the mainstream as businesses got creative in order to continue catering to customers that couldn’t interact with them in a traditional, face-to-face manner.

Despite businesses beginning to open their doors again, this trend has continued with consumers flocking to contactless and omnichannel options like click and collect or 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’ organisations 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 vital importance (of course), but if the user experience is not up to par, then the customer is not likely 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 – 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.

2. Chat Apps Must Account for Various Inputs

A chief benefit of chat apps is that 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 bound to occur as well.

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 in the chat app and also help the chat app understand and provide the right answer when faced with otherwise unexpected inputs like emojis and slang.

3. Meet Audiences on Their Preferred 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 in order 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.

Keeping the End User Experience Centre Stage

Chat apps are most successful if they are engaging, intuitive and useful. To make sure that a chat app checks all these boxes, it is important to 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.

About the Author

Inge De Bleecker is Senior Director of User Experience at Applause.

Inge De Bleecker, Senior Director of User Experience, ApplauseInge 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. Her mantras are “design for everyone” and “test early and often.” As vice president of CX at Applause, Inge leads the practices and studies for CX, accessibility and conversational AI. Prior to joining Applause, Inge held several positions in conversational interfaces, as well as web and mobile design and research. She holds an MA from the University of Texas, Austin.

Inge is a published author. Her book, Remote Usability Testing: Actionable insights in user behavior across geographies and time zones, which she co-authored with Rebecca Okoroji, is listed as one of Book Authority’s best new usability books of 2020. Along with Okoroji, Inge created the USERIndex benchmark — a standardized means of measuring the user experience of a digital interface. As part of the USERIndex, Inge believes that an exceptional user experience is determined by 4 USER factors: usefulness, satisfaction, ease of use and reliability.

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