Are communication challenges impacting your operational efficiency?
Deep dive into this blog to find out how CPaaS and communications technology can help boost your businesses operational efficiency.
Ask any COO what the top three barriers are to improving operational efficiency in their business and chances are that poor communication will always be one of them.
Military leaders have always known this. From the days of the Roman empire to present day conflicts, one of the first goals in any confrontation is to knock out or weaken the enemy’s ability to communicate effectively. It slows them down, impairs their ability to co-ordinate their resources, and severely restricts their overall effectiveness.
Just as important is to ensure that one’s own communication is bullet proof. It must be secure, unambiguous, and reliably transmitted no matter what the circumstances. Omnichannel is a term usually associated with marketers rather than generals, but the military was the first to recognize that it was crucial to have multiple communication options available. From simple morse code and combat radios, all the way up to encrypted satellite comms – being able to choose the most effective communication channel for every scenario is vital.
Hopefully most COOs will never have to repel an invading force, but the core challenges are the same. How to ensure that your business communication enhances rather than harms your operational effectiveness.
In this blog we cover exactly that subject – so fall in line for a detailed guide, starting with how to navigate the minefield of omnichannel communication.
How to improve efficiency in an omnichannel world
The proliferation of new communication channels that has been well documented over the past few years has been a double-edged sword for businesses. On the one hand it has enabled them to increase engagement rates by being able to interact with consumers on the channels that they actually want to use, rather than expecting them to use tools that they are not familiar with or simply don’t trust.
The problem is that while email and SMS may be globally available, when it comes to digital channels there is a diverse range of messaging apps with a range of penetration rates in markets around the globe. Some of this diversity is down to legislation, for example WhatsApp not being available in China, some is down to historic socio-economic factors, and sometimes apps have grown from the niche requirements of certain regions.
There are also significant differences in the types of use cases that can be covered by messaging apps. This may be due to the app’s own rules, or the technology itself. Infobip’s Messaging Trends report includes a useful overview:
So, the diversity of communication channels that a global business needs to adopt in order to connect with and service its customers is a challenge, but it is one that it is well worth mastering in order to enjoy the benefits.
The efficiency benefits of adopting multiple channels
Improved responsiveness: Offering multiple communication channels gives customers the flexibility to choose their preferred method of being contacted and means that they are more likely to see the message, even if they are overseas, aren’t near a PC, or don’t have mobile signal. This speeds up issue resolution and contributes to improved operational efficiency.
Service flexibility: Not all customers are the same. Some may need a little more help with anything from sign-up, to resolving product and billing queries. By deploying multiple communication channels, you can cater for the needs of people who are comfortable with self-service options and want an answer quickly, but also provide additional support to those that need it from agents or specially trained chatbots. This improves the efficiency of the entire customer journey by providing every person with the right service for them at each point in the process.
Effective automation: Machines are very good at doing a large number of tasks very quickly without the risk of human error. AI and other automation tools therefore become a key weapon in any business’s drive to improve operational efficiency. From automated workflows that trigger communications at the optimal point, to chatbots deployed on your website or via messaging app to help customers 24/7.
Data insights: Facilitating communication across multiple channels provides a wealth of valuable data into customer behavior, preferences, and any bottlenecks in your procedures. You can use this information to optimize your processes, inform decision-making and help your business to reap the rewards of becoming a data-driven organization.
Cost savings: Reduced costs are usually one of the main aims of operational efficiency drives, and streamlining communication can make a significant contribution. From leveraging cost-effective digital channels where it makes sense to do so, to using automation to reduce manual work – all help organizations to achieve more with less resources, and therefore expense.
What can we learn about efficiency from Development methodologies?
We have mentioned the military, but sometimes we only have to look within our own organization to find the help we need in improving efficiency. The folks in the software development team may not be famous for their communication skills, but what developers value above all else is efficiency. And this means that their methodologies have evolved to maximize it – including in communication.
Let’s look at two development approaches and what we can learn about improving operational efficiency.
The goal of agile development is to deliver high-quality software products more efficiently by embracing flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement. This is a departure from traditional waterfall methods, where requirements are defined in full up front and developers then go off to build the product with no way of knowing precisely how long it will take them, by which time it may no longer be fit for purpose if the market has changed in the meantime.
Agile development resolves this flaw by employing an iterative and incremental process that prioritizes customer requirements and feedback and adapts to changing requirements.
Indeed, customer satisfaction lies at the heart of agile development. By involving customers and stakeholders throughout the development process, teams gain a better understanding of their needs, allowing them to create products that align more closely with requirements and expectations. If these needs change, as is often the case in the fast-evolving work of business communication, then developers are empowered to quickly adapt so that the solutions they deliver can add value immediately and give users an advantage over more sluggish competitors.
For business leaders evolving their customer communication strategies to maximize efficiency, Agile development offers three key lessons:
1. Focus on customer needs
Keep a laser focus on the communication requirements of your target market. Invest time and effort in covering the channels that they use, taking into account demographics and regional differences. Don’t waste effort and resources on channels just because they are new and trendy if your customers are not using them.
