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.
The expanding range of tools and platforms used for customer communications has made it increasingly difficult for enterprises to implement a consistent communications strategy across the organization.
With a wide range of platforms including marketing automation, CRM, customer communications management, social messaging, core transaction processing systems, websites and mobile apps, the number of tools, as well as the number of channels used to interact with customers, are increasing.
Imagine this — your car breaks down on the motorway and you need roadside assistance. You simply open Facebook Messenger on your phone, search for your insurance provider and send them a message asking for help. The system at the other end identifies you, asks you to share your location via the Messenger app itself and proceeds to find the nearest mechanic. You can then track their arrival time and in the meantime receive useful tips about how to stay safe, emergency numbers etc. – all within the Messenger app.