Why Messaging Is Superior to Live Chat for Customer Service

21st century support for 21st century consumers.
Illustration of a woman sitting at a desk and holding a phone.

April 12, 2019

Written by Mason Mitchel

What we cover in this article

5 min read

  • Differences between messaging and live chat
  • Advantages of messaging for customer service
  • Cost benefits of messaging

The tide of customer service is changing. Many companies, recognizing the limitations of phone and email, have started to use more modern modes of communication such as messaging and live chat. Unfortunately, these two channels are often mistaken for being the same. While similar in some respects, messaging offers distinct advantages that every business should be aware of.

In order for any company to be successful, it has to be mindful of the needs of its clients and adapt accordingly. Customer service is no exception to this truism. To effectively engage your customers and provide them with the best possible support, you have to meet them on their terms and communicate with them on whichever channel they’re most comfortable.

And now that millennials represent the largest generation in the American labor market (which means they will increasingly become the largest consumer group), it is imperative for companies to adopt their preferred mode of communication–messaging.

To be clear, when I say messaging, I’m not referring to live chat. There’s a good chance that many of you are already familiar with this channel. Plenty of businesses currently use live chat software from companies like Intercom and Zendesk for customer support. As a channel, live chat certainly has its benefits. It pales in comparison, however, when stacked side by side with messaging.

Messaging Is More Cost-Effective

The cost of each interaction when using live chat is around $5 per contact. According to data from McKinsey, the average cost of each contact when using messaging is around $1 or less. That means that live chat is five times as expensive as messaging. You don’t need to run those figures by your CFO to determine which channel is superior.

Chart showing the difference in cost between messaging and live chat for customer service.

Anecdotally, I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is a co-founder at a small fintech startup of around ten people or less. I asked her about the company’s current live chat provider, which services they use said provider for, and how much their subscription costs per month.

She informed me that her company uses Intercom for customer support, marketing, and to answer FAQs. All for the hefty sum of nearly $800 per month.

Insider tip: for a team that size with those needs, there are a few messaging providers that can do the same for significantly less money.

Messaging Is Mobile Friendly

The world is mobile-optimized–your customers’ lives included. If they can book a vacation halfway around the world on their smartphone and order a baby grand piano using Amazon’s mobile app, they should be able to easily contact your customer service team in the same way.

Messaging make this possible. It enables customers to easily contact your company via their messaging app of choice. Whether they’re at home on the couch or out and about in the world.

That’s not the case with live chat. It requires the use of a web browser on a desktop or laptop computer. Asking your customers to remain tethered to a computer at their desk in order to contact you is decidedly more inconvenient than giving the option of simply pulling their phone out of their pocket.

It’s not hard to see which of these options is better from a customer’s perspective. For better or worse, people lead busy lives. If you can help them address their needs and concerns without eating up their time, you’ll be sure to convert your customers into brand loyalists.

Messaging Is Asynchronous

One of the best aspects of messaging is that it allows for conversations that can easily be stopped and started again over a long period of time. This makes messaging ideal for customer service because it lowers the conversational threshold and results in an experience that is frictionless and seamless.

Additionally, this is beneficial for customer care teams because it means that records of conversations are neatly stored in one place for reference. This ensures that customers won’t have to repeat themselves each and every time they contact you. It also eliminates the need to consult transcripts of previous conversations with other agents or check notes in a separate CRM, which is often the case with live chat.

More Reasonable Expectations

When you sit down and start a live chat with a company, the hope is that by the end of the chat your issue(s) will be entirely resolved. And that’s a fair expectation, because if you do realize that you have additional questions or concerns, you have to start the whole process over again.

Fortunately with messaging things are a bit different. Given that its asynchronous, it’s not such a big deal if you forget to address one minor detail. All you have to do is pick up the thread right where you left it. A customer’s satisfaction (or lack thereof) doesn’t rest on one conversation.

The fact that messaging is mobile friendly also helps to set more reasonable expectations. It’s okay if a customer doesn’t receive a response to all of their queries in a short time frame. So long as they have their phone by their side, they’ll still receive an answer.


Messaging is a win-win situation for companies and their customers. Not only is the channel less expensive than other customer support software, it’s also designed to fit the needs of the modern consumer who’s on-the-go. To find out more about the manifold benefits of messaging, get in touch with our customer support team!

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