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How Contextual Communication Powers a Better Customer Experience

This article was updated on August 8, 2022

Contextual communication and omnichannel communication are hot topics in the business world, and for good reason. These concepts can have a powerful impact on a critical yet often failing aspect of any business: the customer experience (CX).

image depicts how contextual communication powers a better user experience

The traditional approach to customer service is broken. Long hold times, generic responses, and uninformed contact center agents have contributed to a poor customer experience that significantly impacts the bottom line.

Consider that:

  • CX is a key competitive differentiator, as 80% of customers place the same emphasis on flawless customer engagement as they do on product quality.
  • Over 90 percent of customers are likely to spend more money with companies that can offer the personalization and streamlined experiences they’re looking for.
  • A solid 61% of customers say they would switch to a new brand after one bad experience.

This is where contextual and omnichannel communication come into play. When applied properly, they can deliver exceptional customer experiences and a significant competitive edge. Read on for an explanation of these concepts and their benefits.

What Is Contextual Communication?

Contextual communication is defined as the bidirectional transfer of information between two parties, where both sides are aware of the relational, environmental, and cultural context of the exchange. Simply put, it means that all entities involved know what the conversation is about.

In the digital realm, the three types of context include:

  • Visual context. This reflects what users are doing electronically — for example, apps they're using, websites they're browsing, music they're listening to. Visual context is primarily controlled or managed by software.
  • Physical context. This is information gathered from sensors such as device microphones and cameras. It also can include information like movement, location, temperature, and power or battery consumption.
  • Analytic and big data context. These are the insights that an application can generate when it's linked to cloud platforms or a local database. For example, behaviors, preferences, and stored information can all be processed.

The three primary sources of context within applications are:

  • Intent: the goal a person is trying to achieve (purchase versus support, for example)
  • Physical: data gathered from sensors such as cameras, microphones, or accelerometers
  • Social: the user’s social preferences — for instance, LinkedIn versus Facebook, SMS versus WhatsApp

An example of contextual communication in action is mobile banking. With these applications, passwords or biometrics like touch or facial recognition help verify identities. Throughout the user's experience, the app defines intent (for example, choosing the type of bank account to work with). If users need to contact the bank, in-app direct calling conveys context to the bank contact center or chatbot.

Another common example involves rideshares — or, more specifically, customers patiently waiting for their rideshare. From within the app, a passenger simply taps to contact the driver. Before a single word is said, the context of the call is established — the driver knows that the passenger is calling and the app calculates the time of arrival. Then, when the call begins, the driver can greet the passenger with real-time information. This full context helps solidify the experience.

The traditional approach to customer service is broken. Long hold times, generic responses, and uninformed contact center agents have contributed to a poor customer experience that significantly impacts the bottom line.

Why Is Contextual Communication Important?

To define CX, think of all the common customer touchpoints — phone, website, chat, in-app, in-person, etc. Think of what your customers see or feel across these channels. Is the call quality clear? Are the visual cues on the website easy to follow? Do the text and graphics within the app guide you to next steps? How’s the temperature inside your location?

Always think like the customer by stress-testing your channels. Go through a typical phone call, engage in a chat, use the app, visit your location. You may not be able to be everywhere all the time; however, AI and omnichannel engagement can help extend your reach and availability.

During the stress test, if you pause or comment negatively along the way — chances are, so will your customers. And you may not get a second chance. Go back to the rideshare example. If you were left waiting, without any form of update, you’d look for another ride. That’s why contextual communication is so important.

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How Conversational Commerce Enables a Better Experience

Conversational commerce is a subset of contextual communication that touches on the way consumers purchase goods and services. If you've ever used a messaging app to find information, read reviews, ask questions, or get personalized recommendations, then you've used conversational commerce.

From a business perspective, conversational commerce is rooted in tried-and-true strategies — having a conversation and thinking customer first.

Enabling Omnichannel Communication

Through omnichannel communication, businesses can develop seamless communication experiences regardless of how their customers connect with them. This is important because customers are increasingly opting to use a variety of channels to get timely service. Also, customers increasingly want a faster response in their business interactions.

In fact, according to the Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report 2021, consumers definitely seek digital immediacy when shopping:

  • 48% of consumers have increased their digital engagement with retailers and ecommerce platforms since the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • Consumers under 40 years old (Millennials and Gen Z) are set to increase their digital engagement more than those over 40.
  • 87% of consumers won't go back to the way they engaged with businesses and service providers before the pandemic (this includes via phone and email).
  • Nearly 50% of consumers use WhatsApp to connect with businesses.
  • SMS remains a popular way for consumers to reach businesses, with the consumer preference for messaging apps doubling since the outbreak of COVID-19.

An omnichannel customer experience is essential for success in competitive markets. Still, many companies are unable to deliver it because they're using separate APIs for each of their communications channels. Legacy programming interfaces aren't built to share information between channels.

Compare this to open APIs like the Vonage Video API, which is device-agnostic and enables companies to provide a uniform experience to their customers regardless of the devices they use.

From a business perspective, conversational commerce is rooted in tried-and-true strategies — having a conversation and thinking customer first.

How to Make the Most of Contextual and Omnichannel Communications Solutions and Tools

Here are a few ways your business can effectively implement contextual and omnichannel communications:

  • Focus on CX rather than individual channels, so customers can reach you from their favorite channels — in-channel — such as text, voice, or chat.
  • Use cognitive computing to scale.
  • Use contextual communications APIs to power your omnichannel communication through conversations with customers.
  • Nurture your customers through conversational commerce to help capture sales.

Capture the Moment With Vonage Conversational Commerce Solutions

Ready to create AI-powered omnichannel ecommerce experiences that help convert sales and drive revenue? Then check out the conversational commerce solutions from Vonage.

By Ryan Yee B2B Marketing Copywriter

Ryan Yee is a long-time copywriter with B2C and B2B experience across agriculture, biotech, finance, healthcare, technology, and more. He still fondly remembers (?) the papercuts from proofing film and sleep deprivation from late-night press checks. He’s a San Francisco native with love for his nieces and nephews, hometown Giants, and anything even remotely associated with food (utensils optional).

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