The telco world is becoming more familiar with chatbots - and we’re starting to see use cases and implementations evolve. What we’re less familiar with are salesbots, or automated sales agents. Yet, salesbots’ power to positively alter the bottom lines of mobile operators vastly outweighs that of their chatty cousins.
With salesbots, there is an assumption that it is powered by AI and has access to Big Data from the operator network. Their role, then, is to assess needs from subscribers, analyze a subscriber’s usage and purchase history and formulate an offer that fits the subscriber’s requirements and context. A trigger for an offer could be a user running into low balance while attempting to access the Internet, which leads to a response from the network. AI-led salesbots will carry out deep customer analytics in real-time in the background, looking at the customer’s profile, purchase and payment history. After assessing the risk, it will push a just-in-time, personalized offer to the customer using the most appropriate channel or social network for that individual customer.
And while that may sound like a nice-to-have, when you picture this instance happening millions of times per month, the impact on the bottom line becomes clear. When AI is used to enhance the customer experience in a way that drives profitability and growth, it can easily outshine even the most successful human salesperson within a business. A number of operators around the world have implemented salesbots and they are seeing an increase of several percentage points on their Average Revenue per User (ARPU), as well as millions in new revenues.
So, how does this fit with the years-old drive towards omnichannel? Omnichannel has become a recurring theme in the operator community as operators aim to put their arms around evolving digital channels, while not letting go of physical stores and telephone service. Omnichannel sales has come to mean a seamless user experience as customers journey from initial interest to completing the purchase, for example for a new smartphone.
And this is where operators have a real opportunity to get ahead. Apps have been part of consumers’ everyday life for many years now and they are a great jumping off point for operators wishing to take the next step in digital customer engagement and sales. But rather than approach customer sales the way they’ve always done, operators must take a leaf out of the book of disruptors. A more agile approach to speedier app development and shifting focus to their subscribers’ favorite engagement channels enables operators to significantly grow their omnichannel sales.
Take the example of OTT messaging systems. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become the world’s most popular messaging apps, attracting 1.5 billion and 1.3 billion monthly active users respectively according to Statista. How many operators have even considered that these massively-popular apps could become incredibly effective sales channels? The problem is the way that we approach these opportunities. We have an engineering-focused, five 9s approach even to the business and marketing of telco services. It hasn’t occurred to many operators that AI could treat OTT messaging systems as just another digital channel, without months or years of integrations and negotiations. What’s stopping them interacting with subscribers over the messaging systems that they already know and love?
A salesbot could determine, for example, that a particular subscriber or set of subscribers respond better to Facebook Messenger than they do to SMS. On that basis, it could decide to communicate via Facebook Messenger over and above alternative channels. Rather than wait for the customer to tell the carrier which communication channels they prefer, isn’t it better to glean this info directly from the customer’s behavior in an automated way?
It makes financial sense too. In an article from McKinsey they state that investing in digital sales has enabled some leaders to increase revenues by 30 per cent. We’d argue that the opportunity is even greater as carriers could fully automate 95 per cent of their sales, reducing operating costs and increasing revenue in doing so.
Carriers must ask themselves how they can add to their bottom line by automating sales to existing customers using their preferred channel - even if that means going beyond the carrier’s usual channels.
This approach should be extended to a carrier’s cross-channel sales capabilities. A customer that used voice services to purchase a product could pop up on a mobile site or Facebook Messenger a week later. It might be tempting to inundate the customer with offers wherever they go, but it will be more effective to continue to use sales channels where they have successfully engaged in their past.
Operators need to look beyond the boundaries of their own channels and embrace the third-party channels and social networks where their users congregate. The future of omnichannel sales lies not with a customer’s journey across a carrier’s wholly-owned channels. Instead, carriers must be prepared to communicate across all relevant channels - those it owns and those it doesn’t - and choose the right one for each customer.