The COVID-19 induced pandemic has changed the way consumers shop, work, travel, or even learn. National and local lockdowns across the globe have forced businesses and customers to move to the digital way of buying and selling. Customer behaviours are changing; they are driven by the need to feel safe, heard, and served as they would in the pre-pandemic world, but to a greater degree now.
Businesses too are transforming the way they interact and engage with their customers. Integration of digital channels and new-age technologies is replacing in-store customer service. Bigger brands faced less of a challenge moving their customer service and engagement to online mediums owing to their existing customer base and available resources. But nearly 6.5 crore micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, half of which are operating in rural India, were caught unprepared in customer management and communications.
If there’s one thing that can ensure business continuity and high-quality customer experience for these MSMEs, it’s technology. MSMEs currently contribute around 30% to the GDP and digitalization can enable them to grow their share exponentially.
While some MSMEs have been leveraging technology in everything, from vendor and customer payments, supply chain management to even transportation, there is a lot more required to be done to give these emerging players the necessary tools for success. MSMEs are embracing technology to not only sustain themselves but also to develop new digitally-driven business models to ride the pandemic wave. Customer centricity riding on new-age technologies such as AI and automation will dominate these new ways of business, and MSMEs must keep different customer sentiments, preferences and geographies in mind while communicating with them. With more people spending time indoors, MSMEs must leverage the right channel to reach out to them to ensure recall for their brand and also to ensure retention.
Only 2 million MSMEs have an online presence and for them to catch the attention of their consumer, they will have to put themselves in front of their target audience at the right time via the right medium. The COVID-19 pandemic catapulted the implementation of technology solutions in the small and medium businesses, but it also pulled them back by a few years due to the lack of a digital solution available at an affordable cost, customized to serve the needs of their business and their customers.
Communication-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) is not an unknown concept. Enterprises of all sizes have used CPaaS to tap into different communication channels to connect with their audiences via text messages, calls, and in more recent times, via messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. CPaaS offers automated cloud-based intelligent communications to engage with the stakeholder. For MSMEs, CPaaS has multifold benefits. They can integrate CPaaS in their existing back-end infrastructure and customize it based on their short-term and long-term customer communication goals. Small businesses looking for an omnichannel approach to connect with the customers can leverage it.
One important consideration for MSMEs while implementing any technology solution is the cost of investment. With CPaaS, they can reap the benefits of a tailored, AI-enabled contextual communications platform without any capex in new infrastructure. They can simply integrate it with existing systems via APIs and even incorporate the same in their Apps if they have any. CPaaS can offer up to 25% higher RoI in marketing campaigns and can bring down the cost of engagement for MSMEs by 30%.
Given that MSMEs often work on a smaller staff, setting up a separate customer engagement and services team is not always possible. CPaaS helps them save on staffing costs by automating the identification of the right channel of communication and customer usage trends with the help of artificial intelligence and data analytics.
The majority of Indian MSMEs are concentrated in smaller towns and cities, which ups the need for having multilingual communication going to their customers. CPaaS enables small business owners to connect with their customers in different languages, without the need of trained translators or expensive translation software, for business communication.
CPaaS not only helps MSMEs engage with their existing customers in their local communities but also helps reach out to potential consumers in other geographies, even global. With digital becoming core to business operations for companies of all sizes now, cloud and AI-enabled communication platforms will allow MSMEs to connect with potential customers in different markets with personalized communications using different channels. CPaaS allows MSMEs to grow and evolve at their own pace, and scale their communications strategies up and down, as needed. This saves the investment cost that they would have otherwise used for expansion and lead generation services. CPaaS can help them set up missed call lines or text message reply automation to generate new leads for their business – all this integrated with their existing workflow infrastructure.
The newer generation of consumers is digitally native, and they are increasingly preferring digital platforms for buying, selling and sharing feedback with businesses. For MSMEs to tap into this next-gen customer, they would need to keep their communications personalized, engaging, quick, while at the same time, cost-effective for themselves. CPaaS can help these enterprises unlock the potential of data to transform the customer communication and engagement journey to stay ahead of the curve.
There are close to 63 million MSMEs in India, and to strengthen the ecosystem, many private players and the government is working towards creating a favourable ecosystem with technology innovations to support and encourage the holistic development of MSMEs in India. In the coming months, as India’s economy picks up pace, driven by technology, we will witness more MSMEs adopting digital solutions such as CPaaS to build resilience and to serve changing customer needs.
By Dilip Modi, Founder, Korero Platforms