Tech Unknown | Episode 3 | Season 2
Featuring guests Colin Shaw, Rohit Tripathi, and Pekka Porkka with host Tamara McCleary
We all know it’s a pain to repeat yourself on a customer service call. We want the phone rep to know about our order history, the conversation we had with live chat, and the email we sent last week. That expectation doesn’t change as we add more channels and devices – consumers want every interaction to be part of a single, seamless conversation.
This type of omnichannel communication is challenging for businesses. But the communication issue doesn’t start and end with the customer. Employees, suppliers, and vendors all interact with the organization on multiple channels, across devices.
Businesses need a comprehensive communication strategy and the technology to make it work. We need to stop thinking of the “contact center” as its own island and approach the entire organization as a potential customer contact center.
The benefits of getting it right range from improved customer experience to discovering brand-new lines of business.
This episode, our guests explore the potential of an integrated, holistic communication strategy. They share inspiring success stories and discuss the steps you need to take to get started.
Listen to learn:
- How communications-platform-as-a-service works to enhance communication
- How better internal communication can drive better customer experience
- How improved communication leads to real, measurable business results
Want to learn about the critical role of CPaaS in reaching customers on their channels of choice? Read this white paper.
About Our Guests:
“The key is to proactively start to communicate with customers and anticipate what the customer requires. That means you understand it’s not just rational; it’s emotional, it’s subconscious, it’s psychological, and you’ve thought about all of these things.” Colin Shaw
Rohit Tripathi is the head of products, SAP Digital Interconnect. He is a dedicated professional with a global outlook on communications and technology.
Pekka Porkka is the head of development for contact center products, SAP Digital Interconnect, with over a decade of experience in marketing and communications.
“This is what we call the ‘company as a contact center’ concept. The contact center is not an isolated island. Instead, the entire organization is equipped and incentivized to contribute to customer experience and drive customer satisfaction.” Pekka Porkka
Did you miss our last episode?
Check out our previous episode with Stephanie Thum, Jeannie Walters, and Mortiz Zimmerman – “Customer Experience How Data Empowers Exceptional CX.” Click here to listen.
Episode 3 Transcript:
Tamara: Welcome to Tech Unknown, a podcast to prepare your organization for the tech-centered future of business. I’m Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium.
Our big umbrella topic this season is data. We’re digging into how sharing data across the organization — collecting, processing, and analyzing it — can increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer service.
This episode, we’re focusing on communication throughout your business. If you think about it, communication is all about transferring data from one person to another. All types of internal and external communication are critical for businesses looking to drive better experiences for employees and customers. The flow of inform…
[Phone voice interrupts]
Recording: Thank you for holding. We know your time is valuable, and we will answer your call as soon as possible.
Sorry, I’ve been on hold forever with these guys. I can’t afford to lose my place in the queue.
Recording: Did you know you can find answers on our website? Press 1 now to hang up and visit the website.
Tamara: I went to the website, and I gave all my details to the live chat agent, and they said I had to call!
Recording: Don’t blame me. I’m just a pre-recorded voice. Did you know you can chat live with us on Facebook Messenger?
Tamara: Yes, before I went to the website, I went to your Facebook page and gave ALL THE INFORMATION to the chatbot.
Recording: Did you send us an email?
Tamara: Yes, that’s how I STARTED, I sent an email, and that sent me to the Facebook page, and that sent me to the website, and they…. Look, can I please speak to a person?
Recording: Well, fine. If you are not satisfied with my soothing, robotic voice, we can find a meat puppet – er, a human for you to talk to. Please hold.
Voice: Thank you for calling, how can I help you today?
Tamara: Okay, finally! This is Tamara McCleary calling about my last transaction.
Voice: Okay, Tuh-MAR-Uh McLearly, I don’t see your transaction history here.
Tamara: Okay, well, you can just pull up the chat log and…
Voice: Sorry, Ms. Macklerely, I don’t have access to the chat log.
Tamara: How about the Messenger history? Or the email?
Voice: I don’t have that either. Hold on, Ms. Macklemoreackly, I need to open a new ticket for you, and then I’ll need you to explain the whole situation again.
Tamara: You can see just how much communication affects customer experience – like my experience just then. That company had four different ways for me to contact them, but I had to start a new conversation on each channel. Imagine how frustrating that is for a customer – only, you don’t have to imagine it, right? We’ve all been there.
