If you counted every person In the 100 most populous cities in the United States, the total sum would be fewer than the number of users who are active on Facebook Messenger every day. If you counted every person in the 100 most populous cities in the world, the total sum would be fewer than the respective number of users who are active on WeChat or active on WhatsApp every day. Unlike live chat, which, as its name suggests, exists as a real-time interaction, messaging apps allow for users to converse with brands and with other users on their own schedule. Messaging seems both more popular and more convenient, yet it has not displaced live chat. In fact, in a recent report Gartner estimated that use of live chat will grow from 60%+ to 85%+ of websites by 2020. There are three major reasons for this.

Continuous Improvement

Customer service delivered by messaging app does not include the reporting and analytics required to continuously improve agent performance. This is addressed in the above-linked Gartner report, as well as this report from Aberdeen Research (requires form completion to access). In short, remarkable customer experience relies upon professional chat agents and agent management processes, and both of those rely upon the kind of actionable data that live chat, but not messaging, can provide. This may change as messaging technology matures, but it is unlikely to be available in the near future.

Real-Time Needs

Relatedly, some customer needs rely upon technologies that are only available when working with a live agent in real-time. Screen-sharing, co-browsing, audio chat, and video chat are just a few examples of scenarios that cannot be satisfied by the asynchronous nature of messaging.

Supporting the real-time interaction on the company side, skill-based routing, language translation, and sensitive data-masking features allow for greater convenience and security for all parties involved. Additionally, being able to view and edit, or initially create, a customer’s CRM record while interacting with them is a time-saver to agents. It also helps to maintain data quality within your CRM. At present live chat is the only way to utilize this functionality.

Website Buying Signals

The ability to invite users to conversation is parallel but not identical between apps like Facebook Messenger and live chat software. Providing a static button is standard for both channels, but more personalized invitations are also possible. For Facebook Messenger, you can use demographic criteria to set parameters for who is able to see an ad inviting them to talk with you (or your bot). These ads can (and should) differ in appearance based on the demographic criteria of your target audience. With live chat software, you can use demographic information or activity on your website (e.g. “30+ seconds idle on pricing page”) as triggers for a pop-up invitation to chat.

Moreover, most live chat software will include a visitor monitoring function, which will provide information such as referring site and historical activity. This can inform where each visitor is in the buyer’s journey, indicate what specific products or services they might be interested in, and can trigger personalized responses based on past behavior, like the differentiated ads you can setup on a messenger platform.

Customer Experience

Asynchronous messaging vs. live chat is not expressly an either/or. Some customers are not going to visit your website, and live chat is not helpful if you can’t get them there. Similarly, some customers don’t use Facebook Messenger, or your messaging platform of choice, and so asynchronous messaging won’t be an effective means of engaging them. That said, live chat will include more robust technological capabilities than messaging, due simply to the maturity of the channel. Whether you’re looking to generate new business or to support existing customers, messaging apps are not likely to soon displace live chat software.