Contact center agent interacts with a customer using communications APIs

The Customer Experience is Crucial. Here’s How Communications APIs Can Transform It

Published September 13, 2018 by Alyssa Mazzina

Our already customer-driven business world has become increasingly experience-crazed over the past decade. That’s true in retail, where decision-makers and stakeholders continually search for ways to polish and personalize the customer decision-making process; it’s even pertinent in highly regulated fields such as healthcare, where trends like personalization make a tradition-bound field fret over factors like convenience, speed, and demonstrable results, according to TechCrunch.

The list could go on forever, but the high-level story’s the same across industries: if a business has customers, it wants a glossier experience. Communications APIs can help a business improve in countless areas, but the customer experience is one where the application programming interface shines brightest.

Of course, harnessing all that power and utility means understanding what APIs can do before achieving full buy-in. That requires businesses to take a “building blocks” approach to communications API deployment, a process that involves experimenting with small bits of experience-impacting infrastructure before moving onto bigger and better things, then repeating the process until the whole organization is a cloud-powered, experience-building prodigy.

Step 1: Let Communications APIs Sweat the Small Stuff for You

By testing the communications API waters with a single small alteration, businesses get a small taste of the medium’s power without going all-in too early. This outlook can influence later decision-making, as stakeholders come to understand just what an API can do to improve the customer experience and developers grasp just how much value they can add throughout the design and development process.

Let’s say a company with customer contact centers must ensure consistency in the messaging customers hear when calling, a common concern in certain regulated industries. While the company wants representatives to conduct a regular conversation for 95 percent of the call, the other five percent of the dialogue is troublesome. Getting reps to understand just how important ensuring vocal consistency is can be a significant challenge.

Here, API building blocks that implement text-to-speech in a live call are an excellent entry point. They improve the experience by elevating a small but crucial task; helping the business avoid legal liability or of scientific impropriety, and give a simple, single-channel entry point into the larger world of communications APIs.

Step 2: A Longer Leap

Once the company has had a taste of what APIs can do, it can move onto more central tasks. The API adoption process is quite similar to the path businesses take when they adopt a versatile, transformative medium like cloud: first a toe goes in the water, then a leg, and pretty soon, they’re swimming.

It’s easy to see how the channel-at-a-time approach may be beneficial for the contact center itself, with the organization now turning its focus to inbound callers. This time, they approach a pain point that impacts customer experience and business productivity: the dreaded question, “What’s the reason for your call?”

The solution of choice tells reps the reason for customer calls before they pick up the handset, reducing call time and ensuring the customer only has to explain themselves to the IVR. This gives the company an opportunity to make a wow experience in the early moments of the customer interaction (“I see you’re calling to take advantage of our 20 percent off promo for new customers”), and it can drastically improve call times and productivity on every incoming call.

It goes without saying that call centers are only one area where businesses can use step two to boost productivity, gain a competitive edge, and enhance the customer experience. A retailer might use APIs to send personalized, SMS-based promotions, using a system that works in tandem with the company’s cloud IVR to automatically note the kind of discounts a given customer may appreciate. An insurer or similar service-based organization, on the other hand, could use APIs to add various social media chat formats to their list of service options. In all these examples, the channel-at-a-time mindset—and its ability to gradually overhaul the customer’s experience—is front-and-center.

Step 3: Even Bigger, Even Better

Naturally, a business’s next step in communications API adoption will involve more channels, introducing more capability and working even more closely with associated technologies like cloud. The precise shape this evolution takes, though, will depend on what the business needs most and the ways its experience could improve with the added capability.

By this point, businesses have experienced one of the greatest benefits APIs have to offer: The simplification of processes that would take developers months to create internally. Given this, the company can instead use this time to make more improvements to channels already elevated by APIs, adding higher-complexity tools to the current slate of cloud-based offerings, for instance. The call center organization might use select tools to add instant-call capability from within their app, improving rep performance. The API they’ve employed may report how and why the customer arrived at the call, shaving time off the transaction and adding context, and could have potential to polish the experience to an even greater degree: Customers no longer would have to look up the right department’s number, remember it as they switch over to the dialer, or re-explain their problem to a new rep.

The numerous additions an organization makes throughout this process can ease their move to cloud, with APIs providing much of the heavy lifting; in terms of competitive advantage, it also gives the company numerous experiential edges that keep current customers from churning and get new ones coming through the door. Considered alongside the technology’s ability to rapidly implement advanced capabilities, with all the advantages APIs offer, taking the API plunge is almost certainly the first step to forming a relationship-centric culture in a customer-driven world.

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