Taking a platform based approach to customer engagement

For the last 2 decades organisations of all types have been gradually transforming the way they work with their customers. While digital transformation is something that is applied across all aspects of an organisation, the most visible evidence of it, from a customer’s perspective, lies in the transformation of customer engagement processes. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated these changes in many cases. Among results from a survey conducted by Lawless Research, 97% of respondents reported that the impact of the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, while 92% of respondents reported that enabling digital communications for customers and stakeholders was either critically or very important in their initial response to COVID-19. Overall company response was that the pandemic has accelerated adoption of their digital communications strategy by up to 6 years.

Organisations need a scalable approach to managing customer communications and engagement, without the need for extra infrastructure investment or resources. This means adopting a cloud communications approach to customer engagement. There are various strands to this assertion.
Organisations have tended to use Email and A2P SMS messaging as a mainstay of customer communications. There are limitations to this approach. While SMS open rates continue to be high (98%+ vs ~20% for email), there is growing adoption of alternatives to SMS. While SMS remains a viable channel, customers are now embracing chat apps, such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Line, WhatsApp and KakaoTalk. While conventional A2P SMS remains a viable and flexible option for customer communications, consumers expect to engage using alternative messaging channels.

Customer engagement and delivering a superior customer experience is both a differentiator and a driver for the adoption of digital, omni-channel communications strategies, including a range of options such as SMS, RCS, ChatApps, Voice, Email, Push Notifications, even Video communications. Increasingly customer engagement takes place over the medium of the smartphone, with all the options and limitations that such a medium brings with it.

Organisations are increasingly adopting omni-channel customer engagement strategies. These enhanced customer engagement approaches are part of broader digital transformation programmes, but they equally require the adoption of cloud-based communications, providing an agile and easy to implement approach to enhance customer communications. This approach is all about transforming communication processes into software, supported by workflow designs and APIs, for ease of integration between communications processes and other enterprise applications.

Customer interactions including marketing, transactional commerce or support, flow across multiple internal functions within an organisation. Processes including transaction authentication, promotion redemption and contact centre interaction all require customised communications workflows to ensure the transaction is managed efficiently, securely and to the customers satisfaction. These transaction examples require workflow design, supported by appropriate design tools, to make it as easy as possible to design a customer interaction workflow and use APIs for integration with different systems, where necessary.

The adoption of a cloud communications approach ensures enterprise agility, such that organisations can easily and cost effectively design processes and develop workflows with minimum disruption. By building automation into processes, low-cost transactions can be more efficiently managed at scale, thus providing long-tail customer service, while protecting margins.

For these cloud communications approaches to be successful requires a platform-based approach, generically referred to as communications platform as a service (CPaaS), employing tools to facilitate low code/no code compilation. This potentially moves workflow design beyond the realm of the software developer making it easier for users to create communications workflows and design processes without the need to involve their IT department.

There are many drivers for organisational adoption of this cloud communications approach to customer engagement.
Augmentation vs Addition: A cloud communications approach enables organisations to easily embed communications workflows directly into their existing applications, thus streamlining business processes, that might have a significant communications element in the workflow.

Responsive: Most organisations need to communicate regularly with their customers, patients, citizens or employees. With so many communication channels to choose from this can become a very complex task. A one size fits all model no longer meets expectations. Organisations must transform their communications strategies to respond to people’s preferences about how they wish to receive communications. This mix includes contact via the preferred channel, on the preferred device, often at a preferred time. A cloud communications platform can ensure these preferences are responded to.

Automation: Eliminating the need for employees to manually intervene with communications reduces administration and enhances efficiency. Cloud communications can replace or supplement contact centre resources or back office administrative teams, freeing your employees to manage the exceptions, thus enhancing end customer support. Cloud communications can be integrated with CRM and Billing systems to trigger automated order confirmations, delivery advice and post-delivery messages, such as an invitation to leave a review on a website. The more automation that can be built into a process, the less opportunity for manually introduced errors.

Any device: Many customer support tools and solution are ‘optimised’ for mobile devices. Cloud communications is designed to meet customer needs regardless of the device type or communications medium being used. Workflows can be built to ensure the correct message in the most appropriate format.

Flexibility: Cloud communications is flexible. A series of different communications touchpoints, connected via APIs, enriches the software. The workflows that are built using CPaaS do not mandate a particular channel, making it easy to switch across different communications channels as needed.

Immediate: If a customer is online they can initiate an interaction with a contact centre agent whenever they need help. They can do this using a Click-to-Call capability or via a chatbot. The back-end workflows ensure the optimum engagement is managed throughout the online conversation.

Contextual: All components of a conversation integrate into a single workflow, even if it is delivered using different channels. This ensures that everyone has the complete picture of the information being shared.

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