In the early 2000s, the thought of companies connecting with customers over communication apps would have seemed ludicrous. But in 2022? That’s the norm.
According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, inquiries over social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp jumped 36 percent last year—higher than any other channel. This trend is here to stay, as consumers are increasingly turning to their favorite messaging platforms to connect with companies.
But it’s tough to know which communication app is the right choice because there are so many options available. We’re breaking down 15 different tools to help you pick the best one for your business.
What to look for in communication apps for customer service
First and foremost, find a communication app that’s simple to use. Your support agents and customers won’t want to deal with a complex tool.
Beyond ease of use, consider these other key factors when looking for an app:
- AI and automation. An app with these features can simplify internal workflows and reduce manual tasks, allowing your reps to spend more time with customers.
- Popularity. Choose a communication app that your audience already loves. If your target customers are loyal to a particular app, they’ll feel comfortable using it to reach out for support.
- Onboarding and support. There’s always a learning curve when adopting new technology. Minimize this friction by picking a communication app that offers an onboarding program and ongoing support and training for your team.
- Integrations. Find a tool that integrates with your existing tech stack so all your customer information is in one place.
- Goals. Whether you’re trying to reach more consumers or improve your conversational customer service, pick an app that aligns with your business objectives.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, consider signing up for a free trial or piloting the app with a small group of customers. The experience will help you determine whether the communication app is a good fit for both you and your buyers.
The best communication apps
Best mobile chat apps
These mobile communication apps take the traditional text messaging experience to another level with additional capabilities and rich features that are ideal for providing customer support.
1. WhatsApp Business
With more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp Business is probably familiar terrain for your audience. Our research shows that more and more customers are using WhatsApp as a support channel—the volume of tickets submitted over WhatsApp skyrocketed 370 percent last year.
The WhatsApp Business App looks just like a personal account on the platform, but it’s equipped with extra features for small-business owners. Contact numerous shoppers simultaneously with new offers and important information, and segment consumers to personalize your communication.
Opt for the WhatsApp Business API if you run a large business that relies on a CRM, contact center, or customer service software to engage with buyers. With the WhatsApp Business API, midsize and enterprise companies can reach their customers without the platform’s normal limits. The WhatsApp Business API also allows for more customization, integrates with other tools, and provides advanced security. You don’t have to figure it out by yourself, either—you can work with a developer and a WhatsApp Business Solution Partner to access the service.
- Quick replies. Save and reuse messages that you regularly send to customers for fast and efficient responses.
- Automated messages. Greet your customers instantly with pre-set messages that let them know when they can expect a response or where to find more information.
- Customized notifications. Send customers personalized appointment reminders, shipping updates, and more using the WhatsApp Business API.
2. Apple Business Chat
Apple Business Chat gives your company an easy way to connect with the 1.65 billion people who use Apple devices. Your customers can find your business and initiate a conversation with you from Apple Maps, Safari, and Siri.
Apple Business Chat lets you send customers order status updates, location information, important materials, appointment reminders, high-quality images, and more. You can also receive payments from buyers via Apple Pay.
Many well-established brands—including Hilton, Home Depot, 1-800-Flowers, and Freshly—use Apple Business Chat and see it as a powerful way to connect with their customers.
- Payments. Customers can securely send payments through Apple Pay.
- Real-time order tracking. Keep customers in the loop about the status of their order—without making them click away or switch between platforms.
- Automated responses. Share information with customers 24/7 by setting up an autoresponder.
- Schedule appointments. Customers can set up meetings and appointments without having to open a separate app or browser window.
3. Google Business Messages
Google Business Messages allows customers to initiate a conversation with businesses directly from several Google platforms, including Maps and Search. Google occupies 92 percent of the search engine market share worldwide, so this messaging app is a key platform for connecting with customers. You can also use it to provide superior customer service.
Google Business Messages helped clothing company Levi Strauss keep its customers happy during tough times. The brand needed a way to connect with customers when the pandemic prompted a 30-percent increase in off-hours shoppers. Google Business Message allowed customers to reach the company without visiting the website, going to a store, or making a phone call. The result was higher customer satisfaction scores and 30x more store-related questions resolved.
- Payments. Receive customer payments securely via Google Pay.
- Quick updates. Send customers updates on refunds, orders, and more directly through the app.
- Easy access to support. Customers can get fast, personalized support from a live agent with the click of a button.
LINE is a mobile messaging platform used by 84 million people in Japan. LINE embeds itself into people’s lives by providing news, banking, healthcare, music, and more. So, it’s only natural that it would be a great place to offer customer support.
The app’s Customer Connect feature allows support teams to provide personalized and memorable experiences via messages and calls. Customers can receive notifications like appointment reminders and order confirmations, too.
LINE also offers Official accounts to companies, enabling them to communicate with customers more closely, promote business events and activities, and provide important updates. If you have a Premium or Verified account, customers can type in your business name and find you on the platform.
- Organize messages. Create notes and tag chats to keep conversations organized so agents can easily access the customer context they need.
