The changing digital communications landscape has created a need for cloud communications and platform-based customer engagement models

As communication channels and consumer preferences continue to fragment, organisations need to find ways to communicate and engage with their customers across a wide array of media. Mobile channels are so convenient that it makes sense to leverage mobile applications as part of any engagement strategy. But to succeed, organisations need to take a scalable, platform-based approach to managing customer interactions. This helps to manage both the scale of customer communications and interactions, and makes them easier for everyone concerned by integrating them into enterprise applications, including CRM, commerce management and other associated systems.

Organisations can communicate with their customers in so many different ways. In the digital sphere alone this includes conventional phone calls, text messages and emails. Online commerce, together with the advent of smartphones and their associated apps store ecosystems, has transformed how consumers interact with retailers. And this online, omni-channel interaction extends to many other sectors beyond retail. Travel, financial services, government services and healthcare have all changed as a result of the new media options and channels of communications that are available to consumers.

Figure 1: Harnessing communications platform as a service for enhanced customer engagement

Navigating the shift to online
Consumer preferences have changed. In the retail environment, customers used to be happy purchasing in store, but now they want to do everything online with the option for self-care. In public utilities and financial services, most customer interactions once simply involved receiving the monthly bill or making an occasional call to a contact centre. Now, there has been a marked shift towards online interaction. The contact centre experience for most customers has never been particularly good, so anything that can either enhance the experience or shift customer traffic away from the contact centre towards online self-care and mobile apps is desirable – both for the consumer and for the service provider.

Firstly, it’s expensive to start investing in additional infrastructure at scale. While employing external resources to manage these new customer engagement channels is an option, the ideal approach would be one where a platform can be made available to manage these services in the most cost-effective way. Interestingly, the changing nature of contact centres has indeed seen more investment in technology to manage customer interactions. The focus has been on finding ways to try and divert consumers away from direct agent interactions, towards self-care and online chat bot interactions.

Meeting the need for choice
A next logical step is to use communication channels with pre-built workflows to engage with customers across the customer lifecycle, including marketing (acquisition), commerce and billing (transaction), up-sell (loyalty) and service (retention). Taking an omni-channel communications approach provides consumers with choice at every step.

For example, a customer might express a preference to receive promotions via the marketing channel, while wanting to receive their bills online, with an email prompt. An omni-channel customer engagement approach enables an incredibly rich tapestry of interactions and combinations, but also creates the potential for significant complexity which has to be managed efficiently.

Managing complexity through CPaaS
Taking a platform-based approach to omni-channel communications can help to manage this complexity. This is what communications platform as a service (CPaaS) is all about. CPaaS uses cloud-based communications technology to provide a range of customer interactions, supported by programmable workflows, to ensure that each communications channel and interaction flow follows a clear process. Processes must be appropriate for the type of interactions being managed, in order to lead to a conclusive result. The workflows can be built using standard software design concepts. Customer interactions become software programmes, with all the variation that a communications flow enables.

It’s worth pointing out that omni-channel communications can be run without CPaaS. Granted, this is becoming more and more difficult to do, but not impossible. The various elements of CPaaS can simply be integrated into a broader customer communications strategy. Let’s take the example of mobile messaging, which is no longer just about pure SMS, but includes RCS and chat apps. Mobile messaging in one or many forms can be used as a stand-alone communications channel for customers, but can also be blended with other channels to form a richer customer engagement process. This is when CPaaS brings real value. CPaaS includes a mix of mobile messaging, programmable voice communications, email or video communications. It is defined by its programmability, as well as the chance to build communication workflows that combine different channels to create a richer customer engagement experience.

Industry analyst Juniper Research anticipates that total communications services revenue from the CPaaS market will reach USD $25 billion in 2025, compared to USD $7.1 billion in 2020 . As organisations look to engage customers remotely, using communication channels to drive efficiencies, CPaaS can become part of the omni-channel customer engagement strategy to boost revenue, enhance customer satisfaction, and achieve more efficient customer service and engagement.

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