Unified Messaging or: Why We Rebuilt Our Entire Product

With our last release, Unified Messaging beta has come to an end – marking the biggest product change since Userlike's inception.

In this post I’d like to give you a quick overview of our brand new solution and how it differs from our ‘old’ product. And explain why, against all conventional wisdom, we decided to fully rebuild our product from scratch.

But first, let me TL;DR:

  • Unified Messaging, Userlike’s new product, is out of beta and is now the default for new signups and free users.
  • Unified Messaging is live chat software 2.0. It does everything our ‘old’ product does, plus a lot more.
  • With Unified Messaging you can do live chats as well as asynchronous messaging . And you can offer website chat support as well as messaging support through apps like WhatsApp and Messenger.
  • If you’re on a paid Userlike plan, you can still make use of the old version and make the switch manually.
  1. Why Unified Messaging?
  2. Meet the Website Messenger
  3. Meet the channels
  4. Meet the Message Center
  5. Looking to the future

1
Why Unified Messaging?

When we started out in 2011 , NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity had just launched, Adele’s Rolling in the Deep was at the top of the charts, and Userlike was a 100% live chat solution. But over the following years we realized that the future of customer communication was in messaging.

You're probably plenty familiar with the messaging communication through apps like WhatsApp and Messenger. Without many people giving it much thought, these apps have revolutionized private communication.

It boils down to this: When you’re both online, you have a live chat; when one side isn’t there, you do asynchronous messaging.

Infographic of messaging app growth.
The adoption rate of messaging apps has been staggering.

The expectation with messaging is that messages can be sent, even if the other side isn’t there to read them right now. Conversations seamlessly transition from a slow back-and-forth, sometimes spanning hours or days, to the quick instantaneity of regular desktop chat.

With Unified Messaging, we bring this modern messaging to your customer relationships.

Rebuilding Userlike into a messaging solution for websites and messaging apps allowed us to offer some unique benefits for businesses and their customers.

  • For customers , the main benefit of messaging support is its convenience. Everybody's messaging all the time, so it takes little effort and is already a part of people's existing daily habits. Messaging apps also aren’t cluttered like the average email inbox.
  • For businesses , messaging offers all the benefits of classic chat and more. When both sides are online, it works just like live chat. But there is reduced pressure to be constantly available, as you can also answer at a later point and the customer will be conveniently notified. This means that service peaks will be less of an issue and offering chat support in a small team will be easier.

We believe in the combination of website chat and mobile messaging support. In the 2020s, your website continues to be your most valuable piece of digital real estate. It's the perfect place to start the conversation with your customers. Messaging apps, on the other hand, are the perfect channels for staying in touch – and nurturing the customer relationship.

Unified Messaging introduction webinar:

Now let me introduce you to the main pillars of Userlike 2.0.

2
Meet the Website Messenger

Website chat stays at the core of Userlike. We’ve fully reimagined our old website chat widget into what is called the Website Messenger . This is where most of your customer relationships start.

The idea behind the Website Messenger is that it brings modern messaging to your website. Besides popular messaging features like emoji, multimedia support and voice messaging, its online-offline nature gives it that messaging feel.

Three different views of the Website Messenger next to each other.

Like the messaging apps you’re familiar with, the Website Messenger supports synchronous chats when both sides are online, but also asynchronous messaging when one side is not.

For e-commerce, there is tremendous potential in the instant nature of chat. Many of our customers use Userlike to boost conversions . This means taking web visitors by the hand and guiding them from initial request to checkout – all live while they are on the website.

But besides this live chat mode, the new Website Messenger can also be used for asynchronous messaging. When a visitor leaves a question while your agents are offline, you can respond at a later time and they will be notified of your answer via email. This email contains a unique link to your website and the relevant chat conversation. In this way, Userlike functions as a lasso to bring people back to your site.

The customer can also jump back into previous conversations by going through a verification process. That's how Userlike now supports long-lived messaging on your website.

Read a full introduction of the Website Messenger here .

3
Meet the channels

While it's clear that the mode of messaging is dominant, people are divided among the different messaging apps . To not exclude a significant share of your customer base, it makes sense to offer support on multiple messaging channels. That's why the new Userlike unifies the most important messaging channels and allows you to communicate through them from one central place.

Without further ado, let's meet the channels!

The WhatsApp Channel

WhatsApp is the world's leading messaging app. It has over 2 billion active users. Userlike's WhatsApp Channel allows you to connect to the WhatsApp Business API – which was built for larger businesses to use for professional customer communication.

Userlike's Message Center with WhatsApp customer conversations.

