With its potential to provide analytical data and automation of previously labour-intensive processes, digitisation has transformed the business models of all businesses in South Africa, across various industries. While digitisation has been incorporated operationally for its inherent benefits –such as standardisation, automation and greater efficiency – many local businesses are lagging behind when it comes to using modern technology to interact with their customers.
Customer communications channels have been revolutionised by digitisation. “There is a shift from push to pull, where customers are encouraged to ‘fetch’ their correspondence, documentation or other messaging as and when required, across a communication channel of their choice,” says Reg Bath, CEO of Technology at InsideData.
“There is definitely a move away from traditional channels like print, but even email is taking a back seat as we see customer communications gravitate towards the mobile channels, including WhatsApp and instant messaging within client-specific applications. Customers are definitely more digitally inclined these days and typically opt to receive communications this way. But this requires the business to strike a balance between trust, privacy and convenience,” he says.
According to Bath, with a variety of channels like web-based communications, SMS, MMS, email, traditional print and post and even WhatsApp in the mix, selecting the right channel for the right type of messaging can present a problem for a business. Further, managing a bouquet of channels and creating complementary campaigns can be more than the average business is capable of managing effectively.
InsideData is a South African customer communication engagement specialist offering a complete solution of communication platforms from traditional post to electronic media, giving clients full control over the profiling, composition, distribution and measurement of customer communication campaigns.
“Typically, the most communication-intensive industries tend to be those in financial services, healthcare, telecommunications, clothing retailers and municipalities. For businesses that don’t have the ability and/or capability to manage such channels and messaging, or the ones that deem these services to be non-core, we develop platforms to support all correspondence specific to customer needs and personal preferences, which can be a lot to keep track of,” Bath says.
Handled correctly, appropriate and flexible customer communications have the potential to substantially boost brand experience through responsiveness and personalisation. “Understanding what correspondence is being sent to which customer at a particular stage of the customer life cycle with the client is vital. Having all correspondence templates in a single repository and tools that enable changes to templates that are then pulled through to all correspondence in the same way, drastically improves communication consistency.
“Another crucial aspect of successful customer communication is ensuring that all correspondence is actually delivered, regardless of the channel preference of the customer. This requires proper reporting information on delivery successes and failures. Ultimately, the intention of any customer communication should be to open a dialogue from the initial correspondence, hence the popularity of instant messaging and chatbot platforms in the digital age,” he adds.
Digitisation has opened up customer communications in a way which allows businesses to employ almost endless combinations of solutions and to integrate them to suit any customer preference. “Using best-of-breed blended communications solutions really allows for companies to maximise their investments in these toolsets, because customers truly appreciate personalisation. With proper channel and messaging management, businesses are able to leverage the data digitisation and can provide and initiate personalised communication without being intrusive on an individual’s privacy, this can have a significant impact on brand appeal, responsiveness and customer retention – all of which will impact the bottom line,” Bath says.