CX will be put under the microscope as organisations battle to compete with increasing acquisition costs, retain customers, meet consumers’ rising demands and all the while, run effective and efficient businesses. But what communication channels will be most popular? How will GenAI impact CX? And will data and analytics enhance conversations?
To answer these questions and uncover CX technology trends for 2024, we spoke to three CM.com customers, all with the goal of delivering exceptional customer experiences. In this blog, we explore how businesses use technology to enhance customer engagement and how this will change in 2024 with Colin Peters, Group Communications Director at Radius, Rich Mullens, Product Director at Cymba, and Juandre de Jong, Senior VP of Product at RedCloud Technologies.
Rich media channels to reign supreme
Over the past 31 years since its invention, SMS has remained at the top when it comes to customer communication, especially when email open and conversion rates steadily declined. With its 98% open rate, it remains relevant today. Colin Peters explained how Radius uses SMS to remind customers of returned Direct Debits and “achieves a 48% Click-Through Rate (CTR) and a 16% payment rate”. SMS is an ideal channel for transactional interactions with customers. However, with the move to more conversational engagements, and let’s face it, demand from consumers - rich media channels are coming up the ranks and SMS may sidestep for more modern channels in 2024, but we will never be able to fully discredit SMS as a top customer contact channel.
“WhatsApp and RCS are transformational rather than transactional” says Rich Mullens.
Rich Communication Services (RCS)
RCS has long been deemed the ‘next generation’ of SMS. With rich media features such as images, media carousels, buttons, GIFs, live audio, and video, it brings the humble SMS to life as well as an increased engagement rate. Mullens explains how moving to this channel in 2024 will enhance charities’ long-term campaigns, allowing donors to visually see the impact their donations have and “tell a bigger story”, with an option to ‘uplift’ the current donation amount. In preparation for 2024, Mullens revealed how early tests with charity partners have seen a “50% uplift in response rates” compared to SMS. And with Apple announcing that iPhones will support RCS Universal Profile, it's reassuring that RCS may be available for business communication to iPhone users in the future.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular global messaging channels, so it’s no surprise that all three customers will be utilising this channel in 2024. With photos, GIFs, links, videos, PDFs, contact information and product carousels, WhatsApp’s rich media features makes conversations more smooth, engaging and interactive for users. Juandre de Jong expresses how RedCloud Technologies will use WhatsApp in 2024 for outbound and inbound communications. “WhatsApp is more interactive, gives users more control with opt-in options and guarantees delivery with an internet connection, making customer interactions a lot more conversational and enabling customers to truly engage.”
“WhatsApp is no longer just a messaging or marketing tool, we're using it to get the customer to engage with us” says Juandre de Jong.
WhatsApp’s accessibility also makes it a key channel for customer engagement. Consumers use the channel every day to speak to family and friends. For Colin, this accessibility means that Radius can tell its customers the team is “one click away if you need us” and that doesn’t need to be consistent, “one touch via WhatsApp three or four times a year could be the difference between staying as a customer or not”. So much so that Radius saw a 42% response rate for a retention campaign via WhatsApp.
But that’s not all, WhatsApp can integrate with chatbots. WhatsApp Chatbots enable companies to be available 24/7, on a familiar channel to users. For Radius, this streamlines customer engagement with a consistent tone of voice and faster, more accurate answers no matter the time of day. Peters explained that “46% of all leads come in after hours. A small business owner, for example, is focusing on the business between 8am-5pm. Paying staff, hitting budgets and goals. Via a WhatsApp Chatbot, small business owners can ask a question at 8pm and still receive an accurate response.”
“What is important in 2024 is bringing AI into the WhatsApp chatbot” says Colin Peters.
GenAI from ‘hype’ to reality
Generative AI has been a number one technology trend in 2023, and that’s set to continue in 2024. Enterprise leaders have expanded their focus on AI technology over the past year, and South Africa expects the GenAI project to grow by 23.47% in 2024. Moreover, 38% of leaders see improving customer experience and retention as the primary purpose of initiatives to deploy GenAI. It’s time for the conversation around GenAI to shift from the ‘hype chat' to the reality: GenAI is a tool for business operations and has a major influence on customer service, which will just become more prevalent in 2024.
