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The ultimate guide to choosing a Conversational Customer Engagement Platform

Updated: Jan 26

Legacy contact center systems were efficient for customer support over voice and email channels but are not sufficient for the messaging era.

In an era where WhatsApp, Messenger, live chat, and other messaging apps are the dominant communication channels, the customer is the hero. You need to empower your customer-facing teams with tools that help them deliver great customer experince. Here's where conversation customer engagment platform comes into place.

Conversational Customer Engagement is a messaging software that is centered around the customers, not tickets. Through AI, the platform can automate customer conversations, handle automatic distribution to agents, and empower scalable communication with ease.

This article will explain all the components of a conversation management platform to help you choose the one for your Business.

  1. Customer-centric

  2. Messaging Channels

  3. Chatbot

  4. Automatic Message Distribution

  5. Agent Console

  6. Monitoring tools

  7. Integrations

  8. Managed service

Customer-centric

Help desk software is mainly meant to help the agents serve customers on support cases and uses ticketing systems to monitor the resolution progress. On the other side, conversational customer engagement is built for customer experience excellence, and that's why it can be used for serving customers regardless of the need being a support or sales or even delivery request.

The customer himself is the unique identifier for his conversations, not the ticket numbers of his claims. The platform allows the agent to visualize all historical threads of the customer's conversations with the Business.

Customer centricity means omnichannel experience: if the platform offers multiple channels, the customer won't have to tell his story again every time he switches from WhatsApp to Facebook Messenger.

This way, your agents will run the conversation or visualize all the communication history regardless of the channels and on a single interface.

As a business, You have to choose that platform that allows you to offer a superior customer experience, centered around the customer, not the channel or the ticket number.

Communication Channels

Unless you are in China, WhatsApp is the first one-to-one communication channel after voice calls. With over 2 billion subscribers and 100 billion messages per day, Businesses have no choice but to adopt WhatsApp for their customer communications.

So of course the first capability of a Conversation Management Platform is its ability to integrate out of the box with WhatsApp.

Now, suppose your target audience is using Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, or any other social messaging app. In that case, you have to make sure that you can have conversations easily with your customers over their preferred channels and on the same platform.

It is also important that your conversation management platform supports live chat with your website visitors.

In general, you need to make sure that the conversation customer engagement platform you choose has integration with the channels that your customers want to use to communicate with your Business.

Chatbot

The conversational customer engagement platform has to automate the frequent customer queries and entertain them even during non-working hours through a chatbot component.

Chatbots are software with visual interfaces designed to have a valuable conversation with a scalable number of customers 24/7.

Informational and Transactional Chatbots

The goal of a chatbot can be either informational or transactional or both at the same time:

Informational chatbots are trained to recognize a certain number of intents and frequently asked questions and respond to them. Otherwise, the chatbot will route to a human agent.

The transactional chatbot can fulfill a purchase transaction, a refund transaction, a check status transaction, and a long list. The trades are mostly not delivered by the chatbot but are delivered by the Business core systems and eCommerce systems, and the chatbot is just displaying the result of the transaction in a conversational format.

Of course, we can see that many chatbots can be transactional and informational at the same time.

Rule-based and NLP chatbots

When it comes to intent discovery, there are two main types of bots:

Guided flow chatbot: also named rule-based chatbot: the chatbot guides the conversation through option Menus, where the customer is choosing every time the path that he wants to follow based on his needs.

NLP-driven bots

allows the customer to express his intent the way he wants without the guidance of a menu or multiple choices. It uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the open text users type into the interface. An ideal AI-driven bot should be able to understand the nuances of human language. The experience showed that the current state of the NLP, especially in Arabic, is not good enough to mimic a human conversation. Regardless of the very high cost of acquisition and implementation, the ROI was poor almost every time.

There are also hybrid bots where the bot is guiding the customer through a given bot and can also recognize some intents when the customer chooses to write open text.

Depending on your conversational strategy, if you want to rely on the chatbot to automate most of the conversations or rely on the human agents to fulfill that function, a business can decide to go for an informational or a transactional chatbot. Bearing in mind that the transactional would allow a high digitization and automation level but would need a high investment into the IT infrastructure.

Under the current circumstances of the NLP capabilities and the business readiness to predefine and train the chatbot on a huge number of customer intent, it is easy to understand that the rule base chatbot has the lead and why it is recommended to start with a simplistic bot.

For 98% of businesses, rule-based chatbots are the best alternative to achieve their goal of conversation automation.

Automatic Message Routing and queuing

Suppose the chatbot can't fulfill the customer's request and decides to hand over to the human agent. In that case, there are many alternatives to choose the most skilled and available person to handle the conversation.

Many parameters guide the decision of which customer should talk to which agent to grant first-time resolution or sales closure: the number of agents and skills differentiation, the time slot of the Message (in or out of working hours), the size of the customers queue, the tagging of the customers on the CRM…

This critical service is handled within the Conversational Customer Engagement platform through the "Automatic Message Routing and queuing".

Depending on the size of your customer base and the sophistication you want, you need to acquire and parameterize your conversations management system based on one or all of the below items:

Skill-based Routing Distribution

When your agents have different skill sets, some are specialized in sales, some are specialized in support, some are specialized in support in English, and others are residing in North of the city and the other in the downtown, you need a system that is smart enough to route the customers based on the skill set required to grant first time Resolution.

