8 things to consider before moving to “always on” messaging with Zendesk

Written by
Craig Stoss
Director of CX Services at PartnerHero
July 25, 2023
min read

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Live chat messaging offers convenient and friendly support to your customers. However, it typically comes with a high expectation of a speedy first response. 

Due to a company’s smaller size, or simply for logistical reasons, that might not be possible. These constraints mean you need another solution to provide 24/7 services to your customers. 

One option is to combine automation with your existing agents using "always on" messaging. 

Moving to an "always on" messaging service was highlighted by Zendesk as their #2 tip to be more successful with chat. Introducing this new service impacts several critical components of your business, including support operations, customer experience, and agent experience.

Let’s discuss the eight things to consider before moving to "always on" messaging with Zendesk.

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#1: Understand the difference between chat and messaging

First, you must determine exactly what you are implementing. The differences between chat and messaging will inform all other decisions you make. While chat provides real-time communication, messaging takes it a step further by introducing automation and customization options. 

By leveraging messaging, businesses can harness the power of automation through custom bots. Bots streamline repetitive tasks and enable agents to focus on more complex customer inquiries. This automation empowers businesses to efficiently handle a higher volume of inquiries, resulting in improved response times and increased customer satisfaction. Customers can engage in conversations at their convenience, even when agents are offline, ensuring round-the-clock availability.

Chat on the left and messaging on the right

#2: Plan the experience

Given that messaging is all about combining people and automation in a seamless workflow, it’s vital to map out the desired conversational experience you aim to create. This includes identifying entry points for messaging, managing channel coverage effectively, setting customer expectations, and establishing efficient ticket management workflows. 

Consideration should be given to:

  • What tickets should be handled automatically
  • When and how to involve an agent
  • Resolution rules
  • Addressing offline scenarios
  • Determining ticket ownership

Always design workflows with simplicity in mind and avoid over-engineering. Keeping the processes straightforward and streamlined enables easier adoption and maintenance of the messaging system. 

#3: Establish automation ownership

To ensure effective governance, establish a dedicated team responsible for managing the bot. This team should have a clear understanding of the bot's capabilities and limitations. Develop processes to facilitate ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and continuous improvement of the bot's performance.

Ownership is critical to ensure changes are made thoughtfully and in line with the goals of your messaging rollout. This includes ensuring content is updated, the bot has the appropriate training, mistakes are corrected, etc. Establish this team early in the process and make sure decisions, logic, intents, and other key bot topics are documented well in case of any change to staffing.

#4: Set up reporting and analytics

You’ll need to determine clear goals and success metrics for implementing messaging. Objectives will help your business focus on specific outcomes, such as deflecting common questions, improving customer satisfaction, and enhancing agent productivity.

Set up reporting and analytics in Zendesk Explore to track chat volume, response times, customer satisfaction ratings, agent performance, and other relevant metrics. Regularly review these insights to identify areas for improvement and optimize your support operations.

#5: Maintain a knowledge base

Investing in a comprehensive knowledge base is essential to success. Describing your products/services and troubleshooting steps clearly and succinctly will help a messaging bot recognize which articles resolve which customer intents. Just as you’ll need a team to own the "always on" messaging experience, you also need people to manage the information it uses. 

Knowledge articles need to be kept up-to-date. Knowledge Centered Service (KCS®) is one methodology to use to add new or improve existing information constantly. The more complete and accurate the documentation is, the better bot experience your customers will have. 

#6: Set customer expectations

Communicate with your customers about the availability of your "always on" messaging service. You shouldn't hide the fact that you are using technology to help. Your goal should be to make the experience so seamless that the customers are happy you've added technology. 

Most of us have had a bad bot experience because bots can add friction to the process, lack empathy, or outright get things wrong. All of this must be accounted for as part of your rollout. No matter what set realistic expectations with your customers.

Your website should clearly define the hours during which they can expect immediate assistance and the best ways to get to a human agent. You do not want a frustrated user to struggle to get to a person if that's what they want. Managing expectations upfront will help minimize customer frustration.

#7: Transfer automation to humans

One key to being successful with "always on" messaging is to address what happens when a human is needed but not available. If your bot cannot solve a particular situation or if an escalation to a specialist is required, how and when that agent connects is critical to the customer experience. 

When your bot cannot answer a question, customer frustration increases—especially if expectations aren't clear and the next steps aren’t laid out. 

Make sure your bot expresses clear next steps. For example, provide a ticket number or offer a callback service with an estimated time. Often, customers aren't frustrated that someone isn't available; they just hate to be left in an unknown status.

One solution is to establish clear Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and response time targets for different types of inquiries. Define the acceptable wait time for customers and ensure your team can meet these expectations consistently. Depending on your business, a more extreme solution might be a paging system that contacts a designated contact in an emergency. 

#8: Have a continuous improvement plan

Continuously monitor and evaluate the performance of your messaging channel. Most importantly, solicit customer feedback and use it to identify areas for improvement. Without regularly iterating on your processes, tools, and strategies, the overall customer experience may decline.

Consider the following: 

  • Conduct impact assessments to evaluate the bot's effectiveness.
  • Hold regular check-ins with relevant teams to identify areas for improvement. 
  • Ensure that the bot aligns with evolving business needs.
  • Frequently message internal teams and customers regarding the bot's capabilities and purpose.

As your business and services evolve, so must your messaging strategy.

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Success with "always on" messaging

Zendesk's tip is correct: "always on" messaging will set your support team apart. 

With artificial intelligence (AI) and bots improving at mimicking natural language and identifying customer intent, it's an obvious progression to incorporate its use in your support workflows. 

These eight strategies will set your messaging program up for success by considering the implications of this new channel and its maintenance needs. 

"Always on" messaging should be a delight for your customers. With care, foresight, and constant iteration, your customer experience and your agent experience will improve as you move to the powerful combination of automation and humans providing support. 

Written by
Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams. He’s administered Zendesk himself, and he’s currently building out a team of Zendesk consultants in his role as Director of CX Services at PartnerHero. In his spare time, Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group and writes for Supported Content.

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