Unlike the WhatsApp Business App , which was built for small businesses, the API allows you to organize your WhatsApp support in teams. As it’s lacking its own user interface, it was designed to be connected to business software like Userlike.

WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption plays well together with Userlike's vow for data security . When you choose Userlike as your WhatsApp business solution, all of your data will be hosted on German servers.

If you are interested in connecting to the WhatsApp Channel, just fill out this form .

The Facebook Messenger Channel

Facebook Messenger is the world's second largest messaging app. Although it has slightly fewer active users at 1.3 billion , it’s more geographically distributed than WhatsApp.

The unique advantage of Messenger is its direct connection to the Facebook platform. This creates a happy marriage between your marketing activities and your customer communication.

Connecting Messenger to your Userlike account is more straightforward than WhatsApp. Here is the tutorial .

The Telegram Channel

Telegram doesn’t dominate any single market, but is still pretty widespread. With over 400 million users, it’s an increasingly relevant alternative to Messenger and WhatsApp.

Telegram's open chatbot ecosystem makes it easy to connect Userlike. Here's how .

The SMS Channel

Short Message Service (SMS) or text messaging is the mother of all messaging apps. It lacks many of the features of modern messaging apps, but as a one-on-one customer communication channel it has some unique advantages:

  1. It's platform independent. Everybody with a mobile phone already has SMS.
  2. It's internet independent. When the internet connection drops, a customer connection is still possible.
  3. It's almost free of charge. I remember the days when texting was expensive, but nowadays, most mobile phone subscriptions offer unlimited texting.
  4. Customers are already used to texting businesses via SMS. Mostly through codes, two-factor authentication etc.

To realize the SMS Channel, we teamed up with Twilio , an API platform for communication channels. This means you will need a Twilio account and – while the channel itself is free – each SMS you send and receive is operated and charged by Twilio.

Check out the full SMS Channel tutorial here .

Other channels

It's also possible to connect Userlike to a custom channel, like your own SMS gateway or email server. Check out our custom channel tutorial to learn more.

We will also expand the number of channels Userlike will be available on over the coming year.

4
Meet the Message Center

The Message Center is our new interface for your agents. It's where the messages from theWebsite Messenger and all the above-mentioned messaging apps come in.

The Message Center feels similar to the browser versions of messaging apps you’re already familiar with, but with a business layer on top tailored toward service and support.

Overview of the Message Center.

New features. The Message Center has all the features of the old Chat Panel, like chat macros (canned messages) and topic tagging . But it also offers various brand-new features, like multimedia support, voice messaging and live translation – useful if you're serving customers across countries.

(Shared) Inbox. Unlike the Chat Panel, the Message Center works with a shared Inbox . Conversations appear here, which are either assigned to you or are waiting to be assigned to you or a colleague.

All Conversations. Here you see an overview of all the conversations you and your team have had – past and current. Depending on your permission settings, you can reassign these conversations and pick them up.

Contacts. You’ll also notice a brand new section within the Message Center: The Contact List. Contacts are a new concept within Unified Messaging. Its development resulted from reconsidering the customer’s position. In the end, your customers are the real heroes in this story, so we wanted to give them more prominence while also making them easier to manage.

One contact can have multiple ongoing conversations with your company. While the conversation list is the default view for your support agents, the contact list allows you to go through all your contact profiles. It showcases all connected conversations and an expanding area of customer information. In short, it's a digital representation of your customer relationships.

Contact area.
The Contact area within the Message Center.

Improved UX. Overall, we've intensively improved the overall user experience in parts of the software where you'll be spending most of your time. The Action Bar is one example of a UX improvement, making it much easier to assign conversations to agents, assign a topic or status, or create follow-up tickets out of them.

Although, now that we're talking about follow-up tickets, Unified Messaging should strongly reduce the need for most of you to create such external tickets. With our live chat product, you would have to switch to another application to answer offline messages. With Unified Messaging, you can answer offline – or asynchronous – messages right from the Message Center.

Check out the full tutorial on the Message Center .

5
Looking to the future

The road to Unified Messaging has been long, so we are excited to have finally left the beta. More than ever, our product reflects our vision for customer communication.

Messaging is the future of communication. It's already the case in our private lives. With Unified Messaging, we believe we can offer you a solution that brings the intuitive convenience of messaging to your customer relationships – allowing conversations to seamlessly transition between synchronous and asynchronous, messaging apps and your website.

The Userlike Team.
The Userlike Team salutes you!

Together with the whole Userlike team I’d like to thank all of you who have participated in our beta and provided us with invaluable tips and insights. And if this is your first encounter with Userlike, then I sincerely suggest you give it a try !