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Changing tides – the six new rules of customer engagement

According Richard Watson, the customer of today not only expects, but demands flexibility and personalisation; and wants speaking with brands to be as easy as it is with friends and family.

Thanks to giants of the gig economy (such as Uber, Airbnb and, more locally, Airtasker), a growing industry with roughly 2.5 million Australians are now employed on a casual, gig basis. Customers today have different expectations about the way businesses communicate with them – they’ve become accustomed to contextualised and seamless communications. Today, whether they’re ordering a service, calling to make a complaint or looking for an update on the status of an order, they won’t settle for less. The rules of engagement have changed.

Enterprises are beginning to take note and, as such, traditional methods of communications no longer serve the needs of all their customers. Instead, cloud-based contact centres enable businesses today to not only provide more personalised communications but also future-proof for the emergence of new channels, technologies and user preferences.

Yet, there is still work to be done if businesses are to keep pace with their customers’ needs. In fact, research conducted by Twilio has revealed this as a major communications divide – nearly seven out of 10 businesses think they’re communicating with their customers effectively, while only two out of 10 customers agree.

Based on our experience with customers and developers, Twilio believes there will be six marked changes in the way businesses engage with their customers as they look to bridge this gap.

AI boosting customer service strategy

Customer service agents often get a bad reputation for simply reading a script or transferring customers from person to person without a resolution. This is largely due to the outdated tools they are using to find information and present it to the customer.

We’re a few months into 2019 and, as machine learning is being applied and AI is becoming integrated into contact centre technology systems, customer service agents are more able than ever to focus on having more intelligent, authentic conversations with customers – rather than performing rote actions. Instead of being replaced by presumed artificially intelligent technology, human agents will be critical members of the broader team bringing interactions to life. Agents will participate by training new machine learning based applications built to complement them, leading to better experiences for consumers.

A strong example of this is in the UK where Marks & Spencer selected Twilio to power its customer communications. The intelligent system routes voice calls with more than 90% accuracy to the correct department, store or contact centre agent and allows M&S to resolve inquiries more effectively.

2019: year of the application platform

Application platforms are ushering in an entirely new way for developers to consume and customise enterprise software. Application platforms deploy like a SaaS (software as a service) applications, integrate like an on-premises-based solution and iterate at the pace of API-based platforms.

With application platforms, developers benefit from the low cost and scalability of the cloud but are no longer limited in their ability to customise like they often are with SaaS. We expect an explosion of new ideas from developers, starting in the contact centre industry, which finally has the tools it needs to innovate enterprise software.

Businesses will be more visible on messaging apps

While these apps are still predominantly used for consumer-to-consumer communication, we are starting to see more business use cases. Businesses are beginning to use these apps as new channels to engage customers in real-time conversations. This is no surprise when you consider that, according to the latest data from Statistica, there are now 11.1 million Australians using daily messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.  

Security left behind

Tech innovation moves extremely fast. With the emergence of driverless cars, connected medical devices and artificial intelligence, security has been sacrificed for the sake of speed. As an example, countless startups are popping up, but are lacking the resources to ensure the security of their products.

Conversations will shift from ‘who had a breach’ to ‘who is managing their risks effectively’.

Every company has vulnerabilities and we’ll see more companies talking about the processes that are in place to understand and mitigate their risks and how much effort they have spent to reduce risks.

Consumers follow companies who take a leadership position around data privacy and care

Data is the currency of the internet and the single most important asset for businesses.

However, we have not cared for it, accounted for it or protected it the way we do financial currency. The backlash is here and, in the future, companies who take a leadership position around caring for customer data will see an economic advantage over those who do not.

Richard Watson is country director Australia at Twilio

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