Cloud-based platforms make it easy for employees in every department to make the most of messaging. This is changing the working life of millions of people. As part of a serialisation of articles and interviews from MEF’s Future of Messaging Guide 2020 MEF spoke to Syniverse‘s Mathias Muehlfelder about the trend.
Imagine, ten years ago, you wanted to text your bank officer. You would need to get his or her personal mobile number. Good luck with that. But today, texting an individual at a bank is possible. The way messaging is ‘done’ has changed. Clever tech makes it easy to bank officers (and many other types of employee) to have text conversations with customers from a web dashboard. This functionality is changing the nature of work for millions of people.
The new era really began when the provision of messaging went to the cloud. Historically, enterprise-based messaging was a wholesale business. Here, if a company decided it wanted to send a million texts to its customers, it hired a specialist intermediary to make it happen.
Later, these same intermediaries changed their model to ‘communications platform as a service’ (CPaaS). In other words, they put messaging in the cloud. They supplied APIs to their customers. This meant that companies could run their own campaigns. They could decide how many messages to send, when to send them, whom to target, what to say – and do it all from a simple web dashboard. To make things even easier, some providers made it possible to avoid the dashboard, and manage their messaging projects from inside other SaaS platforms such as Salesforce or Zendesk.
These changes made business messaging a realistic option for all departments inside a company. What was once the preserve of the marketing department (sending one-way texts with special offers etc), became a powerful tool for customer service, on-boarding, authentication and more. Today, that process continues. ‘Digital native’ companies were first to embrace it. But now more traditional firms are catching on. And it means millions of employees can deploy messaging to speed up processes that used to take days. CPaaS providers are seeing these changes up close. We asked Mathias Muehlfelder, senior director of product management at Syniverse, to share the scenarios he has witnessed.
Business messaging is now a powerful tool for customer service, on- boarding, authentication and more. Employees can deploy it to speed up processes that used to take days.“
Contact centre agents
The biggest impact, arguably, has been at the contact centre. Everyone is familiar with the frustration of IVR voice calling –waiting for an agent to pick up; being placed on hold. It makes perfect sense to offer messaging as an alternative. In many non-urgent scenarios customers prefer asynchronous text to voice.
Moreover, people like to self-care. Deflecting to messaging would not have been feasible in the wholesale era. With CPaaS, it’s simple. Of course, this changes the nature of a contact centre agent’s job. No longer are they only answering voice calls. Now, they can respond to multiple customers simultaneously via text. If this sounds like overload, they have the option to hand over many customer conversations to chatbots.
These virtual agents will answer simple queries, freeing up more time for human operators to focus on complex interactions. As a result, call waiting and handling times tumble. According to Muehlfelder, “cost savings can be up to 85 per cent in the very best cases. I think that’s stunning.”
While bots are critical to the future of the contact centre, machine learning has its limits. To do their best ‘work’ bots need to be trained. This is another new job for the agents. Muehlfelder says: “The best person to train a chat bot is an agent. Someone has to build the trees and the logic. So I think the agents’ job will evolve over time.”
Banks are always looking for ways to make their staff more available to customers. Especially in an era of branch closures and digital alternatives. Direct messaging is one option. However, it’s clearly not a good idea for bank officers to hand their personal details out to customers.
According to Muehlfelder, Syniverse has been working with one multi-national bank to text-enable land line numbers, so that employees can safely give customers the chance to have text conversations if they wish. The staff can conduct these sessions from a web dashboard.
While marketing departments were among the first to seize on the potential of text campaigns, they are still discovering new ways to use the channel. One Muehlfelder has seen is to improve the redemption of offer codes. “We have been working with a big grocery chain,” he says. “It has dozens of sub-brands and it prints special offer codes on packaging and in print. Traditionally, it would ask customers to go to a web site and type in these codes to redeem them. Now, it is starting to offer the option to text in. This is dramatically improving the number of responses. And it’s also opting-in thousands of new customers.”
Logistics and delivery staff
Missed deliveries are a headache for logistics firms and their customers. The companies have to re-route the package, while the customer has to make arrangements to collect it from elsewhere. One of the primary reasons for a missed delivery is the way senders and recipients communicate. It’s usually email, if at all. Simply, people don’t read them fast enough. Muehlfelder says: “People get too many emails. Only a tiny proportion actually responds, book a time, or makes any other arrangement.”
SMS confirmations solve the problem. People look at texts almost immediately. Still, relatively few logistics firms use the channel. Muehlfelder says: “Most don’t do mobile at all. Obviously, there’s a cost element. Emails cost virtually nothing, after all. “But we now work with a number of logistics companies who see how they can get more engagement and therefore fewer returned packages when they use text. This is especially the case when we help them build a messaging function into their existing business software.”
Hiring workers on short term contracts can be bureaucratically complex. In a sector such as hospitality, HR officers might need to work with hundreds of cleaners, waiting staff and so on. Calling is time-consuming. Email is inexact. This is why Syniverse is helping one hotel chain to orchestrate these many conversations using text from a central dashboard. “It’s the simplest way to do it,” says Muehlfelder. “It’s convenient and straightforward for the contract workers. And it’s very easy to manage for the HR teams.”
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.