By Donna Peeples, Chief Customer Officer, Pypestream
As products and services become commoditized, companies must differentiate based on the quality of their customer experience. Enterprises today need to do more with less – with a greater focus on process improvement and intelligent automation.
From the Internet of Things, big data, AI and machine learning to conversational commerce and chatbots, there are ample opportunities for enterprises to tap into intelligent automation and reinvent their approach while improving the customer experience – and reducing expenses.
So, what will be the major enterprise communication trends in 2017? Here are four trends that deserve your attention:
1. Big data gets to work
Every customer interaction today produces data – from online purchase data and browsing behavior to social media interactions, mobile messaging and geolocation data. In fact, enterprises today have more data than they know what to do with! We’ve reached the point where it’s time to put the massive amounts of data to work.
Big data reveals powerful trends and patterns that shape your strategies and drive results. The key is leveraging the data intelligently. Predictive analytics allow brands to not only acquire, upsell and cross-sell customers at key moments, but optimize marketing for increased performance. Now it’s easy to target content and measure its performance to ensure it’s getting to the right audience, at the right time.
There are wider benefits beyond personalization, too. Analyzing and applying big data improves processes, product development, service design and delivery strategies – which increases profitability for your company.
2. Customer service goes on autopilot
Intelligent automation is one of the biggest opportunities for enterprise innovation in 2017. And customer service, with its barrage of repetitive interactions, is the perfect starting point. Intelligent automation offers the promise of improving customer satisfaction while also driving profitability and reducing costs. But with a sea of choices, it’s difficult to know what approach to take. And not all approaches are created equal!
For example, too many companies settle for complicated call center voice automation systems. But the antiquated technology results in long hold times and poor customer experiences. It’s also costly: major enterprises lose more than $40 billion in profits due to poor customer service. Just look at the high rates of negative customer service experiences that exist in the industry to see how significant this problem is.
So what technology does exist for us to automate customer service? 2016 spawned the rise of chatbots into the mainstream and they’ve since been lauded as the customer service technology of the future, particularly as many consumers prefer mobile messaging for customer service. Today, there are over 34,000 business bots on Facebook Messenger serving a variety of purposes. However, most experiences with bots haven’t been good ones. The key to successful intelligent automation is focusing on the intelligent part.
At Pypestream, we’ve created a smart messaging solution for customer engagement that leverages the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). The challenge of AI is applying it in real-world contexts. There’s an abundance of technology firms developing AI programs, but few are bringing it to market in a pragmatic way. When we deploy bots for businesses, we monitor customer conversations and identify repeatable interactions. These are the conversations that chatbots can handle with ease. From there, we grow and expand the chatbot’s capability by pinpointing where it fails or instances where the customer needs more information. This forms the core of our intelligent approach to AI. It’s a performance-based model that’s fine-tuned to ensure business results.
3. Commerce enters the world of mobile messaging
While social media channels still provide fantastic opportunities to connect and transact with customers, the main point of sale for commerce is shifting to chat and messaging apps. In Asia, WeChat is the place to do everything – book transport, order food, buy clothes, pay bills, talk to friends – it all happens within the WeChat messaging platform. This chat-based model for commerce is coming to the West, too.
But why is it taking so long for the B2C messaging phenomenon to catch on with consumers here? There are approximately one billion consumer conversations with businesses on Facebook Messenger every month – it should be the norm by now. The reality is most consumers today don't want to use the same social chat app they use with friends for conversations with businesses. And enterprise businesses can’t risk the security ramifications of using peer-to-peer messaging services such as Facebook Messenger to connect with customers.
At Pypestream, we believe there's a huge market opportunity for secure business-to-consumer messaging and commerce in 2017. With the right security measures in place, businesses and consumers will engage in meaningful conversations that drive value for both sides.
4. Industries place their crosshairs on security and compliance
Mobile messaging will continue its meteoric rise in popularity in 2017 and every industry will be affected. This brings new challenges to businesses in regulated industries that must uphold strict compliance standards. There’s too much at stake – customer data, privacy issues, fraud – for either consumers or businesses to ignore it.
Companies in the healthcare, financial and insurance industries face numerous state, federal and international regulatory obligations for new technology. While they may wish to engage with customers through new and emerging channels, like messaging, failure to meet compliance regulations is costly. That’s why we’ll see a crackdown on platforms that fail to meet basic privacy and security guidelines.
For messaging to mature beyond a channel where friends exchange text, GIFs and emoji, to a channel for business, requires a reworking of current platforms. For example, customer data needs to remain confidential and can’t be sold on to 3rd parties for profit, and communication needs to be encrypted. In addition, businesses need to ensure the platform they use has the functionality required to provide real value – not just show them the latest weather forecast.
Putting it all together for a successful 2017
Customer experiences are everything in today’s competitive business landscape. The trends listed above will loom larger than ever in 2017 as consumers control more of the conversation. Customers seek fast and effective interactions with the companies they do business with. Businesses need to deliver this efficiency without sacrificing the customer experience. So it’s on businesses to adopt a customer-centric communication strategy. Those that do will be rewarded with increased loyalty and satisfaction, higher NPS scores, greater efficiency and better ROI.
About the Author
As CCO of Pypestream, Donna works with brands to strengthen relationships with customers through the company's secure mobile messaging platform. A pioneering and strategic executive, Donna has a dynamic record of driving sustainable growth and stellar business results. Prior to joining Pypestream, Donna was CCO for AIG. She is also a member of several boards including the Customer Experience Professionals Association and the Rutgers CX program, where she teaches along with other experts in the field. Reach Donna on twitter @donnanpeeples.