Right now, businesses around the world are worried about maintaining operations. Decision makers are looking for ways to personalize and modernize how they communicate with their customers as customer needs and preferences evolve.
Recently, we’ve seen a spike in the global demand for delivery and drive-up services due to the number of consumers staying home. To facilitate smooth interactions, customers (and workers) are relying on communication tools to determine available delivery and pick-up timeframes and to keep in touch about the purchased items until they are in the customer’s hands. Robust communications platforms are a necessary foundation to help businesses meet customer preferences for flexible interactions.
Not all customers favor the same communications channels. Some customers prefer calling, while others prefer email, texting, video or live chatting. It’s important for businesses to understand their customers’ preferences, the channels they utilize and why they use them. Further, it’s important to connect each channel together, so customers can seamlessly transition from one means of communication to the next. For example, calling and messaging options should both be available in a company’s mobile app. That way, if a customer receives a text from the business with a call to action, they can easily reply to the text or call a number provided to answer the question. This type of connection is the essence of omnichannel-at-the-edge customer communication strategies.
Businesses can move communication strategies to “the edge” through adoption of cloud-based calling and messaging tools that enable flexible and customized interactions with a brand. For background, omnichannel-at-the-edge means giving end users the ability to communicate with company employees through every phase of the customer experience, via their preferred channel. This includes creating ways for potential customers to directly call or text a business when searching the web, reading a promotional email, or viewing the business in a third-party app (i.e. Google Maps or Grubhub).
Omnichannel approaches appeal to customers by increasing and enhancing their points of contact with a brand. Integrating agile telephony services within omnichannel customer communications personalize, simplify and connect the points of direct engagement to create a single seamless, consistent conversation. Consider people waiting for a service. As they wait for approval to enter the doctor’s office for appointments or as they wait for a delivery to arrive, agile communications help facilitate this connection and provide real-time updates.
To deliver on customers’ changing communication preferences and achieve omnichannel-at-the-edge communications, businesses can take advantage of telecom APIs. Known as “middleware,” telecom APIs enable streamlined creation of applications that can integrate within existing features of a system, tool, or service. Telecom APIs unify calling and messaging on a single phone number and enable the creation of contextual communication experiences. They also deliver the agility and enhancement of telephony services that facilitate personalized customer communications.
Not only do APIs enable applications that let users send and receive messages, they also provide a messaging detail record (MDR), which includes the body of the actual message. Messaging detail records help businesses keep track of past customer communications. This is especially useful for in-house and remote contact centers that are servicing hundreds of different customers at any given hour, but are expected to provide a tailored, personalized experience. One way this would benefit a customer is if they’ve been messaging with a chatbot and decide to call the contact center and get connected with a customer support representative. It’s advantageous for that representative to have access to a history of the conversation with the chatbot, to streamline customer service.
MDRs also let businesses review detailed SMS and MMS statistics and records usage in real-time. Businesses can receive detailed information including message direction, message status, billing info, timestamps and the content of the message. They can then leverage this information to inform future communications strategies and improve customer service.
A common use case people think of when they think of telecom APIs is delivery or ride-share services; however, the healthcare industry is also a huge adopter of messaging APIs and will continue to integrate services that improve efficiency. Within the past five years, we’ve seen appointment reminders for doctors and other healthcare providers, and prescription refills move to SMS settings. Doctor appointment reminders can be configured to send a reminder to a customer’s phone ahead of the appointment. Reminders can also be tailored to the optimal communication cadence that is most effective at getting people to the appointment on time without a human having to take action. Reminders are also useful for hair appointments, real estate meetings, insurance policy renewals, car maintenance, or any number of appointments or meetings. These sorts of reminders are a win-win for organizations because they deliver individualized interactions and offer constant connection in a way that is valued by the customer.
In addition to telecom APIs, cloud-based communication tools such as local, toll-free or vanity phone numbers also enable businesses to strengthen their omnichannel customer communication strategies. These services provide local access to customers and help them avoid international fees, which offers them easier access to organizations. Customers can more easily communicate with businesses throughout every step of the customer journey. These on-demand and enhanced telephony capabilities are the DNA of omnichannel-at-the-edge strategies.
As businesses look to maintain operations by enhancing the connection with their customers, telecom APIs can help keep business running as usual and bring high quality and personalized support to customers, wherever they go. Omnichannel-at-the-edge communication strategies powered by cloud-based telecom services provide an elastic service that small and medium sized businesses can leverage to improve ROI on their tech investments.
Al Castle Al Castle is the vice president of product and engineering at Flowroute, now part of Intrado. He brings more than 15 years of operational experience in software engineering and B2B SaaS platform management.