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Business-Customer Communications in a Post-pandemic World

Sunny Rao, Senior Vice President, Global Sales, Vonage talks about the role of AI and machine learning in unifying communications for an Omnichannel Experience

2020 saw tectonic changes happen across the globe as COVID-19 disrupted our work and personal lives. Movement restrictions and social distancing forced us to use more online channels to get by in our daily lives. Since then, terms like remote working, distance learning and telehealth have become commonplace.

The pandemic has also evolved the way customers communicate with businesses. Instead of going somewhere in person, customers now use an array of channels – SMS, calls, video, email, social.

And despite those disparate channels, customers expect a seamless, uninterrupted flow of communication that delivers an instant and effective response. With this shift in customer behaviour, businesses need to stay up-to-date with customer expectations and have the right strategies in place.

Below are key trends shaping the future of business-customer communications.

Customers Interacting with Businesses on New Communication Channels

To highlight how quickly businesses need to adapt to changing customer preferences, Vonage released a Global Customer Engagement Report. We asked 5,000 global consumers about their communication preference twice in 2020 – January and August. We found that two-thirds of consumers worldwide used video more frequently in August than they did in January.

This behavioural change has driven businesses across industries to engage with customers through channels they did not use before. For instance, educators embraced distance learning, and healthcare professionals quickly turned to telehealth services, both via video solutions.

While some businesses may have introduced new engagement channels, to adapt and successfully implement a new, effective channel of communication is not an easy task. We try to make this process simple through our programmable application programming interface (API) solutions which can be easily embedded into businesses’ existing products, workflows and systems.

We partnered with several telehealth providers to offer secure, high-quality virtual care services with our Video API. Korea-based Insung Information, a leading healthcare solutions firm, embedded our solution within its telehealth devices to enable teleconsultations between doctors and patients.

On the education front, we supported English language education company Wall Street English (WSE)’s digital move with the Vonage Video API. The API embedded within WSE’s platform enables students and teachers to have live, engaging and interactive video classes, creating an environment similar to an in-person classroom experience.

Unifying Communications for an Omnichannel Experience

Even though the use of video has increased, many consumers are also choosing to interact through the plethora of other channels available to them. Thirty-one percent of APAC customers preferred to communicate with brands via mobile phone calls, but the remaining 69 percent looked to other methods including text messages, social, email and chat.

Simply put, customers no longer have a particular channel preference – they have preferences, which can often change depending on why and when they are reaching out.

Diversifying communication channels is important, but so is connecting those channels to one another. Every channel should update new customer interactions made on others, managing the variables of every customer interaction while maintaining the context of the conversation across all channels.

Telkom Indonesia provides a great example of an effective omnichannel customer communication approach. Using the Vonage Messages API, the telco provider notifies millions of customers on billing updates and reminders through WhatsApp – Indonesians’ top mobile app[1]. Those the company fails to reach on WhatsApp are notified through SMS. The API also enables Telkom Indonesia’s chatbot to respond to customers with commonly requested information including billing queries, product details and corporate information. The API is embedded within the telco’s system and helps overcome undelivered notifications[2].

AI and Machine Learning’s Growing Role in Enhancing Processes

There is no doubt that AI and machine learning’s role in enhancing business processes has surged over the last few years and now, is considered a vital part of customers’ contact with businesses

The contact center space has proven to benefit greatly from AI. For instance, the Vonage AI Virtual Assistant can effectively manage low level queries, ensuring that customers have an effortless experience in resolving their issues while also increasing productivity within the business, as more calls are quickly answered.

AI-enabled voice assistants can respond to customer queries, deliver instructions and connect customers to sales personnel to address more complex tasks. The result is a better experience for the customer and greater operational efficiency for the business, with human agents able to spend a greater amount of their time handling more complex tasks and customer inquiries.

AI can also provide essential analytics and insights that businesses need to be able to improve customer experiences and generate sales.

UK-based Inside Marketing, a leading provider of lead generation for B2B technology companies, is deploying Vonage’s speech analytics solution, Conversation Analyzer, as part of its expansion strategy to Northern England and Europe.

The tool can analyse voice, SMS, and any other form of digital communication, providing insights for agents and decision-makers within an organisation. This can offer agents some insight into the most opportune moment to upsell customers and more.

A Winning Strategy

COVID-19 caused a seismic shift in customer-business communications. These customer engagement changes point towards customer preference for flexibility and variety, and even new options when it comes to communication channels.

Businesses can deliver a winning customer experience in a post-pandemic world by making an effort to learn how the customers they serve prefer to be reached and employ innovative communication technologies.

The integration of unified omnichannel communications, while adding layers of AI, machine learning and programmable APIs – voice, video, messaging and verification – will be key differentiators for businesses to succeed in offering a personalized and frictionless customer experience in 2021 and beyond.

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