Airtel Business

Airtel Business

How are omnichannel strategies redefining business competition

Insights from industry leaders on leveraging omnichannel communication to enhance customer experience and gain a competitive edge in the digital era.

How are omnichannel strategies redefining business competition

Friday January 19, 2024,

9 min Read

The digital age has led to a transformative shift in the competitive landscape as businesses have embraced omnichannel strategies to align with the dynamic expectations of customers. Omnichannel communication, at its core, focuses on customer-centricity, placing the customer at the heart of operations. This strategic approach ensures a consistent brand voice and identity across channels, fostering a holistic customer experience.

The substantial competitive advantage derived from the adoption of omnichannel practices enables customer satisfaction and attracts new customers seeking seamless and integrated engagement. In turn, it has also paved the way for establishing trust through secure and reliable communication channels.

As India's leading ICT services provider, Airtel Business, in partnership with YourStory, introduced TechBlaze—a collaborative platform where entrepreneurs and tech leaders engage in insightful discussions about the evolution of customer experience and its profound impact on business growth. The fifth edition of the Round Table series, conducted in collaboration with WhatsApp, delved into how omnichannel communication is currently equipping businesses with a competitive edge.

Avinash Deepak, Senior VP and Business Head at Airtel Business, shared insights into customer behaviour and the changing needs of modern organisations. He noted that traditional businesses, historically served by Airtel, had different requirements compared to the emerging class of ‘born-in-the-cloud’ organisations.

Deepak highlighted key distinctions, stating, “Whenever we engage with classic born-in-the-cloud organisations, we find that it is very different, in fact, the opposite. They don’t need connectivity; they are burning cash as fast as possible, high-risk takers, and they are absolutely okay with change as long as it aids growth.”

Recognising the challenges that these innovative entities face, Airtel Business has been proactive in providing solutions. Deepak explained, “We created a forum wherein we participated in the ecosystem to understand businesses and their unique challenges. Our aim was to work in accordance with the distinctions between digital and traditional organisations, enabling us to enhance our services extensively.”

The discussion shed light on the importance of consistency in customer journeys and was a deep exploration of how omnichannel approaches differ from traditional multichannel methods. The forum explored the strategic significance of WhatsApp as a communication channel within the comprehensive framework of omnichannel strategies, emphasising its role in enhancing customer engagement and interaction.

Here, we highlight key insights from the discussion.

Necessity of omnichannel communication

Ranjit Kumar, Head of Customer Experience at Ninjacart, spoke about his diverse customer segment, which includes farmers and wholesalers. He highlighted the need for their CX team to be well equipped with the latest technologies, moving away from traditional support methods like emails.

Kumar explained their strategic shift to WhatsApp, stating, “WhatsApp as a medium is an application where every user, even a pushcart vendor, trader, and farmer, can interact with us for customer inquiries. Today we have become a pioneer in the industry by implementing WhatsApp as a communication medium, aligning with customer preferences and leveraging technological advancements.”

Navigating the evolution

Reflecting on the changing dynamics of customer engagement in the B2C space, Abhishek Biswal, Business Head of B2B Digital Products and Services at Airtel Business, spoke about the evolution of communication strategies. Biswal noted, “Over the last 10 to 12 years, the way our diverse customer base engaged with us and with each other evolved significantly.” Biswal emphasised on the diminishing effectiveness of traditional channels and drew attention to the transformative role of WhatsApp. He said, “While WhatsApp seems like a replacement for SMS, it has, in fact, displaced another channel—Voice.” Biswal underscored the advantages of chat over voice, such as standardised communication in contact centres, assertiveness, and the ability to be transactional without worrying about Average Handling Time (AHT) constraints.

As a leading CPaaS player, Airtel Business recognised the need to build a sustainable omnichannel product line. Biswal explained, “Understanding the change in customer behaviour led us to believe that all channels needed to deliver the same quality, intensity, and ease for a customer. Being unavailable at any channel was no longer an option, despite the associated costs.”

Biswal concluded by observing the shift over the previous six to seven years, acknowledging the notable speed of transformation. He agreed that it is now imperative for businesses to embrace sustainable omni-channel communication to stay relevant and effectively cater to evolving customer expectations.

Understanding dynamic consumer landscapes

Santosh Kumar, Head of Strategic Growth at FreshToHome, an online platform offering a variety of fresh, locally sourced fish and meat produce, highlighted the change in customer segments and consumption behaviors in the digital era.

He said, “At FreshToHome, we served various customer segments and recognised the significance of digital channels for discovering new products and understanding their characteristics.” Reflecting on consumer priorities, he pointed out, “Effort, time, and cost are key considerations in buying anything, providing an experience, value, and benefit.”

Saibal Biswas, Head of Marketing at MediBuddy, a leading cashless healthcare provider in India, shared insights into the complexities of service delivery in the healthcare space. He highlighted the need for an omnichannel approach in healthcare, stating, “In healthcare, it is highly contextual when one needs the service.”