- Plugins. Add plugins to your profile to highlight digital loyalty program cards, menus, appointment options, and other services for customers.
- Automatic replies. Quickly respond and share information with customers—no matter when they reach out—with automated greetings and replies.
KakaoTalk provides a variety of ways for customers to connect with you, including one-on-one chats, group messaging, and chatbots. The app also has shopping, navigation, and other coveted features.
- Automated responses. Provide 24/7 support by creating automatic replies based on common customer questions and requests.
- Home page updates. Share key information and updates on sales, events, and promotions right on your Kakao home page in the messaging app. From that page, customers can initiate a chat to learn more.
- Click to message. Direct links, QR codes, and website buttons—which are accessible in the KakaoTalk Channel Manager—make it easy for customers to connect with you.
On WeChat, businesses can post updates and communicate with customers directly through messaging and calling. The majority of users follow between 10 and 20 business WeChat accounts, so companies have the opportunity to get in front of many customers on this platform.
- Payments. Businesses can safely collect payment through the WeChat app.
- Automated messages. Keep your customers informed and engaged with automated welcome messages and responses.
- Interactive connections. Businesses can use the Shake function—which connects you to someone else who shakes their phone at the same time—to engage with customers and learn more about them.
Viber, also known as Rakuten Viber, is a Japanese-based cross-platform messaging app with roughly 1 billion registered users worldwide. It is currently used in more than 190 countries, so it’s ideal for reaching a global audience.
The app allows companies to communicate with customers through video calls, messaging, and chatbots. Businesses can also use Viber to send promotions and start interactions with consumers directly via ads. Coca-Cola experienced over 680,000 chatbot interactions on Viber through its special Sticker Pack promo, with 29,000 codes redeemed.
While it’s free to communicate with other Viber users on the app, you’ll need to use Viber Out to contact people who don’t use the platform. Rates depend on the country, phone number, and type of plan you’re using.
- Delete and edit messages. Quickly delete sent messages, and correct typos and other mistakes in chat.
- Communities. Create and moderate public groups of brand advocates and new customers.
- Stickers and GIFS. Make your customer conversations more fun and personalized with customizable stickers and GIFs.
8. Your own website or mobile app (live chat)
Embed messaging on your website or mobile app so customers can instantly get support while they’re interacting with you.
Using a tool like Zendesk’s messaging software is an easy way to integrate messaging across your channels. You’ll gain quick access to customers’ data and conversation history, a centralized workspace, and helpful third-party integrations for a seamless and efficient messaging experience.
- Answer Bot. Our AI-powered chatbot is always on duty and your first line of defense. It can automatically answer common customer questions, resolve basic problems, and escalate issues to an agent when necessary.
- Routing and intelligence. Advanced routing and intelligence capabilities ensure customer tickets reach the agent with the right expertise and skill set, leading to faster resolutions.
- Integrations. Empower your customers with rich messaging features and integrations such as live location sharing.
Best social media messenger apps
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have solidified themselves as part of our everyday lives. The popularity of these social messaging apps makes them ideal for customer service.
9. Facebook Messenger
If you’re looking for a messaging app that lets your customers connect with you quickly and easily, look no further than Facebook Messenger. This app boasts over 2.9 billion monthly active users, making it a popular option for customer support.
The platform has a few different messaging options. Facebook Page Inbox, Inbox in Facebook Business Suite, and Business Inbox in Messenger are geared toward smaller businesses and organizations. While their features vary slightly, they all make it simple to quickly sort, monitor, and respond to messages.
The Messenger Platform API is designed for enterprises. Similar to the WhatsApp Business API, this tool gives large companies more room to customize their features and workflows.
- Automated responses. Greet and interact with your customers instantly, even when your agents are off the clock.
- Organized messages. Assign people to manage messages, mark tasks as complete, or flag conversations for follow-up right within the platform. Or, integrate the communication app with your customer service software for a customized workflow.
- Analytics. Track messaging performance—including how many people blocked you and how many conversations you had—via the Messaging Insights API.
10. Instagram Direct
Ninety percent of Instagram users follow a business account, making the app one of the top places for companies to reach customers, cultivate loyalty, and increase sales. Instagram Direct, an inbox where you can send and receive private messages, has proved to be an efficient customer service tool.
As customers view your Instagram photos, Reels, and Stories, they can easily click to message you for more information or ask questions. Businesses can also use ads to prompt customers to message them for personalized offers. Starbucks Indonesia was able to reach a 6x return on ad spend by running ads that linked to Instagram Direct.
Setting up an Instagram Business account is free. Similar to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, businesses can use the Messenger API for Instagram to handle customer conversations at scale.
- Quick contact options. Add a “message” button to your IG business profile (or use an IG.me link on your website) to make it easy for customers to connect with you on Instagram.
- Cross-messaging with Facebook Messenger. Facebook and Instagram combined their messaging services, so you can monitor messages from both platforms in one place.
- Automated responses. Set up a chatbot to communicate business hours and wait times, answer FAQs, and send welcome messages when customers initiate conversations.
