Conversational messaging is route to customer loyalty for regional SMEs

Manish Mishra. — Supplied photo
Manish Mishra. — Supplied photo

By Manish Mishra

Published: Thu 18 Aug 2022, 5:42 PM

In the GCC, where digital transformation has in essence become a mandate across industries and scales, B2C SMEs and start-ups have begun to look at more advanced technologies to help them compete and disrupt. Now that they live, by necessity, in the cloud, they are adjacent to a digital marketplace of tools and platforms that can allow them to go beyond mere business continuity and find ways of enthralling consumers and building sustainable brand loyalty.

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Customers in the modern age are not characterised by their patience. They want what they want, and they want it now. And brands want to give it to them. A Freshworks review of 107 million customer interactions, revealed speed as the consumer’s top priority. But in the wake of the great resignation, this escalation in demand presents a problem that only automation can resolve. Smaller businesses must think bigger, and turn to AI, chatbots, and intelligent workflows to bring about the transformation that can allow them to stand out in their markets.

When businesses use messaging software to interact with customers, we call this “conversational messaging”. Live chat, chatbots, and messaging channels are all part of conversational messaging. Research indicates that up to 79 per cent of customers favour live chat for instant responses. This is because such systems are good at individualising the customer experience through saved histories that allow agents to continue where a colleague left off in a previous contact, thereby demonstrating to the customer that they are understood and valued.

Employees empowered

Meanwhile, in a world where talent retention and the quality of the employee experience have both been linked to positive customer outcomes, agents are empowered by conversational platforms that allow them to handle multiple interactions concurrently while demonstrating true empathy in each of them. And the issues they handle will no longer be humdrum, as intelligent chatbots will have already resolved any standard queries. The workflow capabilities of modern platforms even allow agents to manage expectations more effectively on issues such as wait times and office hours, which also leads to an enhanced customer experience.

For the business at large, today’s messaging platforms increase efficiency by introducing concurrency into the customer-service function while simultaneously boosting the quality of conversations. Relatively small support teams can now tackle high contact volumes with flair, backed by multilingual support, so customers get the support they need immediately from anywhere in the world. Additionally, the nature of the technology allows for advanced analytics, which leads to a range of potential enhancements – not only to customer service, but to products, services, workflows, billing, marketing, and more.

Tools such as these currently live on the clouds to which the region’s SMEs migrated in the early days of the pandemic. Scalable software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings are of particular benefit to cost-conscious SMEs because businesses can test their digital experiences against KPIs such as latency and workflow complexity to ensure that in a production environment, customers will not be disappointed.

Reconciling Demand with capacity

SaaS platforms have become increasingly popular with the onset of the hybrid-work era. When procuring digital capabilities, it is hard to argue with the ease of use, agility, flexibility, and resource optimisation that are associated with SaaS. It is the obvious route to take when allowing for future scale-ups.

Many SMEs across the region are examining cloud-native conversational messaging as a means to reconcile market demands with internal capacity. Adopters soon find their digital workflows are up to the task of keeping consumers happy, and that all their business functions – management, marketing, warehousing, IT, and more – are unified on CX. Conversational messaging makes these single-voice cultures possible and ensures the experience of customers is determined by brand policy and not by the department with which that customer happens to be conversing. This is customer individualization in action.

Conversational messaging implementation starts with live chat, as it will form the core of the solution. Once this feature is bedded in and employees have become comfortable with it and adept at leveraging it to satisfy customers, the organisation can start to get more innovative by designing and implementing custom chatbot workflows. As we have already seen, chatbots will become the first point of contact in a conversational messaging platform. This is now a tried and tested technology – an emerging staple for businesses in the post-pandemic digital economy. It can be deployed easily and quickly become an effective stand-in for agents in routine conversations. And its multi-threading abilities allow it to scale to handle a virtually unlimited number of concurrent contacts.

A new ecosystem

Next comes the integration of messaging apps. This will give customers the freedom to choose their channel for interaction, be it WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger or another. The popularity of these apps varies from region to region, so it is wise to determine what the most used platforms are, to avoid unnecessary provisioning and to ensure that the organisation abides by the rules of permission enforced by each app.

Once the new messaging ecosystem is steaming along and adding value, the marketing function can get involved, making strategic use of proactive communication to enhance the already strong relationships that have been built. Updates and reminders are more positively received by customers that already have a warm relationship with a brand, and businesses can use triggered messages to campaign to customers based on their recent activity.

Conversational messaging is one of the most valuable digital transformations for a nascent B2C enterprise. It can make the difference in a market where competitors are traditionally seen as interchangeable. It can help you stand out. It can help you compete. It can help you disrupt.

Manish Mishra, Head of MEA Business at Freshworks. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.

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