opinion


How intelligent is your business’ messaging?

Sending sms

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Alex Lea, Product & Technology Director at Esendex looks at ways in which businesses can be smarter about communicating with their customers.

Customer communication habits are in flux. It is no secret that in recent years customer communication habits have shifted in dramatic and unexpected ways. Rising smartphone adoption, the broadening gap in tech savviness across age demographics and the explosion of additional communication channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp, combined with the saturation of those that we were already using, present a real and growing challenge for businesses looking to communicate effectively with their customers.

Traditional cumbersome communication methods, such as the post, are shunned by the free-spirited younger generations and provide poor economic return and measurability. Email is constantly undermined as businesses ‘fire hose’ their customers with an overwhelming, and not always welcome, stream of information. Meanwhile, other organisations have teams of agents bombarding customers with phone calls, often at inconvenient times.

Simply put, many businesses are over communicating with their customers. As new communication channels have emerged these businesses have viewed them as additional customer engagement tools, broadcasting the same message via both the new and existing channels simultaneously, assuming that this increases the chance of a message getting through.

However, this is not the case. This ’spray and pray’ strategy is not only ineffective, it is also expensive and can be labour intensive. But, the most important concern for businesses deploying indiscriminate communication strategies is the very real risk that they are responsible for real and lasting brand damage. Consumers are increasingly switched off by over communication and can, very quickly and easily, add a brand name to their mental list of senders that they routinely ignore.

The plethora of communication channels now available and their subsequent use as customer engagement tools has resulted in large numbers of businesses unwittingly transitioning to multi-channel customer communications, without having put the necessary strategic planning in place.

A well-defined multi-channel communications strategy can no longer be built around ‘spray and pray’ mechanics. The focus should be firmly on developing a deeper understanding of customers’ communication preferences and respectfully adhering to those preferences in order to add value, rather than annoyance, to any communication.

Smart businesses are already ahead of the customer communication game and are looking to intelligent messaging solutions to improve the effectiveness of their communications.

Let’s look at the role intelligent messaging can play in improving customer engagement within a contact centre environment. A business implementing an outbound campaign may previously have used its contact centre agents to call customers. If the customer did not pick up then they would have been called back later. There is a limit to the number of calls that can be made and if a customer is not picking up it is conceivable that they do not want to take calls. The inability to reach customers quickly, significantly delays the conclusion of the required business outcomes.

In an intelligent messaging scenario the contact centre agent may still call their customers, or send an automated voice message in the first instance, but rather than another phone call being made in an attempt to reach those who did not answer, an automated SMS will be sent. The SMS would ask the recipient to call back when convenient simply by clicking on the number within the text, or reply to the SMS in order to initiate a call back or an SMS based chat session with an agent. Once the call or chat session has been completed it could be automatically followed up by an SMS survey to capture customer feedback.

This type of rules-based intelligent messaging offers smart businesses a real and valued competitive edge from a customer engagement perspective. By seeking out the communication channel that is preferred by their customers, intelligent messaging results in an improved experience for the customer which at the same time, delivers a much higher return on investment (ROI) as successful business outcomes are more quickly achieved.

The features and functionality of intelligent messaging do not stop with the above contact centre example. The next level of sophistication is to model entire customer journeys to facilitate meaningful connections with customers. For example by using intelligent messaging communication flows customers can be steered to a secure and personalised mobile web journey, such as Mobile Journeys from Esendex. These replace otherwise lengthy and inconvenient telephone-based processes, like data collection (for example completing an income & expenditure assessment). The outcomes of these online engagements can be directly recorded into business systems or used to trigger further valuable customer engagement.

Intelligent messaging, when delivered well, will deliver significant value to a business, by improving the outcomes of communication with customers, streamlining operations and reducing the costs of, often damaging, over communication.

However, intelligent messaging can be tricky to deliver well in-house. The effective delivery of an intelligent multi-channel communication campaign can vary wildly across organisations according to the available resource, expertise and internal capability required to deliver what is potentially a complex initiative.

Designing effective intelligent communication flows such as the call-centre scenario, requires more skill and experience to get right than a traditional outbound campaign. Communication flows may also span multiple departments within an organisation, all of whom need to coordinate in order to develop and deliver an effective communication flow.

Once again using the contact centre as an example, different customer service teams may be required to handle the voice call and SMS chat communication with the customer feedback from SMS survey, being funnelled directly to the marketing team to monitor, measure and process.

Internal delivery costs can be high as already busy IT teams are tasked with creating and maintaining additional supplier relationships for each communication channel and then having to determine how best to ‘cobble’ them together. Not only to deliver a cohesive and intelligent solution from day one but also a solution which will have the flexibility to absorb the many small change requests that undoubtedly will be required.

Smart businesses are realising that there is an easier, quicker, simpler and sustainable route to intelligent messaging than that provided by in-house delivery. They are favouring partnerships with established business communication providers who have proven delivery platforms and the necessary expertise to provide a comprehensive and, if necessary, tailored intelligent messaging solution. Working with a trusted partner enables businesses to focus on the content of the message to their customers rather than the mechanics of delivering it.

 

Alex Lea Product  Technology Director EsendexAlex started his career selling runner beans outside his house to fund his first computer. Now (some years later!) he is Product & Technology Director at Esendex. Over the last five years, he and his team have expanded Esendex’s messaging services into new territories, and through a many-fold increase in transaction volumes – all whilst maintaining the company’s rigorous SLAs and ‘every message matters’ approach. Since the 2013 MBO by Darwin Private Equity, Alex has focused on Esendex’s future product and technical strategy as well as supporting mergers and acquisitions to deliver the next exciting phase of the company’s growth.


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