Keeping lines of communications open with customers, amidst a pandemic

  • Conversations allows contact centre agents to effectively support customers remotely
  • Working for an IPO, use it to become engineering powerhouse to expand solutions

Keeping lines of communications open with customers, amidst a pandemic

Picture this. It is March 2020. The Covid-19 situation has begun escalating into a global pandemic. Countries everywhere were announcing their respective lockdowns. In time, the Malaysian government announced the movement control order (MCO). All non-essential businesses were to close, their employees barred from leaving home.

The world had essentially halted, but life had to go on. Businesses needed to continue, albeit from home. Yet enterprises were facing a massive conundrum. They needed to respond to customer queries and concerns, but their call centres were unmanned and empty, their agents sent home and unable to access the on-premise systems.

Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation – that is a fact that we all know. One aspect, as organisations have undoubtedly realised, is the need to digitalise customer communications. Going forward into a post-MCO reality, this remains equally important.

Companies are grappling with the need for employees to reduce contact, so enabling them to work from home becomes vital. For contact centres, there’s a need then to move away from on-premise systems and look towards the cloud.

The good news, of course, is that there exists solutions for this. One example is Infobip, a UK-headquartered tech firm which offers a full-stack Communications Platform as a Service. The company, whose Malaysian operations are run out of Cyberjaya, which is also one of its Asian hubs, recently launched its contact centre solution, Conversations. The solution enables businesses to integrate with the world’s most utilised and popular communication channels.

Essentially, Conversations allows businesses to support customers via messaging services, calls and chatbots through a single interface. Most importantly, the cloud solution allows agents to keep business communications up from home.

 

Keeping lines of communications open with customers, amidst a pandemicKeeping the lines open

According to CS Gill (pic), the country manager for Infobip Malaysia, the MCO period has been “very interesting times" for the cloud communications platform. In 2019, Infobip was just reaching out to enterprise client about WhatsApp integration to their solutions, and things had been proceeding slowly.

Then Covid-19 hit. Infobip’s customers, which are mostly banks and insurance companies, had to close down their call centres. “That’s when enterprises realised how vulnerable their operations were. We literally had customers lining up to embark on our live chat solution, because it gives them the ability to work from home,” Gill tells Digital News Asia.

In fact, Infobip saw an over 50% increase in customers approaching it, mostly to access its chatbot builder, Answers, as well as its contact centre solutions.

Infobip’s solutions not only allow for remote operation, but also makes the work of contact centre agents more convenient. Conversations, for one, provides omnichannel connectivity via communication platform as a service (CPaaS) with a contact centre software stacked on top.

What this means is that it allows companies to easily allow agents to automate workflows, like routing customers to the right or same agent on a later visit. Agents also get to access customer data from CRM systems, web shop, ticketing and loyalty program systems (with added context of customer sentiment) in one place.

Then there’s the ability to manage cross-channel conversations, allowing agents to transition customer conversations between channels – they can, for instance, respond to questions whether on SMS or WhatsApp, from a single workspace. This is then wrapped up with analytics to enable managers to track customer activity and monitor agent performance.

In a way, the pandemic has been rather timely for Infobip, though CS is quick to point out that the need for digitalisation has been existing for a while. “We don’t want to bless the disease, but it was something that created a need overnight. The need was there, and it would’ve come through either way, but probably would’ve taken a longer timeline,” he says.

 

The right solution

Enterprise customers aside, CS iterates that Infobip’s solutions are also suitable for small and medium enterprises. SMEs make up of 98.5% of Malaysia’s businesses, all of whom also find themselves facing contact centre problems in a Covid-19 reality.

Business model-wise, Infobip’s solutions are all subscription based, with low entry cost. “An SME today can have a solution just like those larger enterprises do,” CS notes. Additionally, by working in a cloud-based environment, SMEs can also cut down on the costs of establishing an on-premise contact centre.

A cloud-based solution for contact centres also has a benefit in scaling. According to Gill, one common problem for enterprises is that when they grow in business, they also grow in call volumes. A pain point for them, then, is the never-ending increment needed for call centres to cater for the increasing number of calls and contact points, not to mention the need for more hires.

Businesses looking to move their contact centres on the cloud will also need to pay attention to who they are partnering with. When enterprises scale-up and begin moving their business operations to other countries, they need to able to handle the contact quirks of each respective country.

For instance, CS says that enterprises operating in Thailand would need to have channels in LINE messaging app, which is the more popular app in the country. In Phillipines, it would be Viber. With Infobip, which has partnered with these messaging apps and integrated into their solutions, enterprises would not need to go through a new procurement process each time they expand to another country.

CS adds that another reason to move away from traditional call centres is that live chat has its inherent benefits. Call centres typically require customers to wait. On live chat, customers are able to tackle other tasks while trying to reach customer service. At the same time, live chat allows enterprises to set expectations for their customers, like when a reply could be made.

 

The forward plan

Going forward, Infobip is looking to expand its SaaS solutions. In time, it is looking to add a new biometrics-driven solution, specifically for banks and insurance enterprises.

“Post-MCO, people are trying to have as little contact as possible. If possible, I would like for you to open an account with us digitally. At the same time, for insurance companies, how do we know that we’re chatting with the actual person over the phone?” Gill says.

The traditional way to approach this is to require customers to provide their maiden names or the last four digits of their identity card. But for something more secure, Infobip has a solution that uses biometrics for eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer) processes.

With this, customers can send a photo of their IC and Infobip’s solution will be able to grab that data (or, in the case of countries with NFC-enabled identification, just placing a phone over it will do). The customer will then have to take a selfie. Infobip will then mark the vectors and provide the organisation with a percentage of how well it matches the customer. Once done, the eKYC is completed and the process of opening an account or checking loan statuses can proceed.

Infobip is no stranger to innovating their offerings. When Digital News Asia last spoke to them in 2017, they were in the process of pivoting to an onmi-channel solution to grow from merely proving SMS solutions. Just last year, they pivoted to offering CPaaS.

Following that is the introduction of Answers, their chatbot builder that allows businesses to easily build their own chatbot via a drag-and-drop interface.

What’s next for Infobip? They will be moving towards an initial public offering (IPO) soon. “We have gotten our first round of funding. We are moving towards an IPO and use it to become an engineering powerhouse to expand our solutions,” Gill says.

That’s quite a leap for a startup founded in Croatia that began with SMS-related solutions. But much like preparing ahead of a massive disruption like a pandemic, it’s about reading the waves ahead. For that, Infobip seems to have the right information at hand.

 

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