Here’s what messaging apps can learn from Uber

Written by on October 26, 2017

As social beings, communication has always been very integral to our existence. This is why when technology came in the form of the telegraph in 1837, we welcomed it with open arms and let it revolutionize long distance interaction for us. It was no surprise that we jumped to grab Bell’s invention, and before we knew it, calendar sheets had flipped furiously to 1973. All thanks to Martin Cooper, people in business suits were walking around talking on their mobile phones.  

Communication has only evolved ever since all of these technological breakthroughs. But, like the fashion industry, the way we communicate is constantly changing, at breakneck speed.

Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them 

— Steve Jobs

And wonderful, we did.

Today, imagine this. You walk into a mobile store, look at all the gadgets mounted on the magnetic holder, head straight to the sales person at the counter and say ‘Well..I want a phone — just to, you know, make and receive calls!’

The salesperson is going to look at you, aghast. Why? We’ve long transitioned from that era, or you’re probably living in the wrong era.

Who even knows what a telegram means now? ‘Telegram is a messaging app’. Sure it is.  

Cut to 2016. Last year saw some of the biggest brands taking communication a notch higher. Industry leaders such as Apple and Facebook topped the charts with chat-based support, with Apple rolling out an option to chat with a rep, and Facebook launching Messenger for bots.

Since then, Snapchat has been constantly changing how people talk to each other and Slack is blazing a new trail for internal team communication for businesses.

Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report notes how messaging will have become the new mobile home screen, an irrefutable observation considering 80% of users’ mobile time was spent across three apps – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.

At Uber, they didn’t want to be left behind either, and introduced in-app support. They definitely didn’t want to stop with just support and FAQs and took the leap to join the chat bandwagon, calling it Uber Intercom. Yes, it’s a two-way interaction where a customer can get in touch with a driver to give directions over messages instead of calling them up. While it’s too early to look at Uber’s reports for the number of conversations that have been sent and received, or its performance, it’s safe to say that the feature is going to open many gates – one, for the differently abled, to begin with.

This is not a path-breaking, ground shattering or earth-shaking innovation. It’s just all the right tools put together here, to build Uber Intercom. Here are some problems the Uber in-app chat box solved:

  1. You’re in a different country and you do not know the language, or
  2. You have a thick accent and the driver is unable to understand what you’re saying, or

You simply do not want to talk.

The full-fledged chat provides easy interaction between the driver and the rider. Personally, I have been a fan of Uber, the product and how they have marketed all  their features.

Here’s what messaging apps can learn from Uber’s in-app chat model.  

Profile Details:

Profiles are important. They give information about the person you are speaking to, their social presence and performance, and increase authenticity. This is why your messaging app should embrace the idea of having agent profiles open, with social links such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. The user feels closer to the agent who is responding to all user queries.

Once a ride is confirmed, the customers are provided with the driver’s profile with information such as the number of trips they have taken, their ratings, number of 5-star ratings and other riders’ recommendations. This provides authenticity and puts the rider at ease while communicating with a driver.

Continuous conversations:

The conversations are continuous, and can be revisited by the user whenever they want. Your app has hundreds of millions of users and it’s only fair if you let them get in touch with you whenever they want and indulge in meaningful conversations.

Wouldn’t it frustrate you if Uber’s in-app chat box shut or disappeared as soon as the driver replied to your message?

Contextual Information:

Do you keep asking your customers for information you already have access to? Or do you actually not have access to your customer’s previous orders, purchases, conversations or queries? Now that, is bad. You cannot infuriate them when they are already frustrated.

Your Uber driver does not have to ask you to repeat your destination or the route for it. Your destination is set and all they’d have to do is pick you up from your location and follow the map, simple enough.

Engage on-the-go:

You’re a mobile app. It’s more about the here and the now. Are you still managing your app conversations from a desktop screen? Dear Lord. It’s time you moved to an app, to engage all your app users.

Uber encourages customers to communicate with their friends using Snapchat, literally snap a chat on-the-go, because Mary Meeker’s 2017 report on Internet Trends shows how much time people spend on Snapchat, which is ~30 minutes. So, why not?

Mary Meeker's report on Internet Trends shows that people spend close to 30 minutes on Snapchat everyday
Users spend close to 30 minutes on Snapchat each day

So, why did Uber build in-app chat again? Reflect on these words.

‘Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them ’— Steve Jobs

They did not build in-app chat. They made use of technology to reiterate what was already there, packaged it differently and put it out there. All of this, simply because they could afford it.

Not all of us are Ubers and not all of us can afford to build a tool that lets you speak to customers, in-app. That’s why we built Freshchat – for you to have continuous, context-driven and meaningful conversations with your website visitors and users.

Are you a startup looking to up your sales figures? Start now by speaking to us, here at Freshchat.

Cover image illustration by Karthikeyan Ganesh

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