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Contextual Communications: Bringing Humanity Back to Business Ops

This article was updated on July 16, 2021

Want to reach customers on a deeply human level? To do that, think for a bit about how humans are wired to interact. Your brain has a database containing past, present, and future information. It recalls relevant facts and details depending on where you are, what you're doing, and with whom you are doing it. Our face-to-face interactions and communications are informed and driven by context. And these are the basics of contextual communications.

Perhaps not surprisingly, with advances in today's API technology, our digital interactions are resembling human experiences like never before. This is an especially exciting development for businesses seeking to transform their customer interactions with the help of enhanced, contextual communications technology.

Customer Service Transformed by Contextual Communications

Imagine the following scenario: You have a credit card app on your smartphone and you have noticed a questionable charge on your bill. You're heading into a business meeting, so you can't call the credit company right away. Instead, you send a message within the app saying you noticed this odd charge, and that you will call after your meeting is over.

The app is powered by contextual communications technology, so the card company accesses your data, and the customer care team is aware of the issue. Your message is routed to a representative assigned to your account. The agent starts an inquiry into the charge. When your business meeting is over, you go back to the credit card app and hit a button that allows you to connect directly to customer service. Your call is automatically routed to the agent assigned to you. The agent immediately knows who you are and why you have called. She answers the call by stating your name, and then, "I understand you're calling about a questionable charge on your account. Here's what I've discovered so far."

This describes a customer service encounter powered by communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) technology. How delightful would it be if this smooth scenario played out every time you needed help from customer service?

It's about Context

That scenario illustrates the ideal of how all business communications should be, and is in fact quickly becoming reality. For as long as computers have been around, humans have adapted themselves to the quirky and non-contextual ways in which they operate. From mainframes to personal computers to smartphones, we've had to gain new skills to use these tools. We've been forced to adapt to them. Over time, this became easier, the devices themselves became cheaper, and as a result the barriers to entry dropped, making these tools available to more and more people.

We've finally entered a new phase in the history of our digital communications. Programmers and developers are asking themselves how they can make these tools align more closely with how humans naturally interact, designing technology that adapts to our needs.

I remind my own product and engineering teams that one of their goals should be to make software fun and easy to use. That's not something most enterprise software companies think about, but they should. People are drawn to the apps that most closely resemble what they'd do in an actual face-to-face encounter. Increasingly, people are recognizing the mismatch between personal and work apps: "I can do all this stuff so much easier on my personal device, so why am I stuck using these archaic tools at work?" That's a valid question that business app developers should pay attention to. Fun, easy, natural — this is what users and customers are looking for and putting our interactions in context helps to drive that experience.

The Next Phase of Digital Communications

The story about the credit card app shows the power CPaaS brings to communications. From within any application, an API can offer your customers various ways to communicate: voice, text, and web chat. These cloud communications options can now be available in one place. When linked to the communications structure of an organization, they can offer relevant context about customers' preferences, past interactions, and account history.

As barriers to entry have dropped for devices, they've also dropped for developers. It's now much easier to add this capability to any app. The API economy — the ability to use APIs to turn any business into its own platform that can communicate with any number of other platforms and tools — is reshaping the business communications landscape. Any business, anywhere, can access telecom infrastructure that allows it to communicate with anyone around the globe all from a single platform, and this capability is within reach for businesses of all sizes.

While building a comprehensive communications network was possible in the past, it was daunting. It may have involved millions of dollars, significant IT investment, servers, patches, links with other vendors, and constant attendance to the infrastructure itself. Now, if you have enterprise applications and you want to build in sophisticated communications capabilities, you can do that easily and without infrastructure investment. That is the beauty of using an API. You can scale up or down with ease and can reach your customers anywhere.

The goal for any business is to drive better outcomes. APIs can deliver CPaaS and communications with context for any size or type of company, from enterprise to SMB. With a few lines of code, any business can deliver advanced capabilities — and the experience their customers are looking for.

What could CPaaS do for your business? How can communications with context transform your customer's experience? Contact Vonage Business to discuss APIs that make it easy.

Written by Vonage Staff

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