Now imagine how much your customers will love your business if you get it right. Here’s Colin Shaw, founder & CEO at Beyond Philosophy LLC, on why businesses HAVE to get smart about communication:
Colin Shaw: So, I think the reality is that internal communication is a massive issue for customer experience because internal communication typically is not very good, and particularly between silos.
So, the internal communication can absolutely help improve customer experience, just the right hand letting the left hand know what it’s doing in an organization. And that rarely, rarely happens. I actually had a recent example with our mobile provider where I ended up speaking to about three or four separate people who…and when I then ended up speaking with those four separate people, none of which knew what was happening, and on one day, I managed to get six different SIM cards delivered to me. So, not only does it cause a poor experience, but it also costs a hell of a lot of money to the organization when those things happen.
Tamara: Frustrated customers and duplicated efforts – it’s a complex problem and one that’s getting worse with every new channel. There’s phone, email, chat, and social media, for starters. Then there are the devices: smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops, too.
And these customers expect a seamless conversation with your brand from any of these devices on any of these channels! How dare they?
Well… don’t you expect the same when you’re the customer?
Rohit Tripathi: Look at how we behave in our day-to-day lives when we are interacting with our family, friends, loved ones, colleagues. We are constantly and dynamically shifting between various channels of engagements, communications whether it is a phone call, text, email, social chat, or even a voice call, right? So, if we seamlessly interact with each other across all of these mediums, why shouldn’t we expect the same when interacting with our favorite brands or stores and the companies that we engage with and we depend on? And I think that’s the realization that enterprises are having and are waking up to – that they need to make sure that they are there in places where their end customers or their customers’ customers are present rather than forcing the customers to come to the channels that the businesses want to support. It needs to be the other way around.
Tamara: That’s Rohit Tripathi, Senior vice president and head of products at SAP Digital Interconnect. He’s absolutely right: We have to make communication with our business as seamless as a conversation with a friend. That’s just one of the reasons people like talking with their friends, while they probably don’t love trying to communicate with your business.
When businesses get it right, though, the benefits are easy to see. Here’s Colin with an example from somewhere out in the open ocean:
Colin: The keyword here is seamless. Okay. So, in other words, I can talk to one channel and it’s the same as talking to another channel. Well, to do that, I need to understand what the experience is that I’m trying to deliver to my customer and have a clear picture of that.
So, for instance, one of our clients, a company called Maersk Line, they’re the largest container shipping company in the world. They improved their net promoter score by some 40 points over 30 months that led to a 10% rise in shipping volumes. And they wanted their customers to feel trust. They wanted their customers to feel cared for, and they wanted them to feel pleased. And that means that all parts of the organization, in no matter which area where they are touched, would turn around and say, you know, effectively, “In this communication that we’re having with a customer, how can we make the customer feel trust, cared for, and pleased?” And therefore, that enables the seamless part of that communication that everybody is heading towards the same direction.
Tamara: As Colin is saying, that seamless communication to the customer requires a massive amount of internal communication. That’s where we tend to come up short.
Colin: So, the process is breaking down in a couple of areas. First of all, at that strategic level, which is, has everybody got a clear picture of the experience that we’re trying to give to our customers? And typically the answer is no, we don’t. Therefore, marketing does what they think is the right thing to do, customer service does what they think is the right thing to do, sales does what they think is the right thing to do. And therefore, you’ve got three different ways, three more different ways, depending on how many channels you go of talking to the customer.
So, again, you know, too many organizations just think about what the communication is from their own group and don’t think about, well, what’s the previous communications that sales or marketing have had before they’ve ended up with customer service? So there’s a lack of clarity about what’s happened to the customer prior to that sort of current interaction. And I think the other part that the organization silos cause is, you know, internal communications only within those parts of the organization. And, you know, even a lack of taking note on what actually happened with that customer. And that becomes, again, critically important for the next interaction. Otherwise, what you get is you get customers having to repeat themselves 27 times and getting very frustrated, and that doesn’t produce a good customer experience.
Tamara: Given how much the customer experience affects your business’ bottom line, and given how vital communication is to good CX, it’s time to start thinking of communication capabilities as a solvable business problem.
We need strategy! We need process! We need the whole organization on board! We need technology to enable all of the above!
We need to communicate consistently across channels as though our business depended on it, because, quite frankly, it does! Now get out there and CHAAARRRRGE!
Okay, sorry. Got a little carried away. But I’m serious about the people, processes, and technology.
Here’s Rohit again, to talk about the tech that can support your communication goals.
