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Digital interactions with brands

Report: Technology Gaps Stop Businesses from Connecting with Customers

Vonage Study Shows Consumers Want Digital Interactions with Brands to be Like Conversations with Friends and Family

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A new report from global telecommunications firm Vonage declares that gaps in technology present in many businesses prevent them from connecting meaningfully with their customers. Such gaps, however, also reveal opportunities for correction, showing areas where digital transformation efforts could be effective.

These and other findings are contained in the 11th annual edition of the Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report, a study on consumer preferences in using technology to connect with favorite brands, based on a survey of nearly 5,000 respondents from 11 countries.

In one such instance illustrating the technology gap finding, the 2022 report says that while 57% of consumers today use messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to get in touch daily with friends and family, messaging apps account for just 30% of the methods most used by consumers for communicating with businesses, tied with email at 30% and lagging behind phone calls at 37%.

The disparity in the use of messaging apps—a first-place finish in communicating with loved ones, versus a distant second-place spot when business communications are entailed—suggests that businesses are not providing consumers the familiar experiences in communications that they are otherwise used to in their personal lives. To do so, businesses must provide other channels of customer engagement besides the phone, and adopt an omnichannel approach supporting a variety of channels, including messaging apps, video, chat, and voice calls.

“The ubiquity of mobile phones delivers the kind of vehicle to businesses that allows them to speak to and engage with their customers directly—right from the palms of their hands,” says Joy Corso, chief marketing officer (CMO) for Vonage. “Yet, this research reveals that many businesses are still not using the communications channels made available by today’s technology to their full potential and are missing out on opportunities to make real connections with customers and drive customer engagement.”

Businesses could also do well to embrace emerging technologies, such as AI, to narrow existing technology gaps and whittle down customer frustration. “This is where AI tools can help and surface as underused technology,” Corso adds. AI tools like virtual assistants, for instance, can address common requests, eliminate long wait times for customers, and provide the initial triage to route customers to the right person—a beneficial function during peak or seasonal periods.

Another helpful tool is conversational commerce, which uses AI for in-channel customer engagement. Companies can deploy the tool to add information, automation, and self-service options, providing front-end FAQs, authenticating users, and authorizing payments.

Such examples show how AI-powered technologies increasingly enable customers to take control of their preferred communication channels, and what businesses can do to improve and simplify the customer journey.

Frustrations, Preferences, and The Way Forward

The Vonage report also shines a light on the importance of personalized, real-time engagement as a key driver toward achieving lasting brand loyalty.

In attempting to connect with brands, customers end up frustrated, thwarted by long wait times to speak to a customer support agent (63%), having to call multiple times (63%), repeating an issue (61%), or dealing with automated phone menus that are too long to navigate (57%). Such frustrations may not be new but remain top of mind for consumers, and the report says businesses need to remedy these issues before they negatively affect customer loyalty.

Here is another area, the report notes, where AI technologies can automate and personalize tasks through various tools, including virtual assistants, conversational commerce, voice bots, interactive voice response (IVR), and automated business phone systems.

When it comes to purchase channels, consumers rated physical in-store locations (45%) as their top option, followed by e-commerce (39%), phone calls (38%), and email (36%). And while phone calls and email are widely preferred channels across all stages of the purchase process, consumers favor website chat for asking questions while shopping and for getting answers to problems during a purchase. These preferences, the report notes, represent another area of opportunity for businesses lacking these options to beef up their capabilities and to ensure exceptional CX to cultivate and retain customer loyalty.

Key Consumer Engagement Insights by Region

The Vonage report also dissects and analyzes consumer engagement of the various types of communications by region.

For instance, North America leads in daily personal SMS usage (67%) but shows a marked decrease when using the same mode of communication with businesses (33%).

Meanwhile, Latin America has the highest daily usage of several communication types when engaging with friends and family, via messaging apps (83%), phone-call apps (77%), and social media comments (64%), compared to business usage of messaging apps (50%), phone-call apps (49%), and social media comments (46%).

The United Kingdom lags other regions in daily phone calls, while Asia-Pacific data usage is consistent with that from the rest of the world despite wide diversity in the region’s daily communication types, the report notes.

Corso, the Vonage CMO, says the data in this research should show businesses another area of opportunity for improvement. “Quite simply, businesses should be communicating more like family and friends,” Corso emphasizes. “That is the experience that will drive customer engagement and keep customers coming back.”

Vonage is the US cloud communications provider headquartered in Holmdel, New Jersey, operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of Swedish networking and telecommunications giant Ericsson. The company’s offerings include unified communications, contact center applications, and conversational commerce applications all built from the Vonage communications platform, which allows for the integration of voice, video, chat, messaging, AI, and verification into existing products, workflows, and systems.

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