Understanding synchronous vs. asynchronous messaging
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Understanding synchronous vs. asynchronous messaging

by Phil Garbrecht | Dec 11, 2019

The messaging landscape is changing constantly, making it difficult for businesses to ensure a seamless customer support experience. To further complicate matters, messaging can be synchronous or asynchronous and each style require different technology, workflows, and best practices. In this post, we’ll discuss what synchronous and asynchronous messaging mean, as well as the benefits and challenges that come with each approach.

Synchronous vs. asynchronous messaging

What is synchronous messaging?

Synchronous messaging can be best understood as a live one-to-one conversation. A synchronous message has a defined beginning and end, and in the context of customer support, the agent would solve the customer’s issue(s) and end the conversation (at least in a perfect world).

Talking to a human feels productive for customers. They’re able to speak to a real person, and they are able to get answers to their questions, have their problems addressed, and also important, have their frustrations heard. This type of messaging is best for simple conversations that can be solved in one sitting. And since the interaction has a defined beginning and end, performance is easy to track for the business.

Synchronous messaging is suitable for simple conversations that can be solved in one sitting or with one agent.

But synchronous messaging doesn’t always turn out well in reality. Synchronous messaging is limited in the same way phone support is, as agents are only able to help one person at a time. Whether a customer messages live chat or calls in, they typically have to spend valuable time on hold. Once they do talk with a representative, the rep sometimes doesn’t have the expertise to solve the customer’s problem, or the situation needs to be escalated, so the customer is handed off to someone else, forced to have the same conversation with a new agent. More often than not, the customer is frustrated before they’re able to speak to anyone, and the agent, no matter how patient and understanding, is starting off the conversation at a disadvantage.

Live chat can dovetail a lot of the benefits of phone support: customers are communicating with a person in real-time and can parse out the slow and inconvenient nature of email communication. But the flip side of those benefits are also more challenges. Live chat requires both parties to be available at that moment. If the customer has to step away, the session is done. In a recent survey, we found that 68% of customers are extremely frustrated when a chat session ends without the issues being resolved.

Following up is similar to handing a customer off to another phone support agent — they’re going to most likely have the same conversation once again. The fact of the matter is that people don’t like to call for help because they’re not able to speak to a real person right away.

What is asynchronous messaging?

While synchronous messaging is a live person-to-person conversation, asynchronous communication doesn’t require both parties to be present and speaking at the same time. This is great for the customer because they are able to start, pause, and resume a conversation around their life. Additionally, asynchronous messaging provides a better experience than synchronous messaging for complex issues that require more than one sitting or agent to fix. To learn more about use cases for asynchronous messaging, visit the Khoros Messaging page.

Asynchronous messaging is more convenient for customers, and is also better for complex issues that require more than one sitting or one agent to fix. 

In a way, asynchronous messaging is the new email: As a customer, you can spell out your issues or questions, and in kind, receive a clear response, on your own time — without clunky threads. Email can also be easily misinterpreted, leading to an average 2.4 emails between customer and agent to clarify and/or come to a resolution. From the agent perspective, less than a quarter of all emails are opened (any kind, not just those from customer support).

How asynchronous communication via chat can revolutionize the customer experience

Phone, email, and live chat have all been mentioned here, and we’ve already determined that they have their limitations. What solution are we looking at, then? Telepathy? Your uncle Randy, who seemingly has an answer for everything that’s wrong in the world?

Not exactly. We’re going to revisit one of those, just under a different lens — chat. Not the old, session/device-based synchronous chat, but a modern messaging protocol that operates independently of device or session. Asynchronous chat, that handles concurrency, a fancy word for multitasking. Concurrency acknowledges the pauses and stops in chat interactions, allowing for agents to utilize those gaps for ramped up efficiency and productivity. When you’re not required to be on the phone/chat with a single person for a single session, you can help a second or third customer at the same time. Using Khoros Modern Chat, agents are able to manage 20 - 30 customer conversations simultaneously.

This method not only allows agents to help more people, but it can also reduce support calls. Take the following story from one of our customers as an example: A major telecom brand needed a way to head off account data questions posed on social media. Traditionally, authenticating customers’ identities is done most securely over the phone, but in this instance, it requires shifting from social media to phone, which leads to an interruption in care. To solve customer issues quickly and effectively, they worked with Khoros to securely authenticate customers through messaging, without changing lanes, resulting in a 77-percent reduction in expensive customer calls, driving a significant increase in positive customer sentiment.

Since more and more messaging channels have emerged, companies have embraced the opportunity to foster closer connections with their customers. But the true marker for success is being where your customers are wherever and however they need you. One key to ensuring that is embracing the fast-moving changes in the way we communicate to customers. To learn more messaging insights and ways to improve your customer care experience, read our ebook: Modernizing Your Contact Center.


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