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.
1. Messaging channels, like Facebook Messenger, have evolved and offer several rich features required for handling sophisticated business-customer interactions
2. Consumer adoption of these channels has skyrocketed – Facebook Messenger alone has 1.2 billion monthly users
3. Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies have matured allowing businesses to automate two-way customer interactions
4. Cloud platforms have brought down the cost, complexity and time-to-market for application development and delivery
The culmination of these factors means it is now possible for businesses to go beyond simple outbound messages and deliver richer, proactive and personalised experiences for their customers.
As a result, the ways in which typical customer and business interactions are delivered, such as fund transfers, airline check-ins and appointment rescheduling, can drastically change.
Upon receiving a message (triggered by a certain event), customers can simply respond to take action. Such a response could be ‘transfer funds from my savings account’ or ‘yes, I would like to use my miles for an upgrade’ and ‘can I reschedule my appointment?’
That’s the latent power of messaging channels. It remains unexplored due to the technological limitations of legacy systems and the re-engineering required to facilitate such experiences.
Not any more though.
The fast adoption of messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, combined with webhooks / APIs to trigger events and take real-time contextual actions is making it possible to overcome technological limitations and build newer, seamless customer experiences.
In the second half of this post, we cover how organisations can build differentiating customer experiences and improve customer satisfaction through proactive engagement over messaging channels. Built upon deep analytical insights, this approach also heralds the convergence of marketing with service communications, opening up new revenue generation opportunities.
Proactive end-to-end journeys
Traditionally, businesses have relied on reactive customer engagement by providing multiple touchpoints that can be used after a customer has discovered a need. Examples include visiting a bank’s website or branch for loan enquiries, or calling customer support to report a fraudulent transaction.
While it worked in the past, simply responding to customer enquiries is no longer sufficient. Effortless experiences offered by digital natives like Amazon have significantly reshaped customers’ expectations for how they are served and engaged by a business.
Consequently, proactive anticipation and fulfilment of a customer’s need is now imperative. Removing unnecessary steps and making it easier for customers to take action is a vital component in this process.
A few examples of proactive, effortless customer journeys include:
- Direct debit reminders with frictionless date change options: Direct debit defaults is a common challenge faced by banks. To eliminate this ubiquitous problem, banks can send proactive reminders and allow customers with insufficient funds to change their direct debit dates by simply replying to the message they received.
- Appointment reminders with seamless rescheduling: Last minute appointment cancellations are a major pain-point for healthcare and utility sectors that often lead to operational inefficiencies and revenue loss. Timely reminders that offer easy rescheduling (as simple as replying “reschedule to Saturday 3 PM”) can boost attendance rates and significantly reduce last-minute cancellations.
- Customer process digitalisation: Processes that have traditionally been paper-based and high on customer effort can now be automated to improve experience. For example, a retail bank can proactively reach out to potential University age customers asking them to link their university IDs to their banking accounts, so the customers can take advantage of student benefits. These customers would simply reply to the message with their university IDs, the backend platform takes care of validating the response and updating the account status.
There are multiple examples of such routine customer communications in existence today that offer immense potential for contextual customer engagement, creating new up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
Key capabilities for proactive customer journeys
Key capabilities required for proactive frictionless customer journeys include:
- 2-way messaging with NLP based response handling
- Ability to consume/trigger external system events using APIs or webhooks
- Business logic and rules engine
- Process orchestration and automation
The occurrence of system events such as the generation of a monthly bill, or a subscriber reaching 90% of data allowance, act as the trigger to initiate the customer journey. Two-way messaging over SMS, Facebook Messenger or WeChat in combination with NLP and back-end fulfillment capabilities (achieved through lightweight integrations) allow the interaction to be effortlessly automated in a conversational mode.
A frictionless experience is key
In contrast to a scenario where customers are asked to visit a website, a retail store, or install an app, a proactive approach is far more action friendly and convenient for customers.
The success of digital, customer-focused businesses such as Amazon and Uber provides testimony to the importance of eliminating friction from customer journeys and highlights the role of customer experience excellence in driving the growth of an organisation.
Routine customer communications that mostly consist of generic, non-relevant CTAs do not drive sufficient action and are predominantly a cost overhead. However, as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, making it increasingly tough for marketers to get in touch with customers, service communications will become an increasingly important vehicle to manage customer consent. Ensuring that the communication is well timed, relevant, and easy to act upon will be key to achieving the desired results.
Could your customer engagement strategy be more proactive and friction free?
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