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How should companies be preparing for the next stage of business messaging? Taken from the new MEF Future of Messaging Guide 2020, we spoke to Jeff Bak, VP of Cloud Messaging Product Management at Syniverse, about what the future holds for business messaging and its users.

Cloud-based CPaaS has had a big impact on the way companies run their customer communications. How are different enterprises adapting to it?

The first stage of CPaaS was very developer-centric. It targeted tech companies that were looking to disrupt traditional markets.

These companies are coders at heart. They are at home diving into a library of APIs. So other CPaaS providers spent time and money building developer ecosystems. They became front of mind for coders. And they did a great job. We play in that space too. We have a Syniverse developer community, which is very well thought of by our customers.

But now more traditional bricks and mortar enterprises are looking at cloud-based comms. They are what we call the digital adopters. They are not coders at heart, and many are struggling with their digital transformation. They know that great customer experience powered by mobile is now a strategic necessity. They can’t push this important CX stuff off to third party contact centres any more. They need to own it, and to make it a differentiator. This is the next phase of CPaaS.

How are these companies embracing the new way of communicating via the cloud?

Their needs are currently being served in three main ways. Some are accessing cloud comms through the big SaaS
products. Salesforce, Marketo and others are all building messaging options directly into their platforms. So, for example, there’s now a campaign management module in Salesforce that has an option to ‘send messages’. Obviously, there’s a lot of heavy lifting that’s goes on behind that. But Salesforce users don’t need to know about that. They just see a button. We want to be the  company that does the heavy lifting behind that button.

And not just for sending SMS messages. In time, we will offer conversation over RCS and OTT channels.

There’s a second group of companies that also want to send messages from inside their SaaS CRM or ERM systems, but find that the functionality they need isn’t there. So they work with us and other partners to build what they need using custom plug-ins.

For example, we’re helping a logistics company create a twoway chat option inside Salesforce so it can stay in touch with delivery drivers and log customer signatures more efficiently. The final group of companies already has its own suite of  business applications. They have built them internally over many years, and now they want to update them with new functionality such as messaging. Again, that’s something we’re helping them to do.

How can CPaaS help these companies achieve great customer experience?

Well, it’s not enough just to give them the APIs. We have to help them piece together the functionality made possible by the APIs, so they can have conversations with customers on their preferred channels. For example, a customer should be able to start a chat on the web, and then pick up that conversation on WhatsApp or SMS at any time.

In this sense, all channels need to be thought of as part of the same conversation. If they are discrete, you can make costly
mistakes. Imagine a customer is on Facebook Messenger talking about a bad experience, and later you send him or her a text or email with an unrelated special offer. That just looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

Fortunately, new CPaaS systems can help to integrate the different channels. And, to echo what I said earlier, enterprises are looking for “co-creation” partners like Syniverse who can help manage all that complexity for them in partnership with the SaaS ecosystem.

  When we get payment inside RCS, we’ll see new era of message-based  mobile commerce mediated  by bots. Customers will fire up their brand’s virtual agent and then answer a few questions to get to the item they want.

Jeff Bak. VP Cloud Messaging Product Management, Syniverse

If we accept that one-way messaging is evolving into twoway conversation, what role will bots play in this?

They will be right at the centre. RCS will play a big role. I’m an RCS believer. I think the market will ‘pop’ at some point. And when it does, every conversation between a person and brand in RCS – in fact in any OTT chat app – will start with a bot. They will play an important role in RCS. In fact, you will not be able to do RCS messaging without a bot. When we get payment inside RCS, we’ll see a new era of message-based mobile commerce mediated by bots.

Customers will fire up their brand’s virtual agent and then answer a few questions to get to the item they want. I believe RCS bot commerce will eventually displace appbased commerce. Consumers are getting app fatigue. With RCS, it’s all there in your messaging app. They’ll be able to view images and videos, and retailers won’t have to worry about identity and payment if these attributes are linked to the phone number.

The carriers are working on identity services to make this feasible. I hope they can get it right. I think companies like Syniverse will play a critical role here by vetting bots. When they are rolling out their virtual agents, brands will need to consider technical, regulatory and even ethical concerns – especially in overseas regions.

Every telco will have different requirements. Enterprises will need partners that work with telcos all over the world, and can make that process painless and quick. We can help with that.

Thinking further ahead, what factors will shape the future of business messaging?

In the consumer space, there will be messaging on new devices. Smart speakers, for example. I think we’ll see more messaging not just being consumed on these devices, but originating from them as well. A2P and omni-channel messaging will be more widely dispersed and closer to the end user. Then there’s the industrial IoT. For now, the biggest IoT market is probably in remote sensors. A lot of companies currently use SMS to wake up remote devices and instruct them to send data. In time, CPaaS and IoT will converge.

Enterprises will continue to use messaging to wake up and maintain IoT devices. But increasingly, they will take the information gleaned from their IoT applications and use it to enhance conversations with human customers.

There’s a big opportunity in the connected car and fleet management space, for example. So, to go back to my earlier example of the logistics company. They already connect their vehicles to a degree. At some point they might take their vehicle data and use it to enhance the two way chat with drivers, and make journeys even more efficient.

MEF’s Future of Messaging Guide 2020 – Download now

MEF’s Future of Messaging Guide 2020 published in association with Syniverse explores the growth of business messaging via a series of interviews and case studies to showcase how messaging continues to evolve and enable better customer engagement.

The 40-page guide is a comprehensive look at the trends, technologies, business personas and use cases driving the future of business messaging in a series of interviews and use cases across different sectors and regions.