Personal digital communications services are evolving rapidly. Consumers are now just as likely to use a chat app as they are to use a telco service to send a message or make a voice call. In addition, a number of chat apps have recently added video calling (among other features), taking their communications capabilities far beyond what most telcos offer, and further threatening telco revenues from their core services.
Consumers are increasingly comfortable using the multiple communications capabilities that chat apps provide, which are typically accessed from a single user interface and on multiple devices (smartphone, tablet, desktop). This is as opposed to the voice and messaging silos of the telcos, which are usually only available to their customers from separate interfaces and on a single device.
The ease with which users can access chat app features across multiple devices is driving consumer adoption and usage of new communications services, such as video calling and chat bots, which in turn places pressure on enterprises to enable these capabilities in their customer engagement platforms. Ovum’s 2016 Customer Engagement Survey, which canvassed 1,000 respondents in Germany and the UK, found that, of those consumers that used two or more chat apps, 65% would be interested in being contacted by their service provider via their chat app. The highest number of respondents were interested in receiving chat app messages from e-commerce providers, Internet service providers, financial institutions, and telcos, with speedier problem resolution and convenience highlighted as key drivers.
Enterprises in multiple vertical industries, including telecoms, have typically already adopted a multi-channel customer interaction strategy, using channels such as SMS, voice, e-mail and social media to reach their target audience. Increasingly, it will be necessary for enterprises to adopt an omni-channel communications experience for their customers, that is, to use different communications channels within a single interaction with a customer - so a customer interaction can start, proceed, and complete on different channels. What’s more, the mix of communications channels is moving towards more of a real-time communications experience, for example, click-to-call, or click-to-chat, and chat apps. Before long, video-based customer care, chat bots, and artificial intelligence (AI) via digital assistants will also be a standard part of the mix. The ultimate objective for enterprises is to engage with their customers using the channels that their customers are using, in such a way that enterprises tick the boxes on convenience, timeliness, and usefulness.
But enterprises face a number of challenges in order to enable omni-channel, real-time communications, including the penetration of new channels within their customer bases, and the complexity associated with integrating legacy and new communications services. For example, enterprises need to determine whether the penetration of chat apps or video calling within their customer base is high enough to make offering these channels viable. Enterprises will also need to find out which chat apps their customers are using, and to be aware that chat bots and AI in general are still fairly nascent, so much still needs to be done in terms of developing best practice in order to avoid pitfalls such as spamming and privacy breaches. Meanwhile, many enterprises do not have the resources to integrate new, real-time communications into their customer-facing channels. However, the increasing availability of IP-based communications platforms and technologies, such as application programming interfaces (APIs), communications-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) offerings, cloud-based services and frameworks based on open standards such as Web Real-Time Communications, are geared towards helping enterprises to more quickly and cost-effectively on-board new communications channels for internal and external purposes.