Everyone likes the idea of conversational commerce. But it only truly works when a customer can talk to a brand across any channel – voice, text, OTT, push. So says James Lasbrey, director of carrier relations at Nexmo. He conversed with MEF in an exclusive video interview…

In 2015, a photo went viral and started to appear in powerpoint presentations all over the world.

It showed apartment building door men struggling to cope with the number of online deliveries arriving for residents. In a sense the door men’s jobs had changed. Their concierge duties were long gone. They had become Amazon depot managers.

The picture revealed how the ‘delivery receipt’ has become such a familiar facet of daily life.

Interestingly, the same relentless demand for these proofs of delivery is now playing out on mobile too.

As more and more brands use messaging to ‘talk’ to customers, they expect evidence that their messages have arrived. The messaging delivery receipt – also called a CDR – is now a thing.

But does this go far enough?

Not according to James Lasbrey, director of carrier relations at Nexmo. He argues that it’s not enough to know a message has arrived. Instead, there has to be a record of its efficacy. “The reality is that what a brand actually wants is not just a receipt, but some evidence that the project is successful,” he says.

“So, a bank delivering an authentication message wants to know a customer has authenticated. Or a retail brand sending a marketing message wants to see a customer respond with a voucher code.”

  More and more, customers are expecting to have the same type of fluid conversations with brands. They expect brands to know their profile and history regardless of the channel on which that history was made

This is why Nexmo offers a conversion API, which provides such data and thus gives developers real insight into the performance of their projects. And an added plus is that Nexmo can anonymise and aggregate the results of these individual responses for the benefit of all its customers.

“If we can start to understand which routes work best with individual users, we can then use that insight to make sure all of our customers use the most effective routes,” says Lasbrey.

Of course, this API-driven benefit is possible because of the way Nexmo turns communications into software. Its one of a growing number of ‘communications platform as a service’ companies that lets developers use APIs to embed text, voice and OTT chat services directly into their own apps and sites.

Naturally, this makes it easy for brands and their development teams to talk to customers on any number of channels – not merely SMS or voice. Nexmo says that providing this diversity of options – and having a system that can seamlessly switch between them – is the key to truly conversational commerce.

On a recent blog post, it described the value of this idea.

“You may call a friend you’ve known for years about something specific such as confirming the date for your next outing. But you will inevitably talk about related topics. The point is that the memories from conversations you’ve had in the past remain in a shared history that you and your friend can invoke to enhance a current or future conversation.

“More and more, customers are expecting to have the same type of fluid conversations with brands. They expect brands to know their profile and history regardless of the channel on which that history was made.”

The challenge, of course, is for brands to ensure that these disparate channels all connect.

Lasbrey says: “It’s all about workflows. A customer could connect via SMS or WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, and then we set up the workflow in such a way that if the customer hasn’t responded after 30 seconds, it goes to another channel.

“So the market is going from one SMS-based programmable communication to multiple – voice SMS, OTT – and bringing them into one conversational flow. It means a customer and brand can resolve issues in two or three minutes on a handset and not necessarily need a voice call.”

Will RCS be part of this mix? As Nexmo’s carrier relations specialist (and a former Telefonica employee) Lasbrey is well-placed to consider the question. He’s cautious.

“One of the biggest challenges for RCS is that it requires almost all operator to sign up.
I think the current reality should be integrating OTT messaging with SMS and with voice. After all, that’s how customers already communicate with each other. Integrating them all into one enterprise journey… it’s not rocket science.”

This Executive Insights Video Series, in association with Kontxt from RealNetworks, takes an in depth look at the next generation of messaging.

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