By Nirmal Nair, head of products, SVP Marketing and Digital Sales at Clickatell

As smartphones reach saturation point in developing markets and make up a significant part of phone ownership in developing nations, customers are demanding an entirely different way of engaging with brands. This seismic shift towards mobile requires an equally bold response from organisations which hope to remain relevant.

Most companies spend time examining how the Millennials (ages 18 to 35) are communicating. It is well known that this always-on group of consumers shies away from human contact as much as possible. But the future-forward company should also be looking further down the line when planning on how to engage with their customers.

According to the 2016 Meeker report, the newly-dubbed Generation Z (ages 1-20) are bringing their new communications demands to the table. Generation Z is comfortable with as many as five concurrent screens, as opposed to Millennials, who opt for two.

It’s clear each generation is spending more and more time on their mobile phone. Finding ways to allow for customer engagement over this medium should therefore be the number one priority for companies who hope to survive the next decade.

South Africa is tracking the trend

While South Africa is still suffering a digital divide, the growth rate in mobile internet usage is heartening.

According to the annual report from We Are Social, which tracks global internet trends, South Africa’s 26.8 million internet users spend more than three hours a day on social media.

The majority (92%) of South Africa’s adult population owns a phone, with Smartphones taking the lion’s share of this majority at 60%.

What’s interesting is that instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and BBM, remains the most popular internet activity for mobile users (36%). This number is driven largely by the youth which shows a higher usage, but remains consistently high throughout the age groups.

So, if our customers are so reliant on their mobile phones – not only to access information, but as their primary means of communication – and, we can see that this will only grow over time as Generation Z enters the workforce – should organisations not have already moved on from designing for mobile-first as a means to engage with their customer?

It seems abundantly clear that the next step in the evolution of communications should be a bold move towards mobile-always.

Companies need to respond to mobile moments

Mobile moments are a hot topic amongst marketers and technology heads alike. Research house, Forrester, has defined mobile moments as ‘points in time and space when people pull out their devices to get what they want in an immediate context.’ And the company is advising clients that they are hugely important.

The complexity, of ensuring your customer is able to access what they are looking for on their mobile phones is far bigger than most companies believe.

Many organisations have allowed their customers to use mobile chat facilities as a primary means of engagement. And this is a useful first step. However, while chat facilities may already deliver faster service results from contact centres (agents can manage at least 5 or 6 simultaneous chat sessions), it still misses the real tech opportunities which are available.

In October this year, Gartner’s Darryl Plummer, predicted that by 2020 the average person will have more daily conversations with bots than with their significant other. He went on to say that with the rise of AI and other conversational interfaces, we are more likely to interact with a bot and not even know it, than ever before.

The company also sees Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bots taking over a significant amount of the day-to-day customer queries which face call centres.

According to Gartner, call centres have already started to adopt this technology to provide better customer service, increase call volumes and control costs. They see bots taking on more complex tasks, receiving inputs from more sources and at a higher rate than a human team could.

The third piece of the puzzle lies in workflow

With mobile chat, smart machine, AI and bot interventions, companies are well underway to reaching the goal of real customer delight. However, when workflow cards are added to the offering we truly hit the efficiency trifecta.

So much of our business offerings could be handled by applications which automate and streamline day-to-day transactions. Enabling these in the chat stream puts the customer in control of how they engage with your company. Examples of transactions would include appointments, invoicing, selecting products or features, cost estimations, downloading collateral and completing a purchase.

By combining the efficiencies offered by chat facilities, smart machines, AI and bots, along with the efficacy of automating workflow into the core of the offering, companies can truly embrace the opportunity of mobile moments – a service offering which is designed with the needs of the customer first. More importantly, a holistic offering which has been crafted with a mobile-always ethos ensures organizations are taking care of immediate customer needs as well as future-proofing their offerings as new generations join the customer ranks.

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