The new rules of customer engagement in 2019

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The way that businesses engage with their customers has changed a lot over the past few years. The consumer of 2019 not only expects, but demands flexibility and personalisation, and wants to speak with a businesses with the ease with which they talk to their friends and family.

Thanks to giants of the gig economy (such as Uber and Airbnb) customers today have different expectations about the way in which businesses communicate with them - they’ve become accustomed to contextualised and seamless communications. Today, whether they’re ordering a taxi, calling to make a complaint or looking for an update on the status of an order, they won’t settle for less. The rules of engagement have changed.

Enterprises are beginning to take note and, as such, the contact centre as we once knew it has become obsolete. Instead, cloud-based contact centres enable businesses today to not only provide more personalised communications, but also future-proof for the emergence of new channels, technologies and user preferences.

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Bridging the gap

Yet, there is still work to be done if businesses are to keep pace with their customers’ needs. In fact, research conducted by Twilio has revealed that is a major communications divide: Nearly seven out of ten businesses think they’re communicating with their customers effectively, while only two out of ten customers agree. 

At Twilio, we’ve worked closely with leading brands such as Airbnb, Uber, WhatsApp, TransferWise, and M&S to power their communications and authentication solutions. Based on our experience with customers and developers, we believe there will be a few marked changes in the way businesses engage with their customers as they look to bridge this gap.

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1. Customer service agents will play a more strategic role as machine learning based applications become widely adopted

Customer service agents often get a bad reputation for simply reading a script or transferring customers from person to person without a resolution. This is largely due to the outdated tools they are using to find information and present it to the customer.

In 2019, as machine learning is applied and AI becomes integrated into contact centre technology systems, customer service agents will be able to focus on having more intelligent, authentic conversations with customers, rather than performing rote actions. Instead of being replaced by presumed artificially intelligent technology, human agents will be critical members of the broader team bringing interactions to life. Agents will participate by training new machine learning based applications built to complement them, leading to better experiences for consumers.

2. 2019 will be the year of the application platform

Application platforms will usher in an entirely new way for developers to consume and customise enterprise software. Application platforms deploy like a SaaS application, integrate like an on-premises-based solution, and iterate at the pace of API-based platforms.

With application platforms, developers benefit from the low cost and scalability of the cloud, but are no longer limited in their ability to customise like they often are with SaaS. We expect an explosion of new ideas from developers, starting in the contact centre industry, who finally have the tools they need to innovate enterprise software.

3.  Businesses will be more visible on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Apple iMessage and Facebook Messenger

While these apps are still predominantly used for consumer to consumer communication, 2019 will be the year when business use-cases will accelerate. Businesses will use these apps as new channels to engage customers in real-time conversations.

4.  As tech innovation rapidly grows, security will continue to be left behind

Tech innovation moves extremely fast. With the emergence of driverless cars, connected medical devices and artificial intelligence, security has been sacrificed for the sake of speed. As an example, countless startups are popping up, but are lacking the resources to ensure the security of their products.

5.  The conversation around data breaches will need to shift from “who had a breach” to “who is managing their risks effectively.”

Every company has vulnerabilities and I believe we’ll see more companies talking about the processes that are in place to understand and mitigate their risks and how much effort they have spent to reduce risks.

6.  Consumers will slowly but increasingly follow those companies who take a leadership position around data privacy and care

Data is the currency of the internet and the single most important asset for businesses.

However, we have not cared for it, accounted for it or protected it the way we do financial currency. The backlash is here and, in the future, companies who take a leadership position around caring for customer data will see economic advantage over those who do not.

Nils Puhlmann, Chief Trust and Security Officer at Twilio

Devang Sachdev, Director of Product Marketing and Solutions at Twilio