Intelligent communications: going beyond the hype

How to make routine customer communications smarter and more cost-effective

Written by Sudarshan DharmapuriJune 16th 2017

The seemingly simple task of keeping customers informed has become increasingly complex with the emergence of new messaging channels, evolving regulatory requirements, changing customer preferences and the rising costs of communication.

These factors are driving enterprises to rethink their application-to-person (A2P) customer communication strategies, not only to comply with new regulatory requirements such as the GDPR, but also to take advantage of the rich capabilities offered by messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, WeChat, Google RCS, push notifications and in-app messaging.

By utilising these channels effectively, there is an immediate opportunity to transform routine A2P communications into a platform that not only elevates customer experience and but also reduces communication costs.

In this post, we share practical examples and actionable insights on how you can make routine customer communications such as service notifications and transaction alerts smarter and save costs by leveraging inexpensive IP messaging channels.

 

Making A2P communications smarter

Customer-friendly, intelligent communications sit at the intersection of four key characteristics:

  1. Compliance with regulatory and organisational contact policy
  2. Catering to customers’ preferences
  3. Automated multichannel routing
  4. Context-sensitive and superior messaging experience

diagram showing the intersection of 4 intelligent communications characteristics

Each of these characteristics manifests itself in various forms depending on the objective, priority and nature of the communication. Let’s take a deeper look.

 

Compliance with regulatory and organisational contact policies

Abiding by regulatory guidelines around customer communications has always been an important consideration for large companies. However, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in May 2018 has made compliance an even higher priority for all businesses processing customer data and communicating with their customer base. As the law puts control of consent management in the hands of customers, the ability to capture and enforce customer consent in real time will become a key requirement.

Disjointed and non-uniform contact policy across business units often leads to multiple, sometimes inconsistent and untimely, messages being sent that annoy customers and cause damage to the brand image.

Organisations need to centralise their customer communications to enforce necessary checks such as contact threshold (no more than ‘x’ number of messages in ‘y’ period) and social hours (is it a good time to contact the customer?).

Key to realizing this is the ability to prioritise messages based on their logical hierarchy (e.g. fraud alert vs. daily account summary) and the ability to hold some of the routine communications until the next preferred timeslot.

 

Catering to customer preferences

The rise of OTT channels has reshaped customers’ communication preferences like never before. Not only has the number of channels increased, but customers also prefer to use different channels for different types of communication.

This means customer experience leaders need to set up online “preference centres” where customers can easily set up and manage their communication and channel preferences. These preferences should then be applied in real time to deliver the right categories of communication on the right channels at the right time and at the right cadence.

[caption id="attachment_2595" align="aligncenter" width="800"]illustration of an intelligent, multichannel communication Illustration of an intelligent, multichannel communication flow[/caption]

 

Automated multichannel routing

This refers to the ability to switch from one channel to another keeping in view customers’ communication preferences, nature of communication, and associated cost implications.

Here are a few examples of different routing algorithms required in varying messaging contexts:

  • Least cost / best effort – Routine notifications such as weekly account summaries, or general updates and tips, account for the majority of A2P communications costs. Delivered predominantly over SMS today, organisations can significantly reduce their customer communication costs by instead routing some of these communications over customers’ preferred OTT channels, such as Facebook Messenger, push notifications, etc.
  • Intelligent failover - Delivery receipts and read receipts provided by OTT channels provide higher visibility than SMS. When critical messages such as fraud alerts or OTPs aren’t delivered/read over these channels, it may be because the customer does not have data connectivity (e.g. data pack exhausted, not having data/Wi-Fi access during international roaming). In such cases, you can dynamically switch to outbound voice call and/or SMS to ensure customers receive your message.
  • Multichannel messaging for important communicationsSome situations (such as a payment becoming overdue or imminent service outages) warrant a notification being sent on multiple channels (such as SMS and email, or SMS, OTT and voice call) to ensure that customers take notice of it and take timely action.
  • Suppression – This relates to the social hour check that we talked about earlier. In some cases where a new message renders a previous message obsolete (such as with parcel delivery notifications), there is no need to send the older message if this is queued. By doing so, not only do you reduce communication costs, but you also reduce the risk of bombarding customers with excessive communication.

There could be several other variations depending on the context and communication objective. To have the ability to implement intelligent multichannel routine comms, you need to adopt a platform approach that allows you to easily build and deploy newer routing algorithms and make on-the-go changes as customers’ preferences and needs evolve over time.

 

Context-sensitive and superior messaging experience

Leveraging OTT channels makes communications richer (in comparison with SMS) by allowing you to send attachments, videos, images, etc. in a secure manner. While text-based messages can be used for point-in-time alerts and notifications, videos and images can be used for sharing how-to-guides or monthly statements where structured or more visual presentation can help customers better understand information.

In-app communications opens up a secure communication channel that you own. Not only can you accentuate the branding elements, but you can also provide a personalised inbox for your customers – a better alternative to the already-busy SMS inbox where messages received from unfamiliar senders can go unnoticed.

Finally, using a cloud-based platform to centrally manage all your communications allows you to insulate your internal business systems from the complexities of the ever-evolving customer communications layer. On one hand you avoid re-engineering your back-end systems as and when new protocols, APIs, or channels become available. On the other hand, because it sits outside your firewall, the platform ensures that you can still communicate with customers in the event of IT outages.

 

Is your communications strategy ready to address the challenges and leverage the opportunities offered by digital messaging apps?

The potential is enormous and the solution lies in adopting a platform that allows you to evolve with the continuously changing customer communications landscape.

Stay tuned for our next post in this series to see how you can use an omnichannel platform-based approach to convert routine customer communications into active revenue generation opportunities.

In the meantime, 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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