Thursday, March 23, 2023

Harmonising communications: breaking silos and navigating the communication landscape

As customer experiences grow ever more digitised, businesses are scrambling to transform their communication and engagement services. This has resulted in a proliferation of multi-channel communication tools working in silos. That’s a problem for enterprises – so what can they do?

Why harmonised communication is needed 

During an economic downturn especially, businesses must perfect their customer communications. According to American Express, acquiring a new customer is six or seven times more expensive than maintaining an existing one. At the same time, companies are now expected to communicate with customers through far more diverse channels these days, managing this multi-pronged engagement alongside digital transformation, cloud migration, and business-wide optimisation.

While these tools are meant to augment customer engagement, streamline operations, and seamlessly connect employees, customers, and partners globally, 54% of organisations say their customer experience operations are managed in silos. The result is poorer customer experience, higher investment costs, and scaling difficulties.

Communication silos lock certain tools and services to specific channels when in reality, all tools and communications services need to be available, with the right product or service tailored to the individual customer’s needs and pain points. For example, suppose a banking customer is looking for a funeral loan. A chatbot as an entry point is not helpful for every loan query, as a human touch is needed in this case, if human customer service is introduced only at a later stage, the correct customer experience can’t be delivered.

The democratisation of telecoms services 

Thankfully, while IT operations and expectations for communication services have become more complex, new solutions and services have entered the market to simplify this. For example, offering service via voice or telephone – the preferred comms channel by many customers to reach businesses, once required an enterprise to run and manage fixed telephony. Instead, most businesses have now adopted cloud-based software services like Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) services and/or Contact-Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS), along with cloud telephony, or “cloud calling”. Enabling “cloud telephony”- Voice over internet (VoIP) is more flexible and cost-effective, removing the need for fixed telephone services like PSTN or PBX.

But this does not remove silos, it simply means the telecoms tools to support businesses are evolving – becoming more accessible and easier to deploy. The latest evolution is the addition of social channels we use to communicate with friends and family – Whatsapp, Viber and others. Now businesses can offer harmonised communications via software platforms like CPaaS which gives developers a range of customisable APIs to integrate services based on use-case or needs – essentially giving them a made-to-order approach to their communication solutions.

Don’t sleep on quality of service 

It’s becoming easier than ever for enterprises to offer harmonised communications, in theory. The issue is the communications as a service market (in all its forms) is relatively new, and is expanding rapidly. That means there are a lot of players out there. The market has not settled and enterprises have a lot of choices. So, what should a business look for? Naturally, this will depend on the specific needs of the business and what services they are looking to offer. As such, it can be tempting to choose solely based on features (and pricing), but be wary of this.

While most platforms will offer the core services you need – the quality of those services is something to look out for. It’s easy for a provider to add a feature to a platform, but if the network those services are built on is not up the scratch, then this is harder to fix. When selecting a solution to support communications, enterprises need to take a look under the bonnet. Some vendors only focus on the software side of the platform and offer the actual communication capabilities through third-party partners. Of course, most service level agreements will promise Quality of Service, but this doesn’t guarantee success.

The “comms backbone” for any communications software service is important – the network that underpins the services will make all the difference for a business’s engagement with its customers. Businesses should validate a checklist encompassing not only the software solution but also the communications delivery channels.If international reach is a must, are there local Points of Presence (PoP)?Without this, latency can be high, making real-time services lag and become a poor experience.

Enterprises and their customer experiences are still evolving to fit this increasingly digitised world. The tools and services to help meet this need are forever changing and adapting. The telecoms sector is transforming itself to become more accessible to businesses, democratising itself through cloud services and software offerings such as UCaaS, CCaaS and CPaaS. While it can seem like a crowded market of solutions for enterprises, focusing on the quality of services alongside scalability and ease of use will make all the difference – to the businesses and their customers.