Biswas further discussed the challenges in healthcare, stating, “Consumer nuances in healthcare are a highly need-based service. You may create a strong brand, but you cannot drive consumption until the actual need arises.” He emphasised the importance of building engagement on the platform to encourage users to book appointments both online and offline.

Saibal spoke about the role of platforms like WhatsApp for situational marketing, “WhatsApp is not just a communication channel; it is a scanner for efficiency in delivery and contextuality.”

Creating consumer trust

Rashmi Ranjan Nayak, VP-Business at Ayu Health, a network of multi-specialty hospitals in India, gave a peek into the unique challenges and strategies in healthcare customer acquisition.

Nayak emphasised, “In healthcare, customer acquisition is not typically through online channels, especially when it comes to surgeries. It's not about shopping for the lowest price; it's a once-in-a-lifetime event.” He highlighted Ayu Health's focus on providing tertiary and secondary care surgeries for the middle-income demographic who cannot afford premium options.

For this segment, trust is paramount. Nayak explained, “For these individuals, it is about belief. They want assurance that they will receive quality care, a positive outcome, at an affordable cost. We have only one shot at the customer, and they might never return. Hence, we stitch together an omnichannel experience.” In doing so he explained the crucial role of WhatsApp in sharing contextual videos, customer testimonials etc., to personalize the experience.

Vachana Shetty, Head of Marketing at Akshayakalpa Organic, a brand that delivers milk directly from farms to its customers, provided a fascinating glimpse into the brand's trajectory and growth, where customers not only purchased but also actively engaged in sharing their positive experiences.

In acknowledging the initial challenges faced, particularly with milk delivery, Shetty recounted the significant efforts invested at the backend to ensure the production of the highest quality milk.

With a keen eye on customer behaviour, Shetty noted that the marketing funnel had changed. People were more inclined to buy into a brand and then decide if it aligned with their values. This shift necessitated a tailored approach in marketing to cater to the post-purchase journey. She elaborated on the innovative recycling programme, and how omnichannel efforts, including the brand's app, went beyond the transaction, creating a lasting bond between the brand and its customers.

Mastering relationships with omnichannel strategies

Rajeev Agrawal, Founder and CEO of Innoviti Payment, a payment technology provider for enterprise brands spoke about the multifaceted world of B2B engagements.

Agrawal expanded on how Innoviti manages transactions for clients through their platform by seamlessly integrating the entire process, from payment to settlement.

Delving into the post-sale engagement challenges, Agrawal addressed the complexities of managing diverse roles within a client organisation, and the importance of resolving issues at the grassroot level. This, he explained, is where omnichannel strategies come into play, requiring a customised approach for each level of engagement.

He acknowledged the limitations of intrusive channels like WhatsApp for high-level executives, instead suggesting leveraging SMS for senior management, due to its non-intrusive nature.

He also made a note of maintaining a delicate balance between physical and digital interactions for gaining trust and building a robust customer profile. A comprehensive understanding of clients is not achievable by physical or digital methods alone.

Adapting to customer preferences

Nilesh Rathi, SVP Customer Experience at ACKO Insurance, a vehicular and health insurance provider highlighted the importance of understanding customer preferences across different channels, stating, “In our segment, customers prefer WhatsApp as a channel and the claim process on WhatsApp is easier.”

Archana PN, Head of Customer Service at Jupiter Money, a digital banking app, shared insights into the challenges faced in the fintech world, elucidating on customer anxiety spaces where the stakes are high. In high panic situations, customers need to be able to talk to someone, to ensure that their money is safe. She further addressed the struggle with email and chat channels, emphasising the need to switch between them effectively: “I think for us the key is to offer proactive information at the right time, once a transaction is through.”

Jupiter Money leverages voice calls to engage customers who drop off from chats, to provide them with solutions.

Nilesh Rathi and Archana PN collectively spoke to the nature of omnichannel challenges in customer service, urging businesses to innovate to meet rapidly changing customer expectations.

Conclusion

As the TechBlaze Round Table led to in depth discussions on omnichannel strategies, it became evident that businesses are navigating a shift with a focus on customer-centricity.

From the dynamic world of healthcare to the intricacies of B2B engagements, the common thread was the indispensable role of omnichannel strategies in fostering trust, ensuring seamless experiences, and adapting to diverse customer needs. WhatsApp, in particular, emerged as a versatile tool, transcending its role as a mere messaging app to become a catalyst for efficiency, contextuality, and personalised communication.

The challenges discussed, ranging from switching between channels to retaining customers in the chat interface, revealed the need for businesses to stay agile and responsive.

The future, as shared by the industry experts, may witness the integration of innovative features like video chat to enhance customer trust, especially in high-value transactions. As businesses embark on this omnichannel journey, the ability to adapt, innovate, and leverage platforms like WhatsApp will be instrumental in securing a competitive advantage in the digital age.