How to Improve Customer Engagement with an API-Based Contact Center
Customer engagement is all about the relationships you build. Learn how your call center can provide the foundation for your customer engagement strategy.Learn More
How to Improve Customer Engagement with an API-Based Contact Center
When it comes to connecting with customers, the majority of businesses are missing the mark. Companies tend to overestimate the value of their communications, misjudge consumer preferences, and underestimate consumer challenges. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t even realize this communication divide exists.
A recent consumer research study showed that nearly seven out of ten businesses think they’re communicating with their customers effectively, while only two out of ten customers agree. The consequences of poor communication range from customers sharing negative comments with friends to losing business to competitors.
The good news? Businesses have the power to change this. Good communication experiences have a big positive impact on the bottom line across all industries and regions.
What is Customer Engagement?
Customer service and customer experience are both terms businesses use quite a lot, and these are fairly easy terms to understand. It’s pretty evident when service is good or bad or when customers are satisfied or dissatisfied with their experience. Most businesses are constantly working to improve both customer service and customer experience.
But what about customer engagement? This term can be defined in many different ways, depending on whom you ask. Likewise, for each business, the type of engagement you’re after is different as well. For some, a customer engagement strategy means getting customers to share your content on social media. For other companies, engagement is all about sales. For most businesses though, customer engagement revolves around developing an ongoing and loyal relationship.
So, how do you create the engagement that matters for your business? When it comes to your contact center, the central means of communication many businesses have with their customers, your customer engagement strategy can be the driving force behind the technology you use to power your customer interactions.
Ongoing, loyal relationships go much deeper than a simple transaction. They are complex, personalized, and require careful consideration and planning.
APIs to the Rescue
Provisioning contact center software and hardware for your contact center can be complicated because legacy systems are siloed and weren’t designed to be integrated. Traditional procurement and provisioning models don’t prioritize keeping up with customer expectations, which change quickly in today’s technology landscape.
However, there is a contact center framework to consider that makes personalizing your customer communications as easy as customizing your company website. This framework is based on API building blocks and works across all channels. It allows for the freedom to experiment and the ability to integrate, which together create a personalized customer experience. With an API-based contact center backing up your customer engagement strategy, you can stay agile, and experiment to continually improve.
With APIs, you can build a contact center that equips your agents to anticipate and meet customer needs effectively across the channels they prefer. By providing your agents with the exact information they need about each specific customer, you’re empowering them to give excellent customer service. Do this every time, and you’re setting your business up for ongoing customer relationships and loyalty.
The Programmable Contact Center Platform
There's also a new option on the market: the programmable contact center platform. Flex, which is built on Twilio APIs, is a contact center that's instantly deployable out of the box and programmable at every layer of the stack. Contact center buyers no longer have to choose between the old dichotomy of build (with legacy on-premise solutions that require high costs and lengthy development cycles) vs buy (SaaS solutions with limited off-the-shelf features and functionality). Now with Twilio Flex, companies can both buy an out-of-the-box contact center and build a completely custom experience to meet their business objectives, today or in the future.
Customer Engagement Stories
In today’s competitive landscape, customer engagement is how many businesses stand out among the crowd. Consider what these brands are doing and the impact their customer engagement strategies are having on their relationships with their customers:
Healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente uses notifications to communicate with patients such as when their prescriptions are filled, when a doctor is ready for a scheduled appointment or running late, or when a bill is due. They sent 120 million notifications via Twilio in 2016 alone. When it comes to health, a notification or text message is more than just a message, it’s a reminder to patients of how to take care of themselves, and how healthcare providers help patients manage their care. Notifications give Kaiser Permanente a way to both increase customer engagement and also improve their customers’ lives. A 2011 study published in Health Services Research Journal found that SMS reminders substantially increase the likelihood of attending clinic appointments.
For SimplyBusiness, the UK's leading business insurance broker, Twilio APIs provide an integrated way to communicate with their customers and track their entire digital lifecycle. With approximately 200 agents in their contact center, TaskRouter helps SimplyBusiness route customers to the right agent at the right time. Because of Twilio’s building block approach, SimplyBusiness can easily run A/B tests and iterate to constantly improve. One recent test on an IVR channel, which took SimplyBusiness developers only 15 minutes to set up, drove a 3% increase in conversion.