Rohit: So, CPaaS or communications platform-as-a-service, it simply refers to cloud-based capabilities that allow enterprises, that allow even individual developers to bring together integration of various channels, communication channels, into business processes, backend systems, apps, and end-to-end solutions. And when I say channels, I mean, it has to be SMS, email, voice, push notifications, social channels, chatbots. All of these comprise the channels, but then more importantly, CPaaS also needs to focus on providing not just do-it-yourself capabilities with these communication services and APIs, truly, a CPaaS provider should also provide integrated end-to-end solutions as well. While we want to make sure that customers should have the flexibility, the enterprises should have the flexibility of building things that are custom to themselves, we also want to make sure that we are giving them the opportunity of having, you know, best practices packaged together in an end-to-end solution that can be easy to deploy. Just because everybody can customize things does not mean that they should. A lot of the enterprises actually want to get started on delivering the service rather than falling in love with the technology. And I think, truly, a CPaaS provider needs to provide a platform that allows customization, that allows easy-to-use APIs across all of the channels, but then also integrated, best practices-based, end-to-end solutions, you know, like the contact center capability.
Tamara: Modern business optimization is all about using technology to optimize the flow of data across the organization. Communications-platform-as-a-service does that for every channel of communication, from phone [dialing sound] to text [text noise] to email [keyboard presses] to semaphore [flags rustling] to Morse code [beep beep beep].
Well… maybe not those last two. But maybe so! If your customers are demanding semaphore-enabled communication, you should be out there waving the flags.
Here’s Pekka Porkka, head of development for contact center products, SAP Digital Interconnect, with a success story you can take to the bank. Because… uh… well, because it’s about a bank.
Pekka Porkka: One of the key drivers for customer engagement strategies is the increasing customer demand for omnichannel experience. And since omnichannel experience might sound like a buzzword, let may try to explain it with an industry example in the context of a customer service contact center. Let’s take retail banks as an example, which have since decades, especially in Europe, reduced the number of their branch offices and literally push their customers to self-service channels, namely, online banking services and ATM kiosks. At the same time, many of the banks have become these one-stop shops for a variety of financial services by expanding their portfolio of products and services from these traditional retail banking to cover home and pension insurances, investment advisory services, some funds, legal counsel, and so on. So, now with the non-existing branch office network, limited self-service offerings, and the increasing mix of customer-preferred interaction channels, how do you deal with the problem?
So, for many banks, the customer engagement strategy has been to invest in the customer service contact centers. And in doing so, we can see the successful banks have two distinct similarities. First of all, these banks provide comprehensive portfolios of self-services, and they have automated most of the routine inquiries using AI and machine learning technologies. Secondly, they support multi-channel interactions with the ability to switch or enrich the channel during the interaction. So, let me give you an example. The customer starts with the chatbot, the chat dialogue is transferred to a live agent, the interaction is enriched from text-based interaction to voice, and you can start sharing documents, and then it continues and it continues. The third aspect is that these banks are also able to leverage the expertise across the front office, independent of where the expertise or individual experts are located. This is what we call the “whole company is a contact center” concept, where the contact center is not an isolated island. Instead, the entire organization is equipped and incentivized to contribute to customer experience and drive customer satisfaction.
Tamara: The whole company is a contact center! What a cool concept! Now, that doesn’t mean the CEO has to start answering customer calls – don’t panic. It just means everyone in the organization is equipped with the information they need in order to drive better customer experience.
Enhanced communication can do more than make customers happy, though. It can actually change the way your business operates!
Here’s Rohit with a customer story that really delivers. Let’s hop over to Spain and get the full scoop.
Rohit: A wonderful example in that space is Revoolt Smart Solutions. This is a delivery logistics software company based in Spain. And their focus is on building a logistics platform that consists of electric vehicles that focus on an eco-friendly approach in making last-mile deliveries. So, while environmentally friendly operations are becoming front and center, we are all becoming acutely aware of the need to help focus on sustainable business practices.
Last-mile delivery is still something where we do spend a lot of energy, fuel, and think about all the missed deliveries, right, like the re-trips, the frequent efforts that have to be made. And those all cost not just time and money, but then also create a not-such sustainable approach for the environment. And what Revoolt is trying to do is address that. And what they have done is in their business processes, they have actually inserted an easy-to-use cloud communications capabilities around messaging, around social channels. And they then help make this end process much better because they are, again, you know, in constant touch with the end customer, helping address their changing needs and adjusting their schedules to better serve that. So, I think that’s the fundamental element of how, again, keeping the customer experience will drive better communications-as-a-service capability.