Queuing Distribution

When the number of customers is higher than the number of inbound agents, you need a system that will handle the queue.

The most famous queuing systems used in over 90% of the cases are

  • Round robin: agents are put in numerical order, and calls are distributed to agents in that order. When the last rep receives a message, the next message will be sent to the first rep in the line.

  • Fewest Calls: Calls will be sent to the agents who (at the time) have received the fewest number of messages.

Tagged Customers Distribution

When you have a set of customers tagged as VIPs, you always need to make a shortcut over any queue and let him access the human agents within the best timelines.

Out of Working Hours Message Distribution

When your inbound agents are not available 24/7 you need a system that can note the customer inquiry out of the working hours and message him back on the next business day.

Agent Console

The most sophisticated chatbots can handle up to 30% of your customer inquiries, so human agents need to take over the conversations. Conversational customer engagement would need to equip agents with an interface that is designed to support high productivity and efficiency without the need for other software and screen switching.

The Agent console is the evolution of a shared team inbox where agents can visualize the customer conversations and is considered the core of conversational customer engagement platforms.

Aside from reading and replying to customer conversation, the empowerment of the agents goes through many features embedded into the agent console:

  • Single customer view: this feature allows the agent to see all the history of the conversation as well as the customer profile in the corner of the screen; this will enable wiser decision making for the agents

  • Collaboration: the capability to assign the customer conversation to a more skilled agent that is empowered to solve the customer is important

  • Status of the customer conversation, resolve and snooze customer conversation: having a different status for the customer conversion will allow the agents to segregate between the open and closed conversations and mark conversations as resolved or snooze them to later.

  • Notes: This feature will allow the agents to make a note about the customer interaction, and it can be valuable for future interactions with the customer or collaborations with the colleague agents

  • Attach files: for the businesses that need to share certain documents or video or voice notes, this feature is critical for the agents.

  • Localized languages interface: if your team primary language is Arabic or Russian or whatever language, it is very important for the agents to have an interface that matches their native tang

  • Quick replies: This is an important feature that allows agents to respond quickly to customers based on predefined replies without having to type them; this will allow high productivity for the agents

  • Access from office and on the go: in-browser access is default access to the agent console, but it is very important to have a mobile app with notifications capabilities in case you have teams in the shops or have to go to the customer premises like the delivery team mobile sales and support.

The most important criteria for choosing the agent console is that it is simple and intuitive for the agents and allows them to handle all the customer conversations without huggling between different screens.

Monitoring Tools

Businesses always need to monitor the quality of the agents' conversations, access all the customer contacts with ease, and manage the platform settings. That's why the administration and monitoring tools are an important section for choosing the right conversational customer engagement platform.

Reporting

Reporting is key to monitor the quality of the customer conversation and the employee's performance.

Here are some of the most relevant reports that you may require for choosing your conversational customer engagement platform: the conversation statistics report, customer resolution statistics report, and the performance per employee report.

Customer's contact details:

Customers' contact information is one of your businesses' biggest assets; it allows you to reach out easily any time in the future to advocate a new product or service.

This tool aggregates all the customer information based on their communication with the chatbot or the human agents, WhatsApp number, Name, language, location, email, or any other information collected during the conversation.

You need to choose the conversational customer engagement platform that allows you to access all the customer information in one click.

Administration:

The Administration or settings tools are important for any conversational customer engagement platform. The settings section allows: the creation of new users and configures their level of authority or roles in the platform, creating team inboxes on the agent console, the configuration of Working hours.

Although the Monitoring tools are not considered elementary for choosing the conversation management platform, it is crucial to make sure that your platform is getting the best functionalities like the reporting, aggregated customer information view, and the admin panel working.

Integrations

Today businesses are using any software to run their operation: a customer relationships management system, a billing system, a Point of sales system, an appointment system, a delivery management system, an eCommerce system, and the list go on. And because the customer conversation management Platform is a system of engagements, it needs to be connected with core business systems to make the conversations and transactions easier to complete through automation.

It is very important to have a Conversational customer engagement Platform that can integrate with your other business systems. This will allow higher automation and ensure that the chatbot can offer automated transactions in a self-service model. Integrating the Business's systems to the agent console will allow an efficient operation and service to the customers without juggling between screens.

Managed service

Although not proposed by all the software vendors, this added value service is very important to guarantee the success of your conversational transformation.

The ability to tailor the integration to the internal business systems out of the box is a value-added service that some vendors offer.

The chatbot conversation Design is key to a great customer experience, so it is important to get the expert's support if it is your first time.

Training the agent teams and supporting commercial planning and launch will add value to the journey of adoption.

Especially during your first experience, it is essential to hire a software vendor to support the integration process, the conversation design, and the team training.

Conclusion

Customer experience is key for your business attractiveness, so getting the right conversational customer engagement platform can be critical to your competitive advantage.

Choosing the right software doesn't mean selecting the platform with the most exhaustive set of features but rather hiring the platform that fulfills your business needs.

The key to success in your conversational transformation is to start with the channels that your customer widely adopted, choose an intuitive smart agent console, and automate a single impactful use case. Step by step continues adding new channels and use cases as per the learning curve of your agents and customers. Based on your needs for the short term and midterm, you have to list down all your needs and choose the platform that best fits your needs.