Ruby Receptionists, a virtual receptionist service based in Portland, Oregon, knows how averse customers are to having a negative phone experience. In fact, 72% of people will hang up if they receive an automated response when they call a company. Ruby Receptionists also know that great customer engagement starts with having the right infrastructure. Switching from their legacy telephony system to Twilio as their SIP Trunking provider let Ruby Receptionists focus on experiences rather than transactions, building customer engagement daily through more than 36,000 calls per day.
eLocal, an online marketplace where clients connect to home professionals, previously passed leads directly to their customers (providers such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.) However, their conversion rates weren’t where they wanted them to be. So they built a contact center with Twilio. Now, eLocal agents talk to clients browsing the site and finds out more about them before passing them on to a provider. Is the customer just window shopping or do they need a plumber right this minute? eLocal uses Task Router to provide each client with a lead score and connect them to the right home professional. Conversion rates are up, customers get a more personalized experience, and everyone is happier with the service.
These are just a few examples of the many ways businesses are building customer engagement right into the technology they use. They’re prioritizing their customer relationships, and they’re doing it in a way that provides outcomes that matter to their customers.
Customer Engagement Benefits of an API-Based Contact Center
When you build a contact center using APIs, you’re in control of creating the customer engagement strategy that makes the most sense for your business. As a bonus, you can do so with little to no telecommunications knowledge. As your contact center’s integration points, usability flows, and interaction channels change over time, you can adjust—in real time—and create the customer experiences you need to stay competitive.
Here are seven benefits of building an API-based contact center:
1. Scale elastically
As your needs and use cases fluctuate, simply scale up or down with no penalties. Because APIs adjust automatically, you can focus on what you want to build instead of worrying about capacity and hardware planning. Additionally, since APIs are structured on a pay-as-you-go model, you can grow flexibly with technology that scales with your business, without the risk of oversubscription charges or the need to unnecessarily overprovision your licenses.
2. Easy iteration
To create a great customer experience, you need to experiment, gather customer feedback, look at the proper metrics, roll back the things that don't work, and keep the things that do. Ideally, you should test and measure the components of your contact center just like you do with your webpage or mobile app.
3. Data integration and personalization
Use what you know about your customers, from all of your data sources, to create a personalized experience that anticipates their needs and provides the right service. Understand more about your customers than just their customer experience — understand as much as you can about them so you can personalize your offering.
Intelligent routing allows you to connect your customers to right agent faster. Attributes-based routing assesses the needs of the caller, incorporates contextual information about them, and connects them to the most qualified agent available with the skills to address the caller’s needs. When your customers get their needs met quicker, they have an overall better experience.
With communications APIs, you can build or update an IVR with a few lines of code without struggling to configure call center software. That means you can iterate, A/B test, and continually adapt your IVR to your customers’ changing needs. Create greetings, build menus, and easily customize your IVR using the web languages you already know. Features such as speech recognition, an on-screen menu displayed on the customer’s smartphone, multilingual capabilities, omnichannel support, and integration with intelligent routing create deeper customer engagement. Use natural language understanding as part of a live call flow to transform conversational dialogue into structured data.
6. Multiple channels
Communications are changing quickly and present a huge opportunity to connect with customers in new ways via channels such as WhatsApp, Alexa, and Facebook messenger. Customer engagement is easy when you communicate with customers in the way they expect to communicate. For example, millennials prefer to hear from businesses through social media and messaging apps at more than twice the rate of older customers. You may also want to include mobile customer care, either as a standalone service or integrated into your call center.
7. Control your roadmap
Many legacy and “off the shelf” call center software options come with a pre-defined roadmap. They offer specific features and a “one size fits all” approach that may not offer the flexibility you need to create the exact customer experience you want. APIs let you control your own roadmap, so you can make the incremental upgrades you want on your own timeline, without downtime or upfront investment. As your business objectives change, you can adjust your technology to meet your new goals.
Using APIs in Your Customer Engagement Strategy
Customer engagement goes deeper than how much or how frequently your customers spend. To stand out in today’s world of technology and information, you have to think outside the box to know what your customers want—perhaps even before they realize it themselves. As end users around the world demand access to brands through a growing range of channels, companies risk losing business if they can’t adapt their customer engagement strategies quickly.
For some businesses, this will feel like a massive challenge. For others, though, it will be an opportunity. With the rise of communications APIs, businesses can build their own customized communications experiences that are tailored to meet the unique needs of their customers. The choice to use APIs isn’t just a technical decision, it’s also a business decision to prioritize agile development, A/B testing, and quick software iterations, while integrating feedback from contact center agents into communication improvements. Ultimately, the choice to use APIs is a choice to make customer engagement the cornerstone of your communications.