Contributors: Santi Ristol, Director Mobile Competence Center, and Vanessa Clemente, Business Developer
Over the past years, there has been a lot of technological advancements with the appearance of new communication models, 5G, mobile data, speed and connectivity. In addition, COVID-19 has strongly impacted our consumption habits and created new ones. People are living, thinking and buying differently.
Now more than ever, it is relevant to pick up the most effective communication channel to improve customer experience and drive better relationships. Messaging channels such as SMS can act as payment reminders or a two-factor authentication; Landing pages can offer value added to SMS by providing a mini website to conduct a call-to-action such as a purchase; Social Media channels, like WhatsApp for Business, offer a seamless bidirectional communication to help for example in bill payments or subscription renewals with the possibility to automate the conversational flow by integrating a Chatbot capable of dealing with customers 24/7.
Supporting payments with SMS
The SMS (Short Message Service) has been around, in some shape or another, for more than 25 years now. SMS was born with the advantage of not needing an internet connection and being compatible regardless of the operator you were using. This is how, over the years, the SMS has won the title of the world's most successful communications channel of all time. The open rate of a SMS is 98%. Approximately 90% of all short messages are read within 3 minutes of delivery. The SMS is a very fast, efficient, cost effective and versatile method of communication for businesses.
Some examples of different scenarios in which an SMS can support payment transactions are:
- Payment reminder for upcoming and overdue payments linking to payment portals.
- Real-time transaction alerts. They are a good way to protect clients against fraud and increase transparency (i.e. getting confirmation that a credit card purchase has been made).
- Financing options for a payment that has just been made.
- OTP as a two-factor authentication to ensure enhanced reliability for example for Internet banking logins, transaction approvals, issuance of new cards, etc.
Collect cash in-store by sending an SMS with a payment link so the customer can select the preferred payment mode by clicking the link. Payment links can help in-store merchants when the shop is closed. Transactions can continue without a card terminal. You can watch our demo video of “SMS Pay” here.
The next generation of SMS: RCS
Today, the SMS still remains an essential communication channel, despite the appearance of new instant communication channels such as WhatsApp or Telegram through which it is possible to send rich content in a bidirectional way, but its use in the last few years has been slowing down. That is why Google with several smartphone manufacturers, carriers, and cell phone industry’s governing agencies joined forces to create the next generation of SMS, the Rich Communication Services (RCS). RCS is a network protocol that mixes the best of SMS and instant messaging apps. The idea is that, thanks to the RCS standard, mobile messaging goes a step further by offering the same functions that we already find in WhatsApp or Telegram. The deployment of RCS messaging is still ongoing even though as of today, there are already hundreds of operators around the world that support it.
RCS can help in answering account queries, block card, request a new product or service and more. For instance, in the case of transactions alerts (notification of a credit card purchase), with the SMS the customer gets a simple text message, but with RCS the user can easily contact the bank within the same channel to let them know if it is not an authorized purchase. Furthermore, the rich features provided by RCS such as rich media (photographs, video and audio files, rich cards, or carousels), location functionality, configurable buttons, etc. make it easy for companies to create a more memorable experience and build a deeper emotional connection with customers.
SMS landing pages: beyond the text message
While RCS is not fully deployed, landing pages are a good way to provide value-added services to SMS. A landing page is a simple website the user accesses through a link that can be, for example, within an SMS. These types of mini websites are optimized to be viewed correctly from any mobile device. These landing pages use additional information, images, and various call-to-action resources that allow us to communicate more fully and effectively with customers and maximize the possibility of conversion.
For instance, small merchants that do not have a website can take advantage of landing pages as a quick and easy way to better serve their customers, especially in the context of COVID-19. Here is an example of how landing pages can serve small and medium merchants to easily allow their customers to book, pay and pick-up their orders safely and without queues.
Social Media channels
The rise of Social Media in the past years is driving tremendous change in the way companies interact with their customers and employees. Actually, more than half of all the people on earth use social media, with Facebook still one of the most popular social media platforms worldwide. Today, almost all brands are present on Social Media.
Unlike SMS, Social Media channels, such as Messenger, Telegram or WhatsApp for Business, enable businesses and customers to have a fluid and easy dialogue in a channel that they already use on a regular basis, providing rich content such as photos, videos, PDFs, etc.. Below, some examples of use cases that could support payments are presented:
- Fast answers to frequently asked billing and payments questions; what’s my account balance? when is my bill due?
- Change account billing setting: update payment details or change payment methods.
- Process renewals such as subscriptions, memberships, etc.
- Product inquiries and information about loan interest rates, credits and more.
Chatbots to support bidirectional communication
It is obvious that bidirectional communication provided by RCS or Social Media channels is an improvement over SMS. However, conversations also require a quick and precise response, and sometimes this is not completely feasible when handled by human agents. This is why chatbots have been on the rise these past few years, gradually winning a wider adoption. Chatbots are incredible automation tools that can save both time and resources. They are bringing a new way to attend to customer interactions with the possibility to combine two worlds; the virtual and the real for when human intervention is necessary. With the advancements in AI and machine learning, chatbots are becoming more powerful. Sentiment analysis for instance can help a chatbot understand the emotions and state of mind of users by analyzing their input. Following this, it is possible to know exactly when to transfer the conversation to a human agent. If the customer sounds frustrated or angry, the bot can easily hand off the conversation to a second level such as the Call Center.
Some examples of chatbots applied in banking could be a custom bot that allows users to access and verify their account information (account balance, statements), conduct operations (set budget limits, banks transfers) and arrange appointments with advisors.