Traditional customer service is centred around using both the phone and email as channels to reach out to customers, offer support, and upsell to them. In India, as the cost of a call centre is very cheap, the approach has been of setting up a call centre to handle customer support using the phone as the primary means of contact. This has been the standard operating procedure for the past decade or so. In addition, most lead-gen in India is also supported by the call centre, i.e., leads generated digitally or by other means are screened and pitched using the phone. Thus the phone has become the primary medium for customer service and lead-gen verification. But then a couple of changes in the last 2-3 years are making this route of phone-based customer support difficult. This is leading to a declining ROI in this setup, and we as marketers should take note and look at alternative solutions. In this article, I will talk about the changes and potential directions which one can consider.
Truecaller – Killing the call centre ROI
The Truecaller app, which was created by a Scandinavian company, has India as its biggest market. This is because the app provides a caller ID service and allows people to identify the caller before choosing to answer or reject the call. This has made call connect rates for call centres fall to an average of 25-35 %. This is not a sudden development but one that has evolved slowly the last 3-4 years. The trend has recently been exemplified by the availability of an always-on data connection. This has meant that companies now resort to auto-dialers and sophisticated setups to call the user many times from different numbers. The number of attempts made range from 4 in a week (ideal) to 15-20 in 3 days (bad user experience).
JIO and Dual SIMs – Killing the number as an identity
The second trend, which is impacting lead-gen, is the availability of cheap dual-sim phones making it easy to switch numbers at the drop of a hat. This means that a typical user may end up changing numbers many times in a couple of years. In addition, due to the dual-sim card, they are less likely to pick up calls made to those numbers which are bought just to avail data offers. The most prolific among the operators is JIO, which disrupted the telecom market. My anecdotal analysis of JIO is that most people keep it as a secondary SIM and don’t answer or make phone calls using JIO. This is the number which they readily give away to anyone, including lead-gen forms or anyone wanting to fill up a lucky draw coupon at the nearest mall. Thus, these secondary SIMs are used just to complete registration formalities like OTPs etc. but are hardly used to receive calls. This change is breaking the very core assumption that phone numbers can be used as unique identifiers for customers.
FB Messenger as an alternative channel
Given that it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach people for customer support and upselling. there is pressure to look at alternative means of customer service. One of the channels which are emerging is chat and here is where FB Messenger is making a bid by offering Messenger for Business and WhatsApp Verified Business Account. With FB Messenger and Whatsapp, Facebook is making a pitch for replacing the existing channels of email and phone with today’s more connected mediums of communication. The idea is good in principle but needs to be tested in the market to see if consumers will accept it and respond positively. To enable quicker adoption of this, Facebook is allowing the following:
- Offering a messenger ad format which allows brands to start conversations with potential customers.
- Send/Receive API’s which allow you to build customised experiences for your customer. This opens up a million possibilities. An e-commerce company can now notify shipping of their product using FB Messenger. Techcrunch provides a custom feed of stories inside FB Messenger based on your preferences.
- Sponsored message – Allow businesses to send targeted messages to people who have already have chatted with the business on FB Messenger.
- Customer Matching – It is also now allowing (for US businesses) to match your customer’s phone number from your CRM into messenger. Once there is a match you can start chatting with your customers directly on FB Messenger.
Have you considered using FB Messenger or Whatsapp for business for your business needs? If so would love to hear about your experience with the same.