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by David Parry Jones is Vice President, EMEA at Twilio

We now live in a customer engagement economy. Today, the four largest messaging platforms have a collective 4.1 billion active users. Yet according to a recent survey conducted by Twilio, 94% of consumers are annoyed by the communications they receive from businesses. Customers want more from the communication they receive: they want to be contacted when they want, how they want, and they want it to be efficient and convenient. Data reveals that 75% of consumers have rewarded businesses that communicate in the way they prefer. Technology and automation can help improve these processes, but it is important for businesses to do this in the right way, by tailoring their communications approach to build trusted relationships with their customers.

With this rise in active users across communications platforms, businesses are beginning to understand how being present in the places that people are already talking can drive authentic customer interactions. However, they need to balance this with communicating at the right time and in the right way. People are beginning to feel overwhelmed by the large volumes of notifications received each day. As a result, 7 in 10 consumers are penalising businesses when the communication experience isn’t what they wanted. This can mean consumers unsubscribe from app notifications, which creates a barrier to businesses.

So what can be done? What follows is a set of tried and tested best practices for managing customer communications, that allow businesses to drive authentic customer experiences that deliver the right message, at the right time, via the right channel.

Get permission to communicate 

Building trusted relationships between the customer and the business is vital, and asking for permission to communicate is a crucial element in creating this trust. In Europe, this has even formed a part of data law since May 2018, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now protecting consumers from unwanted communications. But it should be a consideration for businesses across the world, as it’s clearly something that customers care about globally.

In a recent survey, more than half of consumers worldwide (54%) agree that businesses need to make it easy to opt-out of messages they send, while 52% said that being able to choose the means of communication was just as important.

In addition to asking whether customers want to be contacted, allowing customers the choice of how they are contacted contributes to increased loyalty and greater engagement. For instance, though consumers welcome direct communication when they have opted in, only a small percentage (12%) prefer company apps as the channel for this. It’s important that you find out what your customers prefer, and factor this into your communications strategy.

Tailoring communication to a customer’s expectation

Going beyond simply allowing customers to choose a preferred channel can help to further solidify a trusted relationship. Tailoring communication to suit specific customer needs is key to creating positive business-customer interactions. You need to take the time to understand what your customer needs support with, and provide an experience which makes sense on a human level.

For example, if someone is seeking a quick delivery update, a short and instant WhatsApp message is likely to be their preference. On the other hand, if an emergency scenario arises and a customer needs to have an issue solved quickly, there should be protocols in place to fast track this customer to a human agent over the phone in order to offer them the appropriate level of support. It’s putting into place tailored communications strategies for both of these scenarios, and everything in between, that makes all the difference in building that trust with your customer.

Building better experiences for customers using AI and automation

Finally, a modern communications platform should leverage technology to enhance customer experience. For example, conversational AI and intelligent automation can play a significant role in reducing call times, benefiting both the customer and the business. AI can lead to a reduction in time-consuming repetition of customer queries by intelligently routing the call to the right department using Natural Language Processing. Similarly, chatbots can automatically respond to frequently asked questions and simpler inquiries, while handing off to human agents to handle more complex or sensitive enquiries.

This human-machine balance is critical to building better communications, and is the final piece in the puzzle. Automating everything is not the goal. Instead it’s a question of working out how you can streamline the process of getting your customers the answers they need, quickly.

What’s to come with the future of customer engagement

Conversations are continually changing shape in a technology-driven world, and businesses need to keep up with this or risk damaging their relationships with their customers. With the rise in conversational apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp driving an expectation of instant communications between family and friends, businesses need to tap into this change in consumer behaviour and learn to communicate in the right way.

Once you understand your customers and tailor your communications approach to suit individual needs, customer engagement can only improve. Then, ultimately, you’ll be able to build stronger, more authentic relationships with your customers – which is all round of great benefit to the business.

David Parry Jones is Vice President, EMEA at Twilio. With over 25 years of experience in the software industry, prior to joining Twilio Parry-Jones spent nearly seven years at VMware, most recently serving as the company’s regional vice president for Northern Europe. Before that, Parry-Jones held UK, EMEA wide and global sales leadership roles with start-ups and leading organizations such as Lotus/IBM and Microsoft

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