Seamless customer engagement in times of disruption

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Meenal Prasad, Director, Head of Product Management at SAP Digital Interconnect, explains how a CPaaS solution facilitates multichannel engagement with customers as well as employees, and improves marketing reach, especially in times of crisis. 

Good communications are important at all times, but never more so than during times of crisis, and that term certainly applies to what we’re all living through right now. Organizations have two key stakeholders that they need to keep informed. The first is their staff. With most companies’ offices closed, it’s essential that organisations know where their people are, and that they have everything they need to do their job from home.

The second, of course, is their customers. For many retailers, in particular, accustomed to face-to-face engagement with their customers in their retail outlets, things have changed dramatically since the world went into lockdown in March. Transactions have moved online, and with that comes a need to keep customers informed of how their sale is progressing. The order has been placed, but when are they likely to receive their goods? In the digital world, ongoing engagement and communications with customers after the sale are key to success and for driving favorable customer experiences – after all it costs at least five times more to attract new customers than to retain existing ones.

When you consider how those employees and customers would like to be communicated with, things have changed drastically in this respect as well. Power has shifted from the brand to the customer. Broadcast, one-way communications initiated by the brand no longer cut it. Customers now expect to be in charge of the conversation, and to dictate the channel or channels it takes place in. And there are more and more of those channels for brands to embrace, from the company’s own properties, such as its website and mobile app, to the ever-increasing number of social channels and messaging platforms, including SMS and e-mail, on which consumers choose to spend so much of their time.

In fact, time spent on these channels has been rapidly increasing over the past few years. During the first quarter of 2020 when the Covid-19 crisis escalated, WhatsApp has seen a 40 per cent increase in usage, while Facebook Messenger has seen an increase of 37 per cent, according to research from Kantar. And In January 2020, according to Datareportal, there were 3.8bn social media users, up 9 per cent on the previous year. 

Multichannel means business
While SMS and e-mail have been around for a long time and well leveraged by brands for customer engagement, social channels have come into play due this high usage and adoption growth. There was a time, of course, when social channels were used primarily for personal communications and virtually no brand messaging, but today, all that has changed. Customers think nothing of seeing familiar brands on their favourite social channels, and are happy to engage with them there. Indeed, many customers now expect it, with some even preferring these channels for faster responses and resolutions from their chosen brands. 

Given all these trends then, the intelligent approach for any brand that really wants to give its customers real choice in how it engages with them, and in how they can communicate with the brand, is to open itself up to every channel – voice, e-mail, SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger and the rest – so that the customer has complete control over what the engagement looks like. 

To do so, brands can take matters into their own hands and integrate with each platform. Almost all social channels expose their APIs to enable brands to integrate with their platforms – though it’s worth noting that WhatsApp will only work with verified business service providers like SAP Digital Interconnect. The issue here is that it can be time- and resource-consuming to integrate with each channel separately, with each having its own integration requirements and API specifications. This kind of integration and testing can take weeks or months to complete. 

Alternatively, you can turn to a communications-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) provider, which has already done the hard work integrating each of the social channels as well as  messaging services like SMS and e-mail, and which is constantly adding to the list of services it offers. What could take weeks or months can now be achieved in days, with minimal-to-no development needed.

Failover processes
Not only are you then able to engage with customers through the channel of their choice, but intelligent decision capabilities from CPaaS leaders allow you to build in failover processes. So if a customer does not respond to an message on their preferred channel, say WhatsApp,within a certain time, the message is automatically resent via via another channel like  Facebook Messenger, and subsequently, if necessary, via SMS. Intelligent decision functions also enable you to see which channel performs best, and is by inference the customer’s preferred channel, versus what they might have chosen, and hence can enable you to optimise your engagement with them. 

And because CPaaS helps facilitate this type of seamless, cloud-based communication between the brand and the customer or prospect, developers and enterprises can be assured that their solutions are up-to-date and can easily integrate new social and messaging channels as they begin to become popular. 

The good news is that while this level of API-driven communications will serve brands well during a planned or unplanned crisis, it will continue to be appreciated by employees and customers long after the crisis is over, leading to increased engagement, trust, loyalty, and ultimately, brand advocacy. 

Want to learn more about how your employees, customers and enterprise can benefit from CPaaS and multichannel engagement? Read “Using Multichannel Digital Channels to Improve Critical Enterprise Communications” and “Understanding the Complexity Of Messaging Channels and Digital Engagement” and join the SAP Digital Interconnect Community. Contact SAP Digital Interconnect to receive SAP People Connect 365 and SAP Contact Center 365 free 30-day trials.