Four steps for SMEs to elevate their CX with conversational channels
The recent speed of digital transformation has disrupted how businesses think about customer experience (CX). Consumers demand seamless communication across multiple touchpoints that fit effortlessly into their daily lives. Therefore, the only way to create loyal ambassadors is to be more relevant and responsive to their needs. To bridge the gap between expectations and experiences, businesses must deliver smarter CX that differentiates their offering and builds sustainable growth. One of the most effective ways of elevating engagement is by introducing conversational channels and leveraging the benefits of innovative AI technologies.
Before we delve into the opportunities, let’s take a step back and define what we mean by conversational channels. These are the channels through which stakeholders and organisations interact via messaging or voice. Some of the most common conversational channels include WhatsApp, Messenger, Web chat, and Amazon Alexa. In the retail realm, this encompasses conversational commerce, where customers can make purchases on the same channels.
Rapidly changing environments
It has become increasingly challenging to navigate the dynamic CX landscape and understand which trends, tools, technologies, and channels deliver the best results. Traditionally, communications flowed one way from the business to the consumer. Today, two-way and multichannel dialogue is taking centre stage with a strong emphasis on conversational engagement. Modern consumers have switched off from an overload of inbound marketing communications, not hesitating to ignore a notification. On the other hand, they have zero tolerance for digital inconvenience or delay, expecting an immediate response the moment they reach out. The bar has been set at instant connection and gratification, which is where conversational AI technology, in particular, will be beneficial as it evolves.
Conversational AI uses natural language processing to enhance traditional conversational tools, such as chatbots and voice assistants, so they can deliver on-demand information in a more natural, human way – as if they were talking back to the customer. As well as being more efficient, accessible, and engaging for users, these automated applications are a great asset for customer service teams helping speed up query and complaints processes and allowing employees to focus on more complex issues.
Introducing conversational channels
There is a lot at stake for SMEs when developing a conversational strategy. Implementing any new technology takes time and money, but with the right approach, adopting conversational channels will accelerate growth and reduce costs in the long term. To get started, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Step 1: Planning and research
The goal is to communicate more effectively with your customers on their terms, which means truly understanding their needs. Solving their problems should be the priority. Never assume the challenges they’re facing, do your research to build a clear picture of their different pain points. We would recommend segmenting customers into groups (e.g. generational, i.e. millennials vs Gen Z), and tailoring your approach accordingly. You can also categorise channels to match the range of needs e.g. answering product enquiries, addressing concerns/complaints, announcing new launches, offering loyalty programmes, etc.
Step 2: Determine the correct channels to use
Everyone has their preferred channels for being contacted at different stages. Depending what level of data you have access to, use as many insights as possible to develop a roadmap of their journey and create a logical communications workflow. And, remember that not all customers’ needs can be addressed at the same time on the same channel. An empowering CX ecosystem means being mindful of using the right tools for the right purposes. For example, sending a customer an email when their parcel is being shipped and a phone call when the delivery is outside is more suitable than the other way around.
Step 3: Automate where appropriate
Most customer issues can be resolved quickly and easily by harnessing automation. With chatbots, the entire question and answer process can be done in real-time - responding to a customer the moment they interact with the website chat. Instead of using pop-ups or lead generation forms, an AI-powered (or scripted) chatbot can start a friendly conversation that reflects your brand’s tone of voice and your audience’s behaviour.
Automated alerts are another important tool with a range of roles depending on your industry. Banks use automated alerts to keep customers informed about account activity, healthcare providers issue patient information and reminders, while e-commerce brands can ask for feedback when orders are complete. There will still be times when the situation requires the input of a customer service agent, and you need to know when to get them involved.
Step 4: Engage at every step
The experience you offer is intrinsically linked to your memorability as a brand and the extent to which a customer is willing to engage. A simple way of driving ROI is by ensuring as little friction as possible is caused. Multiple communication channels present plenty of ways to create stand-out, however, all of these elements need to work together otherwise, there will be obstacles. Utilising a customer engagement platform (CDP) will allow you to create a comprehensive framework that unifies the different channels and connects the dots, as well as centralising your data to give a 360 degree view of your customers.
There is no single, simple way of communicating with customers in an omnichannel world. SMEs that want to elevate their CX will need to be present on their consumers’ chosen channels and ready to adapt according to their needs. The customer should always be kept at the heart of your strategy to create the most fulfilling experiences.
About the author
Saaed Alajou, General Manager (UAE) at Unifonic, is a Senior level business professional who has built a broad and unique set of cross vertical industry and sales competencies with leading Technology Vendors. Having joined Unifonic in November 2021, he brings 15 years of experience working for major companies and holds a Law Degree University of Newcastle Upon Tyne & LPC from BPP Law School London.