Multichannel customer communications made simple with CPaaS

Johannesburg, 16 Jul 2020
Read time 6min 30sec
Uffe Jes Hansen, VP MEA, SAP Digital Interconnect
Uffe Jes Hansen, VP MEA, SAP Digital Interconnect

In today’s highly connected world, the ability of companies to engage and interact with their customers has never been easier – or more difficult.

The days when consumers were content with communicating with an organisation during office hours via two or three channels of communication – face-to-face, telephone and mail or e-mail – are long gone. Customers today prefer contextual, relevant and personalised real-time digital experiences. Uncoordinated and impersonalised engagements are ineffective and ignored.

Thanks to the almost ubiquitous reach of the Internet and mobile technologies, customers expect to be able to interact with a company at any time, from anywhere. Increasingly, they also expect to be able to do so via the communications channel of their choice.

The challenge for businesses, says Uffe Jes Hansen, VP MEA at SAP Digital Interconnect, is that the number of channels available to consumers is growing rapidly.

Research has found the majority of consumers around the world no longer believe in opening hours and expect businesses to be available 24/7, while around 64% of people across age groups say they’d rather message a business than call or e-mail. This is hardly surprising, given that just one of these apps, WhatsApp, is being used by more than 2 billion people worldwide.

So, where does South Africa fit in this picture of global connectivity?

According to DataReportal’s ‘Digital 2020: South Africa’ survey, the number of Internet users in South Africa increased by 3.1% to 36.54 million between 2019 and 2020, raising Internet penetration in the country to 62%.

Of these connected individuals, 22 million use social media, an increase of 19% in just eight months to January 2020. Of those, 94% actively engage with or contribute to social media regularly, spending an average of three hours per day doing so.

Mobile connectivity is also continuing to rise. At the start of this year, there were 103.5 million mobile connections in South Africa – more than 1.5 mobile connections for every person in the country. This has led to a massive rise in the use of social messaging apps. Of the many social messaging apps available, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the most popular in South Africa with a small percentage also using WeChat and Viber.

However, around 1.6 million mobile users in South Africa don’t have access to data on their mobile handset or still use basic handsets, which only allow them to communicate via SMS.

“This clearly indicates that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to customer engagement,” Hansen says. “To reach and engage customers, businesses must communicate using the right channel at the right time.

“This presents a major challenge for enterprises. With so many channels and platforms out there, how do they keep on top of them all? How do they engage with their customers on their channel of choice when they might have different platform preferences – social media, messaging app, SMS? And what if their choice of channel changes depending on the type of engagement?”

It is important that enterprises recognise and respect these customer preferences. The channel that an enterprise reaches a customer on should be the channel that they are expecting. This is part of delivering a great customer experience. By doing so, enterprises can enable powerful and compelling engagements that drive customer trust and loyalty.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that the type and availability of channels is changing all the time. There has been a 3 000% growth of new apps developed with application programming interfaces (API) in the last three years, and 250% growth for top performing API platforms. Each social channel comes with its own API and connectivity protocol, which complicates the management and effectiveness of mobile messaging.

According to Marut Gaonkar, Senior Product Manager at SAP Digital Interconnect, when faced with diverse applications and user preferences, it can be difficult for enterprises to create an optimal user experience. He believes that one solution to these challenges is CPaaS (communications platform as a service).

“With a CPaaS solution, the complexities involved in integrating the individual social channels, platforms and APIs are eliminated as this has already been done by the CPaaS solution provider. CPaaS can help create a personalised dialogue with your customer at the right time and using a channel that they want to be reached on.

“This means that companies can use a multichannel-based strategy through a single API rather than having to integrate multiple APIs and add new ones as they become available and gain popularity. This allows the company to use any or all of the available social channels based on the popularity of the channel within a region, while still accommodating customers who might prefer less popular channels,” Gaonkar explains.

So, for example, depending on a customer’s needs and preferences, a company could send an SMS, rather than using a social media channel, or a messaging app for a specific customer or even a specific message.

Some CPaaS solutions not only enable the communication to be routed to the customer’s preferred channels, like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, they can also incorporate ‘failover’ capabilities. This means that should the customer not be reached via their preferred channel, the message can be sent via their second-choice channel, with built-in analytics enabling the company to see whether the message has been delivered, opened and acted on.

CPaaS solutions can also allow for two-way communication, enabling customers to send queries and receive replies, rather than only receive ‘push’ notifications. So, for example, instead of a customer having to wait for a notification that their delivery is on the way, they could ask: “Where is my order?” and receive the response immediately on the same channel through a live agent or a chatbot, or some combination of both.

Another major benefit of some CPaaS solutions is their ability to send multimedia messages that include images, audio, video, documents and pdf files to customers.

“The bottom line is that as customers become more connected, and more communications channels become available, businesses can no longer dictate which channels they can and can’t use to contact them. In addition, engaging customers through a channel doesn’t only mean making those channels available, it also requires being able to escalate and route messages on the channel that the user is available on, in real-time and on the customer’s terms. CPaaS offers the best means to achieve this,” Gaonkar adds.

Read the IDC analyst white paper: Key Attributes of Successful Communications-Platform-as-a-Services (CPaaS) Providers

Gaonkar concludes: “A multi-channel based CPaaS solution with failover using a single API can help an enterprise to capture user preferences to reach customers on the channels they prefer. Not only can the service help enterprises empower better customer experiences through multichannel engagements, but the automatic escalation and orchestration of messages also helps you improve message reach, customer satisfaction, prospect conversion and reduces cost per engagement, increasing return on investment.”

Click here to learn more about how you can use SAP Social Channels 365 to engage users across channels with a unified messaging interface.