Personalised, omnichannel, empathetic: A glance at the future of business communication
As the world begins to recalibrate itself after a year of uncertainty, businesses have endured an irreversible shake-up of the status quo. The pandemic, while unprecedented and challenging, has offered radical insights into what it takes to keep a business running virtually.
The increased access to numerous sources of information such as social media channels and search engines means holistic marketing is now the main driver of revenue as well as customer acquisition and retention. Modern enterprises looking to implement customer outreach programs will need to employ more diverse, data-driven, and omnichannel marketing tactics or risk falling behind.
This is because the modern customer is not just a buyer but a communicator. In this era of collective observation and engagement, enterprise communications cannot be based purely on traditional marketing strategies such as advertising, sales, or publicity campaigns.
Instead, new-age enterprises must offer seamless, integrated customer support across traditional and conversational channels, backed by a consistent line-up of personalised outreach programs.
This includes round-the-clock customer support, personalised messaging, and outreach across a plethora of communication channels – from Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and SMS to voice, video, and email.
Here’s a look at the top tech trends that will shape the business communications landscape in the coming years:
1. Omnichannel communication to rule the roost
One of the biggest hurdles faced by brands today includes contextualising the conversations they are holding with their customers. Modern-day consumers have access to a massive and growing selection of channels, for example, email, WhatsApp and SMS – which they expect to be able to communicate through at a time that suits them.
The need for convenience is reinforced by the rise of 'digital laggards' during the pandemic – the people who have been forced to switch to digital channels due to reduced in-person operations, and who want their online experience to feel as easy and ‘normal’ as shopping in-store.
Infobip Research, which assessed customer expectations before and during the first lockdown of 2020, found that there is no one preferred channel for brand communication. Almost half (46 percent) wanted to communicate via email, 35 percent via live chat online, 17 percent by social media, and the list goes on. Your customers exist on more than one channel, which means you need to, too.
Omnichannel communication strategies allow brands to provide a seamless experience across all platforms, building on the strengths of each medium to provide a connected experience.
By being proactive in their communication, brands can reach out to their target demographics with the right content at the right time over the right channel to be able to create a long-lasting relationship. More satisfied customers translate into improved performance metrics.
For instance, by leveraging the power of omnichannel communication, UNICEF was able to increase donor retention by 7.8 percent, decrease churn rate by 33.3 percent, and drove a 4 percent conversion rate on cart abandonment flow.
2. Personalised outreach will become a mainstay
The business truism that no two customers are the same holds for the communications landscape without exception. Not just brands, but their target audiences, too, are aware of this phenomenon.
The new-age customer base is increasingly asserting its demand that brands provide personalised content at every point of contact.
Contrary to expectations, the aforementioned research indicates that 74 percent of customers believe the brand messaging they have come in contract lacks a personalised, human connection. It’s a trait that continues to alienate customer bases, with almost half (47 percent) of consumers claiming they will ignore any depersonalised messages.
To address this need-gap, brands must integrate platforms that allow them to deliver an effective engagement experience at the right moment across a range of different channels.
The new strategy can include sending an email with a personalised product suggestion or a birthday discount via text. It is these moments, reinforced by positive associations, that are more likely to be remembered by customers.
By sending out tailored, event-based messages, for instance, Juros Baixos successfully increased its marketing margin by 18 percent. The face of your business is your digital channels; you need to strike the right emotional and beneficial chord to drive brand loyalty.
3. Integration of AI in business communications
With continuous improvements in NLP technology, AI-driven practices are increasingly manifesting themselves in the communications sector, be it to map customer journeys or to enable personalised support. In 2021, customers will be able to interact with chatbots that are programmed to not just answer questions but use a mixture of past behaviour and current dialogue to provide valuable suggestions.
With AI continuing to make strides in historical data and cognitive behaviour analysis, modern players in the communications sector will offer chatbot services that can determine customer mood and satisfaction levels from their voice and tone. This will allow control to be handed over to human agents where a more bespoke response is needed.
The end goal is to use AI to drive conversational interactions that feel as natural as interacting with another human being while providing immediate and relevant customer support anytime, anywhere.
In November 2020, Nissan Saudi Arabia added the AI-enabled chatbot service over a verified WhatsApp for business channel to improve customer engagement and deliver round-the-clock customer support. The result? It registered a whopping 138 percent increase in lead generation and added 18,000 new users since the service deployment.
4. SaaS, CPaaS, and CCaaS tools
The cloud-based communications (SaaS, CPaaS, and CCaaS) tools will fully integrate with enterprise CRM solutions. Leading service providers have already upgraded their CPaaS platforms with SaaS tools to empower enterprises to deliver a comprehensive, personalised, and omnichannel experience to end customers by serving as a one-stop cloud communications platform.
These platforms will increasingly allow brands to analyse transactional customer data, customer behaviour on the website, pattern detection in user habits and customer reactions to product launches, promotions, etc.
In the coming years, cloud telephony and unified communications will become an inherent part of delivering improved customer experiences, as will the back-end infrastructure to analyse data and ensure an exceptional customer experience.
In view of this, market research estimates the CPaaS market to achieve a value of $26.03 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 34.30 percent during the forecast period (2021 - 2026).
The future of business communications is not just digital-first but also about empathy. Now is the time to think about the digital tools available to you to ensure customers don’t lose out on personalised, human interaction when using digital channels. I, for one, am excited about this new age of customer experience.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)