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Shivakumar Ganesan

Shivakumar Ganesan (or, Shivku, as he is known to everyone) is the Co-Founder and CEO of Exotel. At the age of 32, he is heading India’s leading cloud telephony company, which he founded in 2011, in Bangalore. As a B2B tech platform, Exotel has been a behind the scenes ecosystem enabler, with a clientele of over 1000 businesses in India including brands like Uber, Flipkart, Ola, Sulekha, Quikr. Every day, they enable over 3 million conversations between businesses and their customers. The number of calls handled by the platform grew by 400% in 2015.

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The New Age of Customer Engagement: Secret Sauce to a Successful Business

Technology has played a big role in changing the face of customer communication, the way we know it today. The various customer touch points have evolved over time. The nature of the product has also played a vital role in this transformation.

Photo Credit : digitaluth,

In the past decade, companies large and small alike, have been focusing on providing an excellent customer experience. Business operations that once were the secret sauce to success have now been replicated and commoditised.

The New Age of Customers

Companies offering easy to use and enjoyable services are winning the race to the top. Riding on the benefits of providing good customer experience, startups like Etsy are challenging big business like eBay. Today, customers are always on-the-go and interact with more than one device. Users want services and products to learn their preferences and behaviour. They want personalised notifications around them, right when they want and where they want it. And, this is the new age of customer engagement that businesses should understand.

Many companies think that they are exemplifying care for their customers simply by focusing on providing their services or goods; however, the importance of customer service and proactive customer care is often overlooked. The reality is that it only takes one negative experience to cause a client to leave a brand.

According to Forrester, it costs five times more to acquire new customers than to keep current ones. This proves a key point: never underestimate the value of customer retention. Engage, inform and assist your current clients in the best way possible to show them that they are appreciated and to keep your best customers right where they are – by your company’s side.

Cardinal Sins of Customer Engagement

One of the biggest drawbacks that most brands face is that they assume the needs of the customers when they devise engagement strategies. They think about what needs to be done like a business and not as a client who is at the receiving end.

Ask yourself if your brand is guilty of any of these mistakes

• Assuming that you know what the customer’s needs are
• Lack of transparency and easy to use channels of engagement
• Not being present where the client's conversation is happening and expecting them to come to you

This can’t be a one-way traffic. You need to listen and then go back with signs of improvement.

The central pillar of customer engagement - proactive communication

Proactive communication is a paradigm of event-triggered notifications based on user interaction with a product, service or application. With proactive notifications or alerts, the minute a customer initiates an event, they get a notification. This can happen via one or all of these channels - Calls, SMS or Email notification.

While email notification is a good-to-have essential, it is seldom checked in real-time. Calls can be intrusive. SMS is the most non-intrusive and helpful way to keep customers informed.

So who needs proactive communication and why would one need to integrate it with one’s business?

Why does one need to go that extra mile? The answer is streamlining and making the customer experience profound.

In a global consumer survey, respondents stated a preference for more proactive communications. More than 86% of consumers said they would find outbound engagement either a “high benefit” or would “welcome proactive assistance” when they were stuck on the web or in self-service.

For example, missed or delay in deliveries is one of the major sources of customer dissatisfaction for e-commerce and logistics companies.

Where is my order? When is it getting delivered? This is all that a customer wants to know.

Having to call up the call center for this simple query is a difficult job. What if you give the customers the opportunity to receive these updates via SMS? It is non-intrusive and doesn’t involve any effort on the client's end.

For example, from the time a customer orders an item online, to when the item reaches them, at any point in time, the customer should know exactly what the status is. This is especially true in the case of cash of delivery items where the customer also needs to be prepared to receive the delivery.

Proactive communication fits in at every stage of the customer lifecycle
• Acquisition
• Onboarding
• Support
• Upselling
• Churn Management

The role of technology in customer communication

Technology has played a big role in changing the face of customer communication, the way we know it today. The various customer touch points have evolved over time. The nature of the product has also played a vital role in this transformation.

Earlier, phone calls were the only known and accepted form of customer support. After this came the huge wave of shift in favour of email support. Both over the phone and on email, there were actual people in the other end involved in the communication. When emails became overwhelming to handle, businesses looked at helpdesk softwares and real-time chat. These avenues were still largely human but businesses began to experiment with automations.

Businesses starting experimenting with canned responses and auto-responders. This gave them a flavour of what was possible without human intervention. But for all practical purposes, this is was still driven by real people on the other end.

And then came the age of bots where the whole thing was technology driven and the objective was to make it self-sufficient with as little human intervention as possible. In fact, businesses today are so keyed into automations to improve the ease of use for customers that even traditional media like phone and SMS are going through innovations in terms of reducing the human touch points and automating it to a large extent.

Give the customer the freedom to choose

Allow your customers to choose the channel they are most comfortable with and also get a business understanding of what they would like to know. This is going to be the way of the future, and it ties in with the philosophy of
                                        “Right place, Right time, Right information.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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