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How Contextual Communication Powers a Better Customer Experience

This article was updated on July 13, 2021

Contextual communication and omnichannel communication are hot topics in the business world, and for good reason. These concepts can have a powerful impact on a critical yet too often failing aspect of any business: the customer experience.

Illustration of hand holding smartphone

The traditional approach to customer service is broken. Long hold times, generic responses, and uninformed representatives have culminated in a poor customer experience, costing businesses significant amounts of money.

Consider these statistics:

  • 80% of customers place the same emphasis on flawless customer engagement as they do on product quality, making the customer experience a key competitive differentiator.
  • 75% of customers are willing to spend more to buy from companies that give them a good customer experience.
  • 75% of consumers who give a company a "very good" customer experience rating are likely to forgive a company for a bad experience, but only 14% of those who give a company a "very poor" customer experience rating say the same.

This is where contextual and omnichannel communication come into play. When applied properly, they can deliver exceptional customer experiences and a significant competitive edge. Read on for an explanation of these concepts and their benefits.

What Is Contextual Communication?

Contextual communication is defined as the bidirectional transfer of information between two parties where both sides are aware of the relational, environmental, and cultural context of the exchange. Simply put, it means that all entities involved know what the conversation is about.

In the digital realm, the three types of context include:

  • Visual context: What the user is doing electronically (for example, apps they're using, websites they're browsing, music they're listening to). Visual context is primarily controlled or managed by software.
  • Physical context: This is information gathered from sensors such as device microphones and cameras. It also can include information like movement, location, temperature, and power or battery consumption.
  • Analytic and big data context: These are the insights that an application can generate when it's linked to cloud platforms or a local database. For example, behaviors, preferences, and stored information can all be processed.

The three primary sources of context within applications are:

  • Intent: The goal a person is trying to achieve (purchase versus support, for example).
  • Physical: Data gathered from sensors such as cameras, microphones, or accelerometers.
  • Social: Preferred segmentation of the user's social graph (for instance, LinkedIn versus Facebook, SMS versus WhatsApp).

An example of contextual communication in action is in mobile banking. With these applications, identities are defined through passwords or biometrics like Touch ID. Throughout the user's experience, the app defines intent (for example, choosing the type of bank account to work with). If users need to contact the bank, in-app direct calling conveys context to the bank contact center or chatbot.

Conversational Commerce Enables a Better Experience

Conversational commerce is a subset of contextual communication that touches on the way consumers purchase goods and services. If you've ever used a messaging app to find information, read reviews, ask questions, or get personalized recommendations, then you've used conversational commerce.

Chris Messina first described conversational commerce as "utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e., voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context."

The five trends driving conversational commerce are as follows:

  • Advance notifications can be SMS-based or push notifications (for example, shipping notifications from delivery firms).
  • Bots being grouped into command line interfaces such as Slack or chatbots (Netomi, BotXO, and so on) that are used to assist in purchase or support decisions.
  • In-app chat for apps such as Airbnb, which enables hosts to chat with guests.
  • Backbones for chat apps (for example, WeChat, Line, and so on.).
  • Peer-to-peer chat (for example, offline chat apps).

According to Chatbots Magazine, the main drivers for these trends include:

  • Increased usage of mobile messaging applications.
  • Natural language processing with 90%+ accuracy in parsing and understanding spoken requests.
  • The rise of sensors, wearables, the quantified self movement, and advances in data science and analytics.
  • Integration of seamless payment technology into devices, which is often accessible to third parties via APIs.
  • Sophisticated notifications that are context-aware and always available to consumers.

Enabling Omnichannel Communication

Through omnichannel communication, businesses can develop seamless communication experiences regardless of how their customers connect with them (phone, text, or chat). This is important because customers are increasingly opting to use a variety of channels to get timely service.

According to Vonage's Global Customer Engagement Report 2020, 30% of consumers still choose mobile phone calls as their favorite way to connect with businesses — but the remaining 70% of consumers prefer a variety of other options, ranging from video chat to chatbots to push notifications. In addition, 56% of consumers report that they become frustrated when calling a business and not only is no one available, but there are also no other channels to get help.

An omnichannel customer experience is essential for success in competitive markets. Still, many companies are unable to deliver it because they're using separate APIs for each of their communication channels. Legacy programming interfaces aren't built to share information between channels.

Compare this to open APIs such the Vonage Video API, which is device-agnostic and enables companies to provide a uniform experience to their customers regardless of the devices they use.

Make the Most of Contextual and Omnichannel Communications

Here are a few ways your business can effectively implement contextual and omnichannel communications.

  • As you're developing your customer-facing applications, focus on the customer experience rather than individual channels. This means your customers should be able to reach you via the channels they choose, be they text, voice, or chat.
  • Use cognitive computing to scale.
  • Use contextual communications APIs to power your omnichannel communication through conversations with customers.

For more insights on how to win the customer experience game, check out the Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report 2020.

Written by Vonage Staff


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