More often than not, what happens is that if a customer, the end customer, the recipient of the package or the food services, etc., is somehow not being able to be at a place where the delivery is addressed to, what it often leads to is that you would see a situation where companies will try and deliver. If they’re not there, they will just leave a message and say, “Please contact us again and we will make an attempt one more time.”
And it just leads to, like, cycles, whereas all of this could be simplified because if the customer was… It’s almost like a quick conversation, right? It doesn’t have to be an extensive email, but just a quick conversation and saying, “Hey, I am actually not at home. I’m actually at my work location. And by the way, here’s the work location. Can you please deliver it there?” And so now with this information, the logistics or the delivery company can make adjustments and deliver it to the customer’s workplace, or they can actually say, “Look, I am not at home. Can you leave this with my neighbor? And here’s the contact information.” And by the way… And of course, there needs to be verification of this.
And so, again, using simple mobile technologies, using simple two-factor authentications, a lot of these can be made possible. And what it does is, it’s, again, keeping the customer experience in mind, it is helping the delivery company complete its schedule, meet that without having missed deliveries, having to do retries. And of course, keeping the element of security in place, right? We just cannot say that anybody can direct the package to anyplace. There are now based on, you know, various very effective mobile-based capabilities of two-factor authentication, that verification can be put in place. I mean, clearly look at all of us. We all have our mobile devices with us and we are very used to and are getting tuned to using two-factor authentications to confirm, you know, our identity or our locations. And that’s something that can be made very effective with these simple and easy-to-use communication capabilities.
Tamara: So you can see how better communication – secure and seamless communication – actually helps Revoolt deliver on their business goals. They’re using less fuel, making fewer trips, reducing waste, and connecting with more customers on the first try.
Despite these success stories, usually when we think about customer communication, we think about specific verticals. Retail, for sure. Finance? Maybe. Shipping, or construction, or cloud-based sandwiches-as-a-service? Possibly not.
But it’s time to widen your worldview: Let’s think horizontally for a minute. And by that (sadly), I don’t mean it’s time to lie down for a nap. Here’s Pekka again:
Pekka: In general, communication solutions and the requirements are actually quite horizontal. However, the use case priorities and contact volumes do vary between different industries. But for the past 20 years, for example, instead of industry verticals, we’ve been focusing around contact intensity of the businesses, meaning, in other words, in companies where we see contact center CPaaS technologies creating immediate value. Such companies can be found, for example, in consumer products, retail, banking and finance, utilities, professional services, and the public sector.
Rohit: It’s certainly more horizontal, which cuts across various industries because all industries have a need to communicate with their customers.
Actually, I would change that to say, they need to communicate effectively with their employees, with their suppliers, with their customers, with their customers’ customers. And for all of these, they need effective communication and channel capabilities. Why would we want to exclude a company’s employees or its contractors in a CPaaS discussion because that experience counts as much to the success of the organization as does interaction with its end customers. So, with CPaaS capabilities, I think that those are, again, some of the solutions that can be built on. All those experiences can be better enabled. So, for example, if a company is doing, you know, interviews with the candidates, they can perhaps better communicate with them through various channels of communication and saying, “Hey, your interview is scheduled at this time. Are you there?” or, you know, a quick touchpoint on how was the process, getting feedback from the candidates themselves.
Tamara: So we’re talking about internal and external communication with employees and customers. It’s relevant for every vertical, and it’s a critical part of your business’ success. There’s only one question left, then:
Where do we start?
Here’s Pekka with some first steps.
Pekka: Yeah, of course, it’s dependent on where they are as of today, but in case your business doesn’t have the capability to support social channels, I would first focus on enabling those both from technology and people skills points of view. Secondly, I would investigate how your business can take away the burden from manually handling high-volume routine inquiries, and shift the focus more on the high-value complex customer requests. When done right, AI and machine learning technologies open up great opportunities for automation, agent guidance, and performance optimization.
So, in contact centers, in order to meet the ever-increasing customer demands and provide effective customer experiences, I would look for contact center solutions that are first of all, cloud-based, end-to-end contact center suites that allow you to get up to speed quickly at a reasonable cost. That’s number one. And then secondly, look for solutions that run on platforms that expose much of the functionality via APIs so that you can extend and enhance the solution with the latest and greatest new innovations out there, best matching your customers’ increasing requirements. So, basically, following the fundamental concept of CPaaS.
