With 1.5 billion1 monthly users across 1802 countries, WhatsApp clearly dominates personal communications across the world. From one-to-one text messaging and group chats to sharing photos and videos with friends and family, consumers use WhatsApp for a wide variety of communications. Now, with the launch of WhatsApp Business API, businesses can also use it for sending critical communications such as payment notifications, reservation updates, appointment confirmation and more. In addition, businesses can use WhatsApp for extending seamless customer service and support to customers around the world.
“Conversational self-service”? You may say that sounds an awful lot like chatbots. Well, there are certainly some similarities between the two, particularly the use of NLP to enable conversational interactions, but self-service automation entails a lot more than just responding with cute answers to canned questions. In this post, we explore some key considerations for a full-fledged customer self-service automation platform. Hopefully, the differences between such a platform and a simple bot-building tool will become evident as we go along.
There is no dearth of research to substantiate that there is growing desire for immediacy in customer service¹. Customers no longer want to spend time in long IVR queues waiting to speak to the next available agent. Instead, they prefer to use online research, knowledge bases, peer-to-peer communities, and other self-service options to locate answers.
Self-service isn’t a new concept – it has been around for a while in the form of online FAQs, self-serve kiosks, and mobile apps. However, the exposure to slick experiences offered by customer-obsessed digital natives, such as Amazon or Uber, means that traditional self-serve approaches that are complex to use and limited in reach are no longer sufficient.
Using proactive end-to-end journeys to convert routine customer communications into revenue generation and customer service opportunities.
As consumers, we are all used to receiving routine alerts and notifications from banks, mobile networks, utility providers and other businesses. While these messages keep us informed about our account activity or remind us about making a payment, very few of them actually involve a ‘call-to-action’. Even if they do, the action cannot be carried out by simply replying to the message; you must navigate to a web page or mobile app to complete the action. This results in broken journeys and missed opportunities to delight customers.
Traditionally, businesses have used channels such as SMS and email for simple ‘outbound’ and one-way communication to keep customers informed. Complex interactions that require some action have, on the other hand, been handled through ‘inbound’ channels such as IVR, contact centers, web and mobile apps. This distinction between inbound and outbound is quickly fading away and will soon be a thing of the past.
Make routine customer communications, such as service notifications and transaction alerts, smarter and save costs by leveraging IP messaging channels
The task of keeping customers informed has become increasingly complex with the rapidly evolving landscape of OTT messaging channels, regulatory requirements, and customer preferences, along with the rising costs of communication.
These factors are driving a rethink of application-to-person (A2P) customer communication strategies, not only to comply with new regulatory requirements such as the GDPR, but also to take advantage of the rich capabilities offered by messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, WeChat, Google RCS, push notifications and in-app messaging.
Using these channels intelligently allows companies to transform routine A2P communications, improve customer experience and reduce communication costs. But what makes up an intelligent customer communication strategy?
The world of cloud communications is full of excitement and chatter about how the launch of Apple Business Chat and Rich Communication Services (RCS) will transform communications between businesses and their end customers. The fast-growing user base and the promise of rich customer communications have rightly made messaging apps the number one priority for customer experience leaders around the world.
A2P communications have traditionally been information-oriented rather than action-oriented. Quickly scroll through your messaging inbox and you will easily locate hundreds of messages from your bank, utility provider, online retailers, logistics firms, and telecom operators informing you about several things related to your account or service – from balances and monthly statements to upcoming payments and expected downtimes.
If you take a closer look, you will notice that almost all of these messages are one-way communications, often left unopened or unread in customers’ inboxes. The reason, the lack of a meaningful response path for the customer to act on the message.
Research shows that text messages have much higher average click-through-rate (6.16 percent as against 2.80 percent for Emails). Yet the potential of A2P communications as a medium to engage customers has remained untapped.
Increasingly customers wish to interact with businesses in the same way they do with their friends and family, on messaging apps such as SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or the up and coming RCS, and using rich interaction formats such as video. Correspondingly, a new category of vendors has blossomed to help companies incorporate voice, video and messaging into their communications through developer-friendly APIs and tools. Industry analysts and others recognize this space as cPaaS, short for communications platform-as-service.
The most prevalent use case has been the use of SMS and voice for 2-factor authentication, i.e. to establish the validity of contact numbers provided by customers or to authenticate them when they sign into mobile or web applications. SMS is also widely adopted to keep customers informed about account activity, transaction alerts, payment reminders and appointment notifications. With cPaaS, enterprise IT developers can easily embed SMS and voice communications into existing business processes or customer interactions, without having to deal with multiple intermediaries, buying expensive equipment or learning proprietary languages and technologies.
While developers love the simplicity of web-standard APIs, and customers appreciate timely communication, whether cPaaS goes far enough to enable truly breakthrough customer experiences needs careful deliberation.
Multichannel customer engagement has been talked about for years now. A quick Google search on the topic yields 275,000+ results. Search for Multichannel Customer Experience or Multichannel Customer Service and you get more than 50,000 results for each.
Why talk about it yet again then?
While not a new trend, seamless multichannel customer experience has continued to be an aspiration that organizations still struggle to achieve. Conceptually, it seems straightforward — consumers have shifted from telephone and email to a variety of channels such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter, SMS, WeChat, text messaging, etc. for communicating with their friends and family, and increasingly they want to manage their relationships with brands and businesses over those same channels. In response, organizations have tried to provide alternatives such as mobile apps and built a presence on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook to engage with customers.
However, in most cases, these approaches haven’t led to the desired improvements in customer experience as validated in research by Dimension Data. As mentioned in their 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking report, “The transition towards digital isn’t reaching its full potential. The gap between service delivery and customer expectations is widening.”
Read More Multichannel customer experience isn’t about saying “we’ll get back to you” on 10 new channels
Push messaging has been around since the turn of the century, first with Blackberry push email and then with BBM. Since then, with the proliferation of smartphones push usage has grown leaps and bounds, so much so that Apple’s servers alone were pumping out 7.5 trillion pushes back in 2013. Consequently, mobile push notifications have become one of the most important channels for customer engagement and customer communication. However, with increasing usage, the response rates for traditional push notifications are going down.
Voice communication is the most natural way for humans to interact with each other and therefore it’s no surprise that it is also one of the oldest and widely used channels for business-customer interactions. Recent advancements such as biometric authentication via voice, automatic translation and interpretation, and voice-based virtual personal assistants are leading to renewed interest in voice and its application across several new customer engagement scenarios.
Read More Powering seamless voice interactions using IMIconnect
The last few months have been very exciting for us at IMIconnect. We have made several enhancements to the product to make it easier for you to build and manage seamless customer experiences across channels. At the same time, we have seen our customers use IMIconnect for a completely new range of use cases and innovative customer journeys that reaffirms the growing need for a centralized platform for automating customer journeys across channels.