Involve your customers in the process by getting them to try out proof of concepts and beta programs. Always verify your assumptions through polls and customer interviews – for example, would they feel comfortable receiving authentication codes over messaging app?
2. Small steps mean faster time to market
Focusing on incremental gains to build an effective, flexible, and efficient communication solution. The solution doesn’t have to be fully functional before you put it into production. For example, if you are covering a transaction confirmation use case, start with the primary channel and then add a second failover channel later on, and possibly two-way messaging capability even further down the line.
Or don’t – 80% of the value may be unlocked by the initial step alone and there may be no pressing customer need to enhance it further. Adopting this approach enables businesses to respond swiftly to market shifts and technological advancements, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.
3. Don’t be afraid to change direction
If something isn’t working, then adapt it or throw it away completely. By adopting an agile mindset, you don’t see failure as a negative but realize the value of identifying dead ends quickly before wasting time and resources pursuing them.
Research by McKinsey has shown that companies who adopt agile practices across their entire business show average operational improvements of between 30% and 50%.
Ten years ago, hardly anyone had even heard of DevOps and now it is one of the most widely adopted approaches for developing enterprise technology solutions.
The goal of the DevOps approach is to establish a collaborative and seamless relationship between the development (Dev) and operations (Ops) teams to optimize the development, deployment, and maintenance of technology solutions. Where traditionally these three functions are separate, DevOps aims to combine them to foster a culture of mutual understanding and continuous delivery which has proven to be incredibly effective at improving the reliability and ongoing efficiency of technology projects.
In the context of an omnichannel communication solution, this means that the people who design, build, test, deploy, monitor, and support the solution work together throughout the whole process with many roles covering multiple tasks. This increases understanding and accountability and leads to significant efficiency gains for the business as duplicated effort and process bottlenecks are removed.
How the CPaaS model can help improve communication efficiency
CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service) is a cloud-based service which enables organizations to easily add multiple communication services into their own applications without the cost and hassle of developing their own solutions.
The CPaaS provider not only provides the technology and infrastructure, but can also help with strategy, channel and market expertise, client onboarding and customer support.
CPaaS can be a key enabler of operational efficiency for any organization looking to adopt multiple channels in their customer communication. This is particularly relevant for platform companies that provide communication services to other organizations.
Easy channel adoption
As we have learnt from Agile methodologies, the most efficient way of implementing a communication solution is to learn by doing and getting something working quickly and with the least possible effort to see if it adds value. If it shows promise you can develop it further, and if it doesn’t then you can try something else, with minimal waste of time and effort. Developing an intricately engineered solution over a long period of time and then finding out that it isn’t fit for purpose is the opposite of efficiency.
A single interface for all communications
It is all very well adopting multiple channels, but for your employees it would be an efficiency disaster if they had to navigate between multiple interfaces and devices in order to manage them. The joy of CPaaS is that the channels can be integrated into your own systems so staff have a sense of continuity, and the cloud architecture means that IT don’t have to manage the infrastructure that it is based on.
Speed to market
Rather than developing a new communication from scratch with all the time and financial overheads that entails, the CPaaS model gets businesses up and running almost immediately. Within days, or even hours in some cases, they can start communicating on the new channel and get first access to new features available on the channel. This means the organization can concentrate on its core business and start getting financial and efficiency benefits far more quickly.
Every business has natural cycles during the year where there are peaks and troughs in the communication that they send. With an in-house solution, the hardware, infrastructure, and human support have to be sufficient to handle the highest peaks in activity, for example in the lead up to Black Friday and the holiday season for retailers. For the rest of the year these resources will be underutilized. With CPaaS’s cloud deployment model, resources can be provisioned as and when they are required, leading to both operational and financial efficiencies.
Multiple channels all working off the same customer data platform (CDP) means that there is a single source of truth, and any communication is always based on the latest state of the customer. This ensures consistency, reduces the chances of duplication, and therefore improves efficiency across the entire customer journey.
When expanding into new territories, businesses can get bogged down for months or even years as they get to grips with local legislation and business practices. Take SMS for example – there is a huge diversity in SMS compliance laws around the world. Working with a CPaaS provider with boots on the ground in all the territories in which you operate means that you have a knowledgeable ally to help you navigate the process.
Just as in DevOps, automation is a fundamental aspect of CPaaS. By automating repetitive tasks, such as resource provisioning and campaign registration, teams can reduce manual errors, ensure consistency, and accelerate the delivery process to enable the businesses to be even more agile in responding to changing market conditions.
Granular reporting across multiple channels
Monitoring and troubleshooting becomes a far simpler process with a single reporting lens covering all channels. This enables proactive analysis so that any potential issues can be identified early and resolved. For example, bot-generated traffic and other types of fraud can be automatically detected and stopped before they have an impact.