Beerud Sheth, CEO of conversational AI technology company Gupshup, explains why CRM needs to be recast as conversational relationship management.
CRM is, by definition, the ability to maintain and manage a relationship with a customer throughout their journey with your business. That means covering their transition at various stages – from being a suspect, prospect, opportunity, closure, to renewing customer. This coverage manifests itself through customer touchpoints, of which there may be tens, hundreds, or thousands during the life cycle of a customer. In an increasingly digital world, most of these touchpoints are automated, but automation, using online advertising, re-targeting, e-mail-based drip marketing, social media marketing, and other channels, is finding it increasingly hard to get customer attention, despite the use of data to personalize their experience. AI and chatbots can play a major role in reversing this trend.
How? Let’s look at where customers spend most of their time. Is it on websites, on mobile apps, or looking at emails? Websites are filled with re-targeted ads that seem to follow users’ every digital step. Mobile apps are fast hitting a download barrier – there are only so many apps that one can download and actively use. E-mail is a flood and doesn’t see open rates beyond 10- 15%; click rates in the sub-1% range are normal, even for the most personalized emails. So, with all this automation, is the customer relationship really being managed? The answer is no because CRM is missing one vital truth: it’s on messaging apps that customers are spending their time today.
Appealing to humans’ core instinct
Messaging apps have more than three billion active users across the world. We use them to stay in touch with friends and family, form workgroups and hobby groups, have formal and informal chats, exchange documents, close deals, and do a variety of other activities. Why? Because messaging apps are conversational. They appeal to the most basic of our instincts – we are communicators. Messages sent over WhatsApp boast an open rate of 99% and a response rate of 40%. That doesn’t happen by accident.
In today’s world, brands across industries need to be where their customers are, talk to them in a language that they’re comfortable interacting in, understand their doubts and problems (maybe even more than one at a time), and innovate in the ways they provide solutions to their customers.
This has to be the basis of today’s CRM: conversational relationship management.
To manage customer relationships via conversations on messaging apps, businesses require a technology that will help them personalize these conversations at scale. That’s where conversational AI plays a vital role. Conversational AI refers to chatbots or voice assistants that your customers talk to. Working on different technologies, they use large volumes of data, machine learning, and natural language processing to carry out human-like interactions. Using natural language understanding (NLU), conversational AI enhances customer engagement between humans and machines. Conversational AI has machine learning and deep learning capabilities over text and voice, which helps it learn, process, and transact with a contextual understanding.
Let’s look at how AI-powered chatbots can drive conversational relationship management across the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages of the customer lifecycle.
Pre-purchase: Conversational marketing
Conversational marketing helps you take your customers across the marketing funnel through a series of personalized conversational experiences, on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Instagram Direct, and others.
1. Marketing entry points: Make any digital or physical entry point (be it a website, app storefront, billboard, product package, or digital ad) a conversation starter with QR codes or URLs.
2. Marketing chatbots: Starting with an entry point, lead generation, lead nurturing, and lead conversion can become frictionless with AI-powered branded bots on WhatsApp, Instagram Direct, and any messaging app, taking prospects on a journey
3. Use A2P messaging: For small and large databases, send rich media messages on WhatsApp, Instagram Direct, and any messaging app to start automated two-way conversations.
4. Outdoor media: If you run advertising campaigns leveraging outdoor media networks, QR code-enabled chatbots can convert physical surfaces into conversational interfaces.
Purchase: Conversational commerce, a mobile storefront for your business
Conversational commerce helps your business generate more revenue by taking your customers on a conversational journey across the purchasing process, during which they can discover products, order, pay and track orders within a messaging app like WhatsApp or Instagram Direct.
1. Commerce entry points: Make any digital or physical entry point a commerce entry point with QR codes or URLs.
2. WhatsApp commerce: Move your product catalog on WhatsApp using the WhatsApp Commerce feature.
3. Product discovery: Send product catalog messages or single product messages to your database on the messaging app and start a two-way conversation with them.
4. One-click payment: Collect payments within the messaging app once your customer checks out and is ready to pay.
5. Integrate your messaging app with leading POS and payment gateways.
Post-purchase: Conversational support, a 24x7 personal assistant to your customers
Conversational support helps you create a 24x7 support channel for your customers so that routine and complex queries can be handled efficiently, and live agents are brought in sparingly. This helps your business maintain customer experience while keeping support costs low.
1. Start support chats on WhatsApp or Instagram Direct: Activate a support chat when a customer calls a toll-free number or leaves a (good/bad) comment on social media. Send links to customers proactively to activate support chats on messaging apps.
2. Support chatbots: Build them on WhatsApp, Instagram Direct, and other apps to handle FAQs and complex queries, advanced queries with context changes.
3. WhatsApp-based customer support: This can help you set up and scale up customer support on WhatsApp. It supports multiple agents, has intuitive chat screens, supports user onboarding and management, and helps in creating pre-determined auto-responses to common queries. At any point, a live agent handover is possible.
4. Handover to single and multiple agents: This is an important aspect of conversational support where, depending on the volume, a query gets routed to a single or multiple agents based on a routing logic. Single and multiple agent dashboards can be used.
In the era of the messaging app, CRM needs to be recast and become more conversational than before.
This article was published in Communicate's latest issue.