Hot on the heels of a Telemedia8.1 Live event at Mobile World Congress, where CPaaS was talk of the messaging and telemedia community, Sudarshan Dharmapuri outlines how CPaaS is now the key to nailing customer experience– and shows how leading organisations are already using it
In our increasingly customer-led market, there is growing pressure on business and tech leaders to understand the customer inside and out. Over the last 18 to 24 months, consumer habits have changed considerably, driven by national lockdowns and restrictions on daily life, and consumers have developed new ways of interacting and engaging with businesses and brands.
Furthermore, while consumers were forgiving of mistakes at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as businesses adjusted to new ways of working, these ways of interacting are now the norm and consumers expect businesses to engage with them on their terms, in the right way, place and time for the customer.
At the same time, with advances in cloud-based technologies and 5G, consumers expect to be able to access the information they need from a brand wherever they are and whatever communications channel they are using. Consumers want this information to be personalised and tailored – they don’t have time to waste on irrelevant information or poorly targeted marketing campaigns.
In fact, our recent research found that there is a growing expectation from consumers that their customer experiences must be relevant, have a meaningful connection and any issues should be resolved quickly and conveniently. It is therefore imperative for brands to find ways to accelerate, enhance and automate these interactions, while also maintaining rapport to ensure the customer experience is consistent, convenient, simple, and seamless regardless of the communications channel.
A key to nailing customer experience today is employing CPaaS (Communications Platform-as-a-Service) as a key strategy to deliver a truly cohesive consumer journey. The growth we have seen with CPaaS in the past year is only scratching the surface of what is possible. This is the year when we can expect to see more enterprises deploy CPaaS to connect with consumers in a way that can truly elevate customer experience to the next level.
To do this, organisations must place customer wants and needs at the core of their communication strategy to ensure that they are interacting with them on the channel that is not only convenient for the customer, but that also marries up to the business and campaign objectives.
A good example of this is a hospital site or doctor surgery setting where video communications may be a good investment for patient consultations, while Apple Business Chat could be an opportune way to communicate with patients regarding upcoming appointments. Likewise, in the food and drink industry, hotels and restaurants may find SMS or WhatsApp an easy way to confirm reservations, while retailers often rely on geolocation targeting to engage customers in the moment.
Different communications channels not only vary based on sector, situation, business, and customer, but broad generational differences in customer experience expectations and preferences must also be considered. For example, baby boomers may be more likely to go into a store or pick up the phone to speak to a real person if they have an issue that needs solving, whereas millennials and Gen Z often prefer to talk to someone via live chat or on social media, so that they can continue to go about their day at the same time. Given this variation in preferences and considering Gen Z are now entering the workforce and represent one of the most powerful consumer segments, it’s critical that there is choice and a range of communications channels available, including mobile options and newer digital technologies such as RCS, Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp. CPaaS can facilitate seamless, uninterrupted, continuous customer experiences that provide a 360-degree approach across different channels. For consumers, this means they have the option to get in touch via, for example, SMS, email, phone, or live chat depending on their preference. CPaaS solutions are highly customisable and can be tailored to suit different products and different user experiences, right down to the individual customer.
For example, mobile customers expect proactive updates from their mobile provider if they are nearing their data limit with quick and easy options to purchase additional data if needed. Similarly, banking customers expect quick, efficient, and contextual communications. It is not enough to be notified about a low balance on a checking account, the bank should be able to provide the customer with actions they can take to remedy that low balance via the suggestion that they transfer funds or the offer to speak to a customer service agent for help; thus, fully closing the loop on the customer’s original issue. This two-way communication helps put the customer back in control, promoting easy and efficient self-service and improving the overall customer experience.
This concept is not new – the technology and innovation exists and is made possible through CPaaS. For businesses, being able to consolidate their communications channels in a single platform enables them to seamlessly manage all customer interactions and reach their customers wherever they are.
This level of service not only builds brand loyalty, but it also plays a key role when something goes wrong. In these cases, more than ever, it’s critical that the consumer can contact the business via their preferred communication channel. More and more companies have removed or downsized their customer service helplines, but phone is actually the first port of call for many consumers, regardless of generation, when they have a problem or issue that needs solving. However, given that running a call centre is significantly more expensive than using live chat bots, it’s not surprising that many businesses have chosen to prioritise automated digital communications over phone support. What’s most important is that the consumer can resolve any issue or problem conveniently, quickly and efficiently.
To empower an even more frictionless customer experience, CPaaS allows businesses to provide different options dependent on the nature of the enquiry. Centrica, for example, has 25 million customers and its customer service phone line was experiencing long delays during peak hours. This was frustrating for customers and costly for Centrica. By investing in an SMS call deflection service, Centrica was able to identify 95 common types of enquiries that could be more effectively handled by SMS chat. While phone may have been the customers’ first port of call, many customers now subsequently choose to move their enquiry to SMS chat, meaning they no longer have to wait to speak to an operator, but can instead resolve their query quickly and efficiently and in a way that suits them best.
For businesses, the ability to adapt and change channel without interruption to the customer is imperative. For consumers, customer experience plays a key role in their relationship with the brand, and poor service can drive consumers away. This is especially the case when there is a problem. Businesses that can deal with a problem or issue in a way that is efficient, speedy, and convenient, and which also retains the human touch and makes customers feel valued, have an opportunity to showcase their superior customer experience and boost loyalty.
What’s essential in all cloud-based communications features is automation. With customer interactions increasing in volume, businesses must automate where possible. This is where personalisation also comes into its own. Customers increasingly expect tailored and personalised communications, whether that’s when they’re being proactively targeted by a business for example as part of a marketing campaign; or when they’re getting in touch and expect the business to be able to access their customer and account information quickly and efficiently.
Businesses cannot afford for their various customer communications channels to operate in silos; customers expect their communications and interactions with brands to be seamless, up to date and relevant. CPaaS solutions can help businesses deliver this 360-degree customer experience to meet and engage with customers wherever they are and however they prefer.
Sudarshan Dharmapuri is Chief Product Officer Webex CPaaS