Be there when customers need you, on their terms
‘Being there when the customer needs us, on their terms.’ It sounds a simple premise but has become immeasurably more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic, during which businesses have quite literally been forced apart from their customers and their colleagues.
In truth, the need to retain contact with customers across a growing list of channels is a challenge that businesses have been facing for some time. It has simply been accelerated by coronavirus.
Take Radius Payment Solutions, which has been in business for more than 30 years, primarily as a fuel card provider working with fleet vehicle companies. Its customer base is quite literally on the move.
However, with the proliferation of smartphones drastically changing the way people engage with one another, Radius needed to find new and more efficient ways to keep in touch with its customers, choosing two-way SMS and WhatsApp to keep its customer services on the right track. Importantly, with a purpose-built CRM system, it did not require a rip-and-replace but rather a bolt-on solution to build upon what was already in place.
Colin Peters, Communications Director for Europe at Radius, explains, “We branched out into vehicle telematics about four years ago, which is obviously a complementary product to fuel and, in the last two years, we've branched out into telecoms. We've got about 1,500 people in the business and we’ve doubled in size in the last four years.
“Our target market is a mobile workforce, from the vehicle, to the tracking, to the mobile device, to the office. Fuel is a big cost to businesses, so we started seeing how we could help our customers become more efficient in terms of tracking driver behaviour and optimising their route. In addition to that, in ten or fifteen years time, we probably won't see the diesel usage we see today, so we're diversifying into electric vehicles as well.”
Colin says that the company realised it needed to integrate different forms of messaging including voice, email, SMS, WhatsApp and other channels to a bespoke CRM system.
He added: “We realised our CRM didn’t really have the functionality to have that single view of the customer and, with over 250,000 businesses across the world, we decided we needed a solution that could take those different incoming and outgoing channels and deliver an integrated approach.
"The main services we use are 2-way SMS and WhatsApp for Business. I firmly believe that WhatsApp is only going to grow, so the main objective was to try to launch a WhatsApp channel where we didn't have to rely on our CRM system to manage messages. CM.com gave us the technology and an agent platform to help respond to those people.
“We surveyed our customers in three countries and WhatsApp was by far their preferred channel.
“At the same time, we realised it's not necessarily our preferred channel as a business, because that's not how we operate or have operated, but we've seen a definite impact from the positive conversations and the ease of managing a WhatsApp chat. Because you have the whole conversation history there in front of you, the agents can very quickly understand exactly what's going on with that customer.”
The impact, though early days, has been profound. The business received thousands of WhatsApp messages every week. In Germany, as many as 20% of its messages are from people saying, “I’m glad you’ve got WhatsApp now”. It is seen as quicker and more convenient for the customer, who is no longer sat at a computer all day.
The measures taken by Radius are, we would argue, exactly the kind of mindset a modern business needs to adopt. It is changing its working practices by easily integrating new technologies into its existing stack. This isn’t rip and replace, it’s going to where your customers are.
Ultimately what this has meant for the business is markedly more opportunities to engage with customers, while handling basic tasks more quickly and efficiently. A further benefit has been an increase in productivity by cutting down the time it takes to handle enquiries and instead having more meaningful conversations.
Colin provides the most succinct summary of how it helps deliver customer service excellence: “Our customers aren’t numbers. We don't look at our customers as share of wallet, we purely gauge success by the amount and quality of the interactions we have with that customer. We don’t want them sitting there on hold or waiting for an email response, so we’ve made sure they can have a conversation with a real person really quickly and conveniently to try to resolve any of those queries.”