11. Direct Messages on Twitter
The fast-paced, conversational nature of Twitter makes it a perfect platform for helping customers. You can reply to a customer’s tweet, seamlessly move public conversations to a private inbox, and share helpful resources with your audience.
Consumers enjoy using Twitter to connect with companies, too. According to a survey by Twitter and Sprinklr, two out of three people prefer Twitter over other social networks for customer support.
- Easily move a public Tweet to a private conversation. Include a “send a private message” button in your tweet for an efficient service experience.
- Get customer feedback. Leverage Twitter’s Request Customer Feedback feature to collect input about the support experience.
- Prompt customers to start conversations. Connect with customers using the Conversation Buttons feature, which can be paired with video or image ads. This makes it easy and convenient for customers to reach out.
Best voice and video communication apps
Sometimes, chatting through a problem via video or audio is the best way to provide great customer service. While many of the other apps on our list have video features, these apps set themselves apart thanks to their audio-visual focus.
According to Business of Apps, “Zoom was one of the fastest-growing apps of the pandemic, with meeting participants increasing by 2,900 percent.” As one of the most popular video platforms, Zoom is an ideal place to connect with customers.
Zoom allows you to do voice calls or video conferencing with one customer or hundreds all at once. It’s also simple to share your screen and send messages and links in the chat throughout the meeting.
Zoom has pricing tiers ranging from a free plan to enterprise-level plans at $240 per year, per license. There are a few other options for large groups and audio conferencing, too.
- Recording. Zoom allows you to record and save meetings for your customers to rewatch. You can also share them with your support team for internal training.
- Screen sharing. Support agents and customers can walk through solutions together by screen sharing during a video call.
- Easy scheduling. Schedule and track meetings directly from the Zoom desktop app (or use scheduling tools like Google Calendar and Outlook). Zoom also integrates with Zendesk, so you can schedule and launch a meeting right from a support ticket.
Originally designed with streaming and gamers in mind, Discord is a growing platform among young audiences. It’s also a great place to provide customer service.
Boasting 300 million registered accounts, the app enables businesses to create different servers (or channels) to separate conversations by specific customers, teams, or projects. It supports audio, video, text, file sharing, and more—making it possible to communicate and engage with customers in whatever way they prefer.
- Screen sharing. Like Zoom, Discord allows you to easily share your screen with customers and vice versa. If needed, you can even multi-stream and view screens from several customers at the same time. This can be helpful when trying to solve a complex or company-wide issue impacting multiple users.
- Quick switcher. This tool lets you jump between messages and servers via the CTRL+K or CMD+K keyboard shortcut, so you can respond to customers with just a quick click.
- Integrations. Discord has many integrations, including Twitch and YouTube. With the Zendesk integration for Discord, you can use ticket forms to gather information and add a chatbot to address customer questions on the platform.
Internal communication apps
Excellent customer service starts with smooth communication inside your company. Reps should be able to quickly communicate with fellow support agents and internal experts so they can provide customers with fast responses. The following internal communication apps will help you deliver that speedy, efficient service.
Over 12 million people use this communication app daily. Slack strengthens support teams by giving agents a single space to ask each other questions and share information. Teams can even create dedicated channels for high-priority clients and get automatic alerts when tickets come in.
Externally, businesses can set up a Slack community for customers, where they can answer questions and share key resources. They can also create a public channel to serve as a customer knowledge base.
- Bots and automation. Stay on top of your workflow with automated responses and processes. For instance, you can have a bot remind you to follow up on a ticket.
- Integrations. Slack integrates with hundreds of different apps—including Zendesk. Thanks to these integrations, all your tools can work together to speed up response and resolution times.
- Channels. Create multiple public or private channels within your workspace, or use Slack Connect to share channels with people outside your company. Use Slack’s search bar and filters to easily find information within channels.
15. Microsoft Teams
Like Slack, Microsoft Teams is a shared digital workspace. It offers numerous features—including shared channels, instant messaging, and video calls—that help support agents collaborate when solving customer issues.
Reps can also use Microsoft Teams to communicate directly with customers. REI, for example, holds “virtual outfitting” sessions via Teams, where they bring in customers for a digital shopping experience. Similarly, support teams can offer customers one-on-one product training or troubleshoot issues using Teams.
- Integrations. Save time and enrich internal and external communications by integrating Microsoft Teams with popular apps, such as Zendesk, Trello, Asana, and more.
- Team channels. Set up private spaces where your support agents can quickly share files, customer notes, and updates.
- Easy ideation. Encourage brainstorming and collaboration via the Whiteboard app—then save everyone’s ideas.
Keep the conversation going
Choosing the right business communication app is a great first step. Once you’ve decided on a platform, it’s time to take advantage of the speed and simplicity of these apps and provide your customers with rapid support.
Want to go a step further? Connect your messaging app to a customer service platform like Zendesk. Our solution empowers you to take your customer support to the next level—organize messages from various apps in one central workplace, track data to boost agent performance, and send informed, curated responses based on customer data.