There's gold in them chats
May 10, 2019
A conversational newsletter by
Last week the UN and World Bank revealed a surprising stat that went largely unnoticed.

At some point in the last decade, the number of cell phones grew larger than the earth’s population.

As Quartz reports, this doesn’t mean everyone owns a phone (and certainly not a smartphone).

But it does help explain why, for many around the world, mobile messaging and the internet have become indistinguishable.

No internet who dis 🤔

Here’s another fun fact. According to Pew Research Center, millions of people now use the internet without even realizing it.

In developing countries, as many as 14% of adults surveyed said they do not use the internet, yet they reported using over-the-top messaging apps like WhatsApp on their phones.

Dubbed “unconscious internet users,” this group exists in the developed world as well. Only 90% of South Koreans, for example, reported using the internet, even though 97% said they own a smartphone or use social media.

In the U.S., one quarter of people who denied using the internet indicated they own a smartphone.

Messaging first ☝️

Pew suggests that while this may seem like a “niche issue,” having an accurate measure of how much of the population is online can be crucial for policy-making and ensuring free access to information.

The phenomenon also helps explain why the world’s leading tech companies — namely Apple, Facebook and Google — have become so obsessed with connecting businesses and consumers over messaging.

Apple has been busy rolling out Business Chat internationally, allowing Australian students to seek financial aid over iMessage, for example.

Google continues to pursue its two-pronged strategy, encouraging phone carriers and device manufacturers to ditch SMS in favor of the richer, more business-friendly RCS, while quietly building its own enterprise messaging platform on top of the all-powerful Google search engine.

Meanwhile, at the annual F8 developer conference last week, Facebook doubled down on its private messaging pivot, announcing a sleek new version of Messenger and hinting at a host of new features for WhatsApp, including payments and product catalogs.

In a blog post about the Messenger redesign, Facebook’s head of consumer messaging put it plainly:
« If we were to start to build a social network today, we’d start with messaging first.

It won’t be long until people around the world consider messaging a business as unremarkable as… being online. 

The Conversation Goldmine

With so many options at their disposal, most enterprises are currently focused on basic questions like how they’re going to connect to and manage all these new messaging channels.

But imagine once the conversations start flowing and customers are able to express their wants and pain points to brands in the same way they communicate with friends and family.

Will businesses actually listen?

The missing piece 🍰

Writing for The Next Web, Smooch’s co-founder and CEO Warren Levitan argues that despite the growing sophistication of customer data platforms, most enterprises are still missing a key piece of the CX puzzle: customer conversations.
« An ability to collect, store, aggregate, analyze, and ultimately act upon the actual words customers are saying to them, would surely enable brands to deliver the type of intelligent and seamless experiences their customers pine for.  
The problem with leaving conversations out of the mix, explains Warren, is that the information and insights shared explicitly over chat risk being disregarded in favor of implicit data and broad-based assumptions:
«  This then leaves brands in a position where they’re forced to offer customers an orange because they appear from the data to be an ‘orange type of person’ when they just told you directly they like apples.  

Good data, bad data 👼

With Cambridge Analytica and the GDPR on everyone’s minds, “data” has become a four-letter word for many of us.

It goes without saying that any data collected from users needs to be consensual and compliant with international privacy standards. That’s table stakes.

But when I call, email or message a business and tell them something, I don’t just expect them to act on that info, I’m frustrated when they don’t.

Privacy doesn’t mean I want my conversations with brands to fall into a black hole.

For businesses, failing to act on the data users expectantly share with them through words, emojis and other forms of modern messaging is just bad customer experience.

Check out Warren’s article in TNW to learn what becomes possible once conversational data is unleashed.

🙏 Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend. Feel free to send me your feedback, story ideas and unused smartphones by replying to this email. 

Dan Levy
Editorial Director

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