Digital customer interactions: going beyond the hype

Our new blog series explores the four pillars of digital customer interactions

Written by Sudarshan DharmapuriMay 23rd 2017

The market is abuzz with discussions about chatbots, conversational commerce, messaging as the new UI, and other related topics. As is the case with all things new, the discourse and debate encompass a wide spectrum of views and possibilities, from the esoteric and speculative to the mundane. But a pragmatic approach to embracing these trends can have a game-changing impact on customer experience and digital transformation initiatives.

In this post, we focus on four key solution areas where messaging-oriented customer interactions find their most practical yet powerful expression. These categories form what we term the four pillars of digital customer interactions.

Our categorisation and insights are based on practical, real-world experience in delivering customer interaction solutions to blue-chip businesses, and from the design and development of our products.

Description of the four pillars of digital customer interactions

Pillar 1: Intelligent communication

This category concerns routine outbound communication from businesses to their end customers (also known as application-to-person (A2P) communication). This type of communication is generally triggered by an event occurring in one or more internal business systems. Examples include transaction alerts, account or service notifications, payment reminders, OTPs for authentication, safety / security tips, contextual offers etc. Most organisations today use SMS as the primary A2P communication channel.

But with the explosion of messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat, the range of channels available on which businesses can engage their customers has expanded far beyond the traditional channels of SMS and email.

The corresponding shift in consumer behavior means businesses have to embrace these new channels with a sense of urgency, but adopting a future-proof approach that allows them to incorporate new channels as and when they emerge (e.g. Google’s RCS) while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of building channel capabilities and integrations in silos.

Securing customer consent, managing their preferences, enforcing uniform contact policies, complying with regulatory requirements and orchestrating customer communication across multiple channels are some of the key areas that need thorough deliberation, and a platform-oriented approach.

 

Pillar 2: Proactive journeys

This category is all about turning some of the routine high-volume customer communications into revenue opportunities by embedding contextual calls-to-action, backed by automated fulfillment capabilities. Customers are not just informed, but are presented with an opportunity to act on that information.

In a banking context, for example, a use case could be allowing a customer to increase their overdraft limit when they have a direct debit scheduled and don’t have adequate funds in the account. In a telecoms context, a proactive journey could be allowing customers to activate a roaming pack when they’re abroad.

The key building blocks to automating proactive journeys are the ability to consume events that occur within existing business systems via APIs, applying a set of rules to those events, triggering customer communication and handling the customer’s response to automatically fulfill the request.

 

Pillar 3: Automated self-service

The third pillar concerns empowering customers to manage their accounts or services on their own, primarily through messaging channels. Self-service (or self-care/e-care) has, of course, been around for a while, but the shift to messaging channels means customers can now interact with businesses using natural language, and this is where the synergy between NLP and messaging channels becomes extremely powerful.

Using an existing messaging application to interact with a business is much more convenient for consumers than downloading yet another battery-sapping app. For enterprises on the other hand, the ability to create customer self-service chatbots not just to answer customers’ questions but to automate fulfillment of customer requests – with the necessary back-end system integrations – becomes a critical platform capability.

For example, a customer may interact with a chatbot to find out details about their current plan or tariff, get a recommendation for a better plan that saves them money, and then actually switch their plan through the chatbot itself. The cost savings for businesses through such automation can be immense.

 

Pillar 4: Agent-assisted customer service

But as promising as bots sound, they can’t be trained to handle all scenarios. This is where human customer service agents come into the picture. The ability to seamlessly transition from a bot-led interaction to an agent-led interaction – without losing valuable contextual data – becomes a key platform capability, along with the ability to integrate with existing contact center applications.

In combination, chatbot-driven automated self-service and agent-assisted customer service enable organisations to improve customer satisfaction while reducing customer service costs. Routine enquiries – mostly general FAQ questions or standard account-related queries – are handled by chatbots, allowing agents to focus on high-value complex queries requiring specialised skills and deep product/service expertise.

Coming soon:

We’ll be expanding on each of these pillars in upcoming posts, exploring:

• What to consider when implementing each
• Real-life examples
• Product capabilities for enabling the solutions

Read our next post in this series now on intelligent communications and how to make routine customer communications smarter and more cost-effective. Or you can find out more about our Platform-as-a-Service approach to easily building, automating and deploying intelligent customer interactions.

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