Experts Weigh In On The Importance of Conversational Support in 2021

In a recent panel discussion with industry experts, we explored the growing importance of messaging apps and customer experience. Specifically, we discussed the current role of conversational support and where it's headed. Here's what you need to know.

The state of B2C Messaging

Businesses are no longer competing on the basis of product and price. In the past, simply having a quality product or service and a good price point might have been enough to be competitive.

Now, customer experience is the new competitive battleground. It drives revenue, loyalty, and can make or break a company. 

In a post-pandemic world, brands aren't just facing pressure to improve customer experiences. They also need solutions that improve efficiency -- ones that can scale to meet growing demands. 

As decision-makers look towards the future, conversational support emerges as a critical tool. Messaging channels, combined with purposeful automation, empower brands to achieve two seemingly conflicting goals: increase revenue while reducing operational costs. 

Key takeaways from our panel discussion 

Perhaps no one understands these challenges better than our recent panel guests. We sat down with Elena Serrano Garcia and Marta Lopez to get their perspective on how things are changing. 

Elena Serrano Garcia is the Innovation Project Manager at Bankia. In her role, she tests and implements disruptive solutions to build the bank of the future.

Marta Lopez is the CCO, Webhelp. She has over 20 years of experience in helping global brands develop the technology and strategies needed to build industry-leading customer communication.

Let's recap the takeaways.

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A good customer experience isn't a differentiator, it's a necessity 

We all know that customer expectations are changing. But recently, the pressure to compete is at an all-time high. 54% of customers have higher expectations for customer service today compared to just one year ago. 

Apps like Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify have turned customer service into customer obsession. They've set the bar high -- and they've done so across all industries. 

Banking, for example, is no exception. Even traditional business models face pressure to match the convenience, speed, and service that tech companies offer.

With a motto of "it's that simple," Bankia is committed to making life easier for its customers. And, that promise has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years. 

"Banking was a completely different business years ago," says Garcia. "Now, customers are comparing us to any other company, or any other service they use."

"For instance, if they use Spotify, and Spotify can recommend them music based on the music they are already listening to, they expect us to recommend the perfect product for them based on the data we have."

"That's a complex thing for a bank, but it's also a good thing because that helps us to improve and work harder on improving our customer experience."

Digital channels are the new battleground

The pandemic moved life online. Financial and health companies saw a 250% increase in app downloads. Internet use surged as people tried their best to adjust to a new normal. 

This accelerated the need for digital-first, high-quality experiences. People's needs and behaviors changed dramatically -- and they expected companies to keep up. 

"We hit our all-time records in online banking during the lockdown," explains Garcia. "People who had never logged into our online banking app were using it every single day." 

And, this shift online is likely to stick. A recent survey by fintech company Novantas, found that only 40% of people said they expect to return to branches post-COVID. 

Support teams will need to do more with less

A focus on cost-to-serve is critical in our new normal. Many industries will see a reduction in market size and face more pressure to increase margins. 

As a result, the need to improve efficiency and optimize costs is essential. 

"We want to escalate scales, but not the number of contacts," says Lopez. "We are trying to automate low-value contacts, where we don't really need human interaction."

Order tracking, Lopez explains, is a use case that is ripe for automation. Automating low-value inquiries, where not a lot of context is needed, is key for achieving efficiency at scale.

We're "past the point of talking" about messaging channels

Conversational support through messaging channels is not a new idea. However, in the face of these technological and cultural changes, it's critical for brands to get it right. 

Messaging gives businesses much-needed control, flexibility, and transparency when it comes to communicating with customers. They can automate repetitive queries, freeing up human resources to provide better, more contextual service. 

According to Garcia, Bankia has long recognized the importance of conversational support, but the approach has varied over the years. Now, instead of integrating messaging within their own apps, they are now adopting the channels that their customers prefer.

"We have decided we are going to be in the favorite messaging app of our customers," says Garcia. "We are working on it. Everyone is working on it now."

For Bankia, that means embracing WhatsApp as a communication tool -- and with great success so far. Since Bankia opened up service on WhatsApp, Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have increased from 6.6/10 to 9.3/10. 

"Remember, we are a bank," Garcia jokes. These scores are particularly high for the financial services industry. 

Thriving in a new normal

The road ahead will be challenging for many brands. But, those that make the shift to digital-first service models will be in a better position to succeed. 

Key processes, such as customer communication, must be digitized and transformed. As such, conversational support will be a major focus area for brands moving forward. 

Want to hear more? Watch the full panel discussion below:

Need help with your conversational support strategy? Let's talk.