Like it or not, Forrester predicts that Generative AI will seep into consumers’ lives. 60% of sceptics will use (and love) Generative AI. De Jong explains how GenAI can create more engaging interactions with customers as using Large Language Models (LLMs) enables businesses to take a step beyond predefined answers. LLMs can infer what the customer wants and can quickly and accurately send curated responses. With this, GenAI can manage the conversation and accelerate the quality of the conversation whether via a chatbot or as integrated software that provides suggested answers for live agents.
De Jong adds that for RedCloud Technologies, GenAI will enhance translation. Customers can reach out to RedCloud Technologies no matter the language and GenAI will accurately translate keywords and phrases for an accurate response in the correct language. Before this, businesses were reliant on teams to translate responses, which was a lengthy process.
“[GenAI] is going to help drive efficiencies, and efficiencies in an organisation like ours will give us the ability to scale faster” says Juandre de Jong.
CX leaders to connect the ‘data’ dots
Customer Data Platform
Connected customer data is vital to providing relevant and hyper-personalised customer engagements and is set to continue in 2024. De Jong explains how customers expect businesses to know what conversations they’ve had in the past. Narrowing down this focus to a Single Customer View (SCV) will enhance RedCloud Technologies' customer communications in 2024. Migrating all customer information, conversations and touch points in one centralised Customer Data Platform (CDP) to enhance a streamlined, singular engagement no matter the channel used. For example, if a customer engages a company on Facebook but then moves to another channel to complete the conversation, the consolidation of channels is key to keeping the experiences consistent.
For Radius, Peters expresses that a CDP means that a customer can contact any department, on any channel, anywhere in the world, and any agent will be able to access the customers' information. This means the customer can be helped at that moment or directed to the correct department rather than being told it’s the wrong number. It truly “streamlines the customer experience”.
And that’s not all, for Radius, a fleet mobility and connectivity solutions provider, “the data and analytics feeding the model can truly personalise conversations”. Colin continues that with the right data, interactions can be personalised on the type of industry or business. For example, “someone with a fleet of ten vehicles calls it a fleet, but a plumber with two vehicles doesn't call it a fleet.” Honing into the customers’ own language and understanding can be the next step in hyper-personalisation.
In 2024, businesses will need to connect the ‘data’ dots across functions, from sales and marketing to customer service, to enhance the customer experience. Linking that single view across functions means the company as a whole understands the customer. If you know your customers well and use that to enhance communications then the customer's perceived value of the company is higher.
“Achieving a Single Customer View needs that cross feed between sales, marketing and customer service” says Colin Peters
Mullens explains that for Cymba there’s so much expertise, knowledge and experience in marketing and sales teams, that sharing that expertise between departments will continue to be vital in 2024. Somebody might be sitting there in the corner of a marketing department with this fantastic idea, but they've never been given the opportunity or asked the kind of question that you need to ask to release that incredible idea. And so by collaborating more, it gives us an opportunity to innovate more.
For RedCloud Technologies, de Jong predicts that in 2024 the next function to be brought into the mix will be product. While sales, marketing and service speak every day, De Jong explains “it’s now the impact that sales and marketing are having on the product development and product teams and vice versa.” Defragmentation between departments is a big part of what de Jong sees happening next year. Creating an end-to-end conversation across the business that utilises connected data and a Single Customer View (SCV).
Advice from the experts: “Keep the message simple and start small in 2024”
From rich media channels and Generative AI, to connected customer data - many technology trends will impact customer engagement in 2024. But that doesn’t mean businesses should run before they can walk. Rich explains how businesses should keep it simple and start small when it comes to technology implementation, “...technology will grow and take a natural course. Discover where the best opportunities are and what the best innovation is. If businesses try to boil the ocean in one go, they’re going to fail dismally.” Moreover, with CM.com, Cymba can test and quickly implement with a seamless and quick onboarding process.
From Peters' point of view, businesses need to keep it relevant and pick the right channels and the right technology at the right time. For example, when a business is selecting a new or which channel to use, see what the value the channel holds for the business before spending time and resources on something with low value.
Or take a leaf out of RedCloud Technologies’ book, de Jong describes how the company will implement a GenAI pilot specifically focusing on enhancing customer conversations, taking learnings from the current conversational insights.
If you’re interested in further exploring 2024 customer engagement technology trends, or would like to implement rich media channels, GenAI in customer service, or a Customer Data Platform, then contact CM.com today and one of our experts will be in touch.