Tamara: These first steps that Pekka outlined can help you start moving your business to a more communicative, collaborative environment. But it’s not about just following a checklist. It’s about adding a communication strategy to your entire technology strategy. Make it part of your ongoing digital transformation.
Rohit: For us here at SAP Digital Interconnect, our approach and recommendation to enterprises of various sizes is that, one, they need to keep digital…as they think of digital transformations, they need to keep communications front and center, and channels of engagement in front and center of that strategy. First, there needs to be that buy-in at the highest level. Second, we encourage them to start experimenting with our easy-to-use APIs. We encourage the business, too, to start experimenting rather than going down the path of doing a big, massive project that takes a long time to implement and the results are not that visible immediately. We encourage businesses to start and start small and experiment and evolve.
And then finally, I would say that this needs to… They cannot take one central approach, right? This cannot be one central team or group within the company making that decision because, just as I expressed earlier, there are going to be multiple touchpoints and needs for engaging with employees, subcontractors, customers, customers’ customers in various lines of businesses. So, it needs to be that decision at those individual touchpoints.
So, for example, there needs to be a separate conversation with your HR LOB on how do you make your recruiting processes, your employee engagement processes more effective using communications-platform-as-a-service capabilities. There needs to be a separate discussion with the marketing department. When we’re running marketing promotions, how do you make those effective? How do you use the right channel? And of course, there needs to be a discussion with the technology teams because they are providing a lot of these integration capabilities.
And as providers of such services to these various teams, for us at SAP Digital Interconnect, our emphasis is more to make it as seamless and easy for these enterprises because the channels will keep evolving and adjusting.
Tamara: That last bit is worth repeating….
Rohit: …because the channels will keep evolving and adjusting.
Tamara: Evolving and adjusting! Exactly! Ten years ago, most business’ social media strategy was non-existent. Now social media is a major part of the picture. AI chatbots are only a couple of years old, but they’re rapidly becoming the norm. What will communication look like in the FUTURE?
Sorry. But the question stands: What does the future hold, and how can your business be ready for it? Here’s Pekka to explore Communication: The Next Frontier.
Pekka: So, again, depending on where you are, is this the next frontier or the current frontier? But simply put, in my opinion, from a communications channel point of view, it’s the support for social channels. And then from a performance optimization point of view, it’s everything related to AI, machine learning, and analytics that allows businesses to automate routines, provide meaningful insights and guidance to customer-facing employees, and, lastly, allow businesses to monitor, control, and optimize experience on each step of the customer journey. And then how these strategies evolve, well, communication strategies for businesses will continue to evolve based on the changes in consumer and customer preferences. That’s the only driver for any change.
Tamara: Thanks, Pekka. And man, that change can’t come soon enough. Remember that phone call at the start of the episode? The one I made after I explained myself three times on three different channels? Ugh. And now I’m going to have to call them back and wait on hold…
Wait… hold on.. I have to take this.
Voice on phone: Ms. McCleary?
Voice on phone: Hi, this is Steve at WidgetCorp. I saw you had trouble with our chatbot earlier, so I pulled up your logs and figured out the problem. Your widgets should be arriving by 2pm tomorrow, and we apologize for the delay.
Tamara: Thanks! Wow, they called me? And the problem is solved without me explaining for the fifth time? I’m not going to lie; that feels pretty darn good.
So, what if your business could solve customers’ problems before they reached out? That’s a pretty compelling goal for your communication strategy. Here’s Colin to bring it home.
Colin Shaw: If you really want to improve your customer experience, you’ve got to be proactive, not reactive. Most communication with organizations is reactive. So the organization is reacting to what a customer wants. And actually, the key to provide a good experience is to be proactive. So, to communicate with the customer before they even know that they need to be communicated with. So, to proactively start to communicate with customers and to anticipate, another keyword, what the customer requires. And again, that means that you understand that it’s not just rational, it’s emotional, it’s subconscious, it’s psychological, and you’ve thought about all of those things.
Tamara: As with so many of our conversations, this business problem ultimately comes down to people. Communications-platform-as-a-service equips your employees to better communicate with each other, with vendors and suppliers, and with your customers (who, I’m willing to bet, are also people). All of this communication leads to happier, more productive people, and that directly affects your business’ bottom line.
Or, as we say in the semaphore community:
[sound of flags waving]
Thanks for listening to the Tech Unknown podcast. You can find a transcript of this episode, and more, at Digitalistmag.com. And make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.
I’m Tamara McCleary, and until next time: Stay sharp, stay curious, and keep exploring the unknown.