Learning to Walk in the Race for Better Business Communications
When tech platforms present so many possibilities, it can be tricky to look beyond the countless helpful features. So much so that businesses don’t always consider all real-life use cases. Communication platforms are a case in point. You could say those who adopt such technologies have an embarrassment of riches regarding communications. Video, phone, messaging, email, chat, socials…the list goes on. Even each family of communication types has variations.
So, for an organisation that’s setting up or re-engineering a contact centre, it can be tempting to open every available channel to customers and colleagues. After all, when it comes to options, the more, the merrier, right? That’s not necessarily the case.
Answering a business’ needs should always come before implementing a communications strategy. Today’s communications platforms make spinning up a new channel for suppliers or customers simplicity in itself. So adding Facebook Messenger or Instagram to a contact centre isn’t a technological challenge; it’s an operational issue and a resourcing exercise. Speaking exclusively to Tech HQ, Julien Rio of RingCentral told us that establishing a consistent and connected company “voice” is what companies need to get right. He thinks it’s all too common for customers and partners to hear different messages on different channels. For example, suppose you send the same query to your home insurance company via email and WhatsApp. In that case, the chances are that you will get a different response from different people in the organisation. This situation usually points to poor operational management inside the company. In other words, all communication channels are disconnected from each other and can make things confusing for you, the customer.
Arguably, technology contributes to this disconnectedness because it presents too many options easily within reach. Additionally, the tech in everyone’s pockets today has created a very high bar of expectations. Standards of customer experience are dictated by how easily we can order a taxi, set up pet insurance or sell an unwanted chair. Today, we expect all of these things to be immediate, seamless and simple. Unfortunately, every company in the world now has to offer the same type of CX excellence as household names like Uber, AXA, and eBay.
Julien pointed out that different communication channels also come with expectations in different contexts. Sometimes, we want synchronous comms (or near-real-time asynchronous comms), sometimes not. Some forms of written communication (email) are generally accepted to have a slower cadence than others (SMS, WhatsApp). At a higher level, if consumers want to contact a company, would they be at ease using WhatsApp or Instagram DM? Would a website-based portal that uses Apple Business Chat be more fitting?
“Communication” is a very broad term, and doesn’t apply only to how businesses use communications platforms to communicate externally with customers, prospects, partners and third parties. The same capabilities can be deployed internally, especially where companies have transitioned some way towards a remote working model. Although the channels available are the same, the way the technology is used is quite different. Sometimes, Julien told us, putting up a Do Not Disturb flag when working from home can boost productivity. That’s an ironic statement from an industry professional whose bread and butter is successfully achieving communications. Rather, it shows an acceptance that despite all of technology’s capabilities, turning everything up to 11 is usually not the best choice.
“Getting the basics right” was a theme we returned to several times during our conversation (listen out for the Tech Means Business podcast with Julien in the next few days). In practical terms, that can be getting the right tech set up in the home office as well as in the contact centre. Ensuring seamless conversations continue as the channels they take place on change (for example moving from a voice call to text and back again) is less of a technological challenge than it used to be. But ensuring subject-matter experts are on hand to ensure questions are answered is something that companies still struggle with.
We also talked to Julien about the future of tech in this space. In addition to intelligent automation systems helping organisations communicate and work better, Julien was keen to talk about AI-powered transcription services that could summarise entire voice conversations in as many or few text sentences as the reader might want. This is, he said, is a reality today that RingCentral is pioneering for its many clients all over the world.
However, the dangers of shiny, new technologies should not distract organisations from thinking deeper and harder about what comms channels they have and what each offers in practical, business terms. It may be tempting to run before walking, but the stumbles at speed tend to hurt more.
The Tech Means Business podcast with Julien Rio is available now, where there’s plenty more food for thought in this complex area of creating customer (and employee) experiences that really stand out.