Conversational CX: The next big thing for the Next Normal

Jump ahead. 

Hold on—you don’t have to. Just look around: The Next Normal is already here. 

The change is already upon us. As the business world was just getting the contours of the infinitely evasive nature of the millennial customer, the real world changed. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and its slow, phased ebb is taking the wraps off a new and strange world order. As the order changes, so does the customer. 

In this epochal moment, the new way of how things look and run is referred to as the Next Normal, possibly a hint about the irreversibility of the change brought about by the pandemic. The Internet is turning out to be the new Avenue of Everything, the new avenue for access to education, healthcare consultation, apparel, basic drugs, and many, many more that were main-stays of the physical world. Well, that’s digital transformation on steroids. Pretty much known, wasn’t it? With lockdowns and super-spreaders entering our daily vocabulary, the virtual world would, certainly, turn out to be the primary location where most of life conducts itself. 

But, what else has changed? 

In our daily lives, we interact with brands all the time. Right from the point we switch on the TV for some news to go with our daily fix, to the cab we hail (now through the phone mostly) to the e-mail service we use to send high-priority missives, and from the coffee we buy as we get off the transport to the products we buy—our shoes, our workwear, our car…our everything. We are, literally, brands: trying to build brands by buying and owning all sorts of branded stuff.. Hence the question: What has changed? 

The way we talk to the brands. 

Customers are keeping in touch with brands through newer mediums. No longer do they feel the necessity to go to the website or the brand of their preference, or dial up the customer contact center. The customer contact center is changing—morphing into an interface that allows messaging to be the dominant communication method. This means pure, filter-coffee like data can lead to great machine learning models that can realize bot-based, algorithm-driven, one-to-many customer interactions that can truly transform the customer experience. 

That’s where the world is moving—toward what the experts call the Conversational Customer Experience (C-CX). Aloha!

Subharun Mukherjee, Director of Product Marketing at Freshworks, sums it up in clear terms: 

Here is a fact: the pandemic saw a 10x increase in online doctor appointments in a matter of just 15 days. That is the scale at which digital is now a way of life for our customers. And clearly, messaging seems to be their preferred medium to enter in their suddenly expanded digital lives. The volume of messages exchanged through social messenger apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, which already was a fast growing trend, saw a phenomenal 50% spike.”

Where’s the catch?

Well, messaging platforms such as Facebook’s WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram have been around for a while. So, why haven’t they picked up as channels of choice for customers to reach out to brands? A resounding why. Why have businesses been reluctant to facilitate customer communication through these platforms? It is a no-brainer that customers would like to ping a brand on, say, Apple Business Chat. So where’s the catch? 

Well, we have realized that businesses have had the forethought that convenience leads to more conversation. As known earlier, people are social. They love to talk. Businesses have been worried about opening the floodgates of conversation without clear visibility if they can meet the new demand. 

That’s where Conversational CX scores above all traditional methods of talking to customers, including when they need help. It’s truly disruptive: 

The cutting edge

Where exactly does Conversational CX set itself apart from the rest of the bot-driven customer engagement models? It is quite known that every other business engages an army of bots as the first line of customer support. The differentiation, therefore, lies in a set of cool features backed by truly frontier-breaking technology to make more intelligent or engaging conversations happen. 

Picture this: You’ve ordered an exquisite bottle of champagne to celebrate a big break in your start-up journey. The guests are en route, the tables are set up, and you’re just finishing up accessorizing your party outfit with a rather flashy bow-tie. Along comes the dampener. The delivery personnel has mixed up packages, and you’re standing at the threshold, holding a bottle of cheap wine, shaking in anger.

Small consolation that the e-commerce company doesn’t make you navigate through an IVR. At least, they’ve got a chat window (the channel is WhatsApp), but it’s obvious a bot is going to regurgitate keyed-in answers. You unleash a no-holds-barred diatribe, wondering on the side if the bot will pick up the sentiment. You are floored! It did. You’re on call with a support personnel who is already making amends. 

The technology behind that quick escalation is a cool use of Artificial Intelligence to glean meaning from unstructured information. An irate customer is spotted beforehand and the most sympathetic agent is patched with the customer. Conversational CX delivers this cutting edge. Another advantage: the ability to provide support agents with a wide view of the customer, such as their previous interactions and so on, to ensure they are able to resolve problems quickly. Here, context is King. 

We caught up with a few folks at Freshworks to figure out the thinking behind Conversational CX. Says Daniel Rajan, Product Marketing-Lead for Freshchat, who has been hands-on when it comes to Conversational CX: “Of late, we have been bringing our Messaging and Bot platforms together, particularly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are offering it as a combined solution, blending their powers so that businesses can offer convenient customer service on channels that their customers prefer.”

At the recently concluded Refresh 2020 global conference—which, by the way, was held in a totally virtual environment—Freshworks unpacked a whole lot of features and concepts associated with Conversational CX. The four-legged (like our AI mascot Freddy!) structure for Conversational CX can be adopted by businesses at one go, or be approached sequentially, Subharun explained it all in his presentation at Refresh (Want to check it out? Click here. Upon receiving a login link in your inbox, you’re all set to explore Refresh 2020.)

Across customer segments, the adoption of C-CX has been quick: Klarna, a Swedish financial services company has seen a 3x increase in number of customer queries being addressed through messaging as a channel (they process $35-b every year on their platform); subscriptions-based delivery company SuprDaily has over 90% of its queries addressed through bots; and, in the case of delivery platform Dunzo, query resolution time has been slashed by 80%, thanks to the quick resolution feature of Conversational CX.

Conversational CX was born out of an unending quest to make it convenient for the customer. Strangely, its adoption is picking up in the middle of a global pandemic, which has accelerated an all-round digital adoption. As it evolves and grows, Conversational CX is much likely to morph into another milestone in the journey to make customer experience better, adhering to the much-appreciated axiom: Change is the only constant.