By Oisin Lunny, OpenMarket for Customer Experience Magazine
Empathetic Interactions are all about seizing the countless invisible opportunities to surprise and delight customers by giving them information, engagements and experiences that they will value at precise moments in exact places.
And, mobile messaging is brilliant at that. With an unrivalled reach and ubiquitous appeal, it gives brands from all industries the opportunity to connect with their customers in the personal way they’ve come to expect. Today, we’re seeing businesses of all types, with a variety of objectives, empathetically engage with their customers and receive intense loyalty as a result.
So far in our blog series, we’ve looked at the customer journey through an empathetic lens to define and welcome the ‘Age of Empathy.’ We’ve looked at ‘Closing the Brand-to-Customer Empathy Gap.’ But, how do you put it into practice? Here’s three real-life examples from three different industries.
SMS and Empathy is a winning combination
Virgin Trains had a huge problem. Overcrowding at Euston Station in London was making their customers stressed-out and unhappy. The solution? A bit of empathy teamed up with SMS.
Virgin Trains used the power of E2P (enterprise to person) SMS messaging to turn their big problem into a much bigger customer experience win.
Euston is one of the UK’s busiest rail stations. It’s got a yearly footfall comparable to Heathrow (about 72 million) and the number of trains arriving there increases every year.
For the individual passenger, it can be a difficult experience. The size of the crowds means that the chance of bumping into other passengers, or getting stuck in people-jams, is high. Long lines at busy ticket barriers can be stressful, as can the 1/3 mile dash from the concourse to some carriages. Either way, people are battling through a crowded environment at the same time as worrying they’ll miss their train.
That’s why Virgin Trains implemented Project Surge, a simple and effective mobile messaging program to ease passenger flows. They send the train platform and seat number to every passenger who booked their ticket online, and to those who need a bit more time to board. This happens over a minute before the train platform comes up on the main departure board, and because SMS messages are typically read within seconds, this lead group gets a head start. The remaining passengers also benefit from the fact that there are fewer people boarding simultaneously, so there are no queues, no crush, no stress, and everyone boards quicker.
It’s a huge customer experience upgrade thanks to its empathetic design, and it comes with the added perk of positively affecting the bottom line. Online ticket sales have increased, and Virgin Trains had a 28 percent Net Promoter Score increase six months after the program started. Win win.
RCS to revolutionise the customer experience
RCS (Rich Communication Services), aka upgraded SMS, is text messaging for the smartphone age. It gives businesses even more options to interact with customers when using mobile messaging.
While it’s useful across many verticals and horizontals, retail customer experience professionals in particular will be excited by RCS’s rich media properties such as pictures, video, loyalty cards, coupons and carousel-like browsing and electing options. RCS also comes with “action buttons” which allow a customer to confirm a purchase, or track a package, directly from their messaging inbox.
The best way to appreciate the potential of RCS is to imagine the rich functionality of a communication app such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, but all taking place in the most used feature of any mobile smartphone, the SMS inbox. RCS is also custom built for business to consumer interactions. Brands will have a “trustmark” in partnership with the mobile phone networks This will close down any opportunity for spammers to masquerade as brands, as is too often the case on OTT apps and email.
RCS gives customers what they need, when they need it, without having to download an app for each of the brands they want to interact with on their mobile devices.
While RCS is still in its early phases, as more carriers get onboard and offer its empathetic solutions, we’ll see more customer-obsessed brands promoting its rich capabilities.
Chatbots add a personal touch. It’s true!
Chatbots are a prime customer experience initiative that are still catching on with brands and CX professionals to offer the kind of personal B2C interactions that today’s consumers are looking for. On top of providing quick and efficient service, chatbots are also capable of adding personality to the mobile messaging conversation.
A recent OpenMarket survey on chatbots revealed that out of a list of key verticals engaging with customers via SMS, the majority of customers (63 percent) want chatbot technology to be implemented into their bank or financial institution. This is attributable to a few things, but most notably customers’ needs for real time updates. Chatbots and mobile messaging solutions can extend the relationship between bank and customer way beyond their traditional opening hours, and fixed geographic locations.
It’s important to remember that while empathy is an inherent human quality, businesses need to act with empathy as well. If you put empathetic interactions at the forefront of your customer experience model, you will build meaningful relationships that survive and thrive.