Part 2: CPaaS Use Cases and Trends in the Middle East and North Africa
So What is CPaaS ?
Check out Part 1 of this series titled: Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) – A Primer to Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) for better context 😉
Here’s the deal, and a bit of a recap. CPaaS platforms offer a complete development framework for building cloud based communication features geared towards customers and users. Without having to reinvent the wheel, and debate the “build vs buy” argument between having a SaaS based platform vs. Building your own software.
The great CPaaS platforms come pre-packaged with the tools, applications, support and connectivity to existing communications assets and other SaaS applications, that you may often find hard to reach. Instead, it allows you to focus on what really matters; customer experience, engagement, and the business cases surrounding them.
Here are 4 examples of how CPaaS backs common app features and user experiences, we often take for granted:
- Food ordering apps in the Middle East and North Africa
- like Akeed and Talabat, rideshare and taxi companies like Mwasalat and Careem, have embedded CPaaS functionalities into their apps, including SMS arrival alerts and account alerts designed to keep customers up to speed within real-time ETAs, whilst also allowing calls directly to the driver through the apps.
- Within the Airbnb app, both guests and hosts can enjoy lead alerts, order notifications and SMS/email/in-app chat sales and support for queries and confirmations that help the booking process.
- Zendesk has included voice/video calling features, including click-to-call, call tracking/logging and SMS functionalities, all designed to help customers send inquiries from the web or mobile app to live audio/video interactions with agents. This is a growing customer service space. Other industries such as banks or even car sales agents, can interface with their clients through video call with their customer.
- You must have by now at some point, used a one-time-password (OTP) before logging into an app, or confirming a transaction. You know, when you get an SMS with a pin code to use when logging in? You’ve also must have thought to yourself: But [application name]..I thought… you trusted me 🙁 ?! Well, before you breakup with your app, know that this 2x level security feature – while basic and sometimes annoying – is a super important feature, and any app or market place that uses sensitive data, or manages payments, needs to have this as a baaaaasic security feature.
Where is CPaaS headed?
It gets better. Here are other use-case topics to consider. Not only are they ‘trendy, chic’ use-cases, but they are now common reality. They will soon be a need, not a want, by any business or brand that wants to ensure it is a step ahead of the competition. Get a step closer to more meaningful customer engagements.
This is no longer a buzzword. Brands need to reach everyone by all means/channels necessary. This can mean sharing information and gaining feedback, across all communication channels simultaneously. Channels include traditional A2P channels like SMS/MMS, and social media channels like Facebook, Viber, Twitter, and last but not least, WhatsApp Business.
Recently launched in 2018, businesses can now hook up their systems to WhatsApp through an API, to create a leaner, faster and more conversational dialogue with their customers. Did you know we use WhatsApp about 1 hour a day on average? Longer than any other application or social messaging channel. How and why companies and brands are not racing to the gate to get on this, is astounding! In Oman, big hats off to Bank Muscat for leading the wave, but even their use-case is very basic; i’d rather call the call centre directly than deal with a very slow live sales agent chatting on WhatsApp. I’m sure we will see more complex and interesting, automated use-cases from them, and other banks in Oman, very soon.
The machines are coming? My friends, they are already here! Chatbots don’t aim to replace the human touch in customer service interaction. They amplify it. By automating FAQs, information, updates, and even transactional use-cases, it makes it easier for the customers to quickly get what they want, when they need it, through whichever communication channels they prefer. For the organization, it frees up resources to work on more critical, human touch related matters, like after-sales support. One interesting outlier in this space is Arabot.io an Arabic/English bot based out of Jordan that is one of the top 100 Arab startups shaping the 4th industrial revolution.
AI and Big Data
Artificial Intelligence that consumes and makes sense of big data generated by internal and external communications, does no longer need to be in a silo. Instead, this data and its insights, can be used to optimize marketing performance, business operations, and the end-user experience. Take this example of how Nexmo has linked with IBM Watson to their Voice API.
CPaaS vendors can leverage this fast growing space, to crystalize and enhance customer engagement. It is no longer about video conferencing, but about immersive experiences. Apart from e-commerce and retail being an important use-case space, we see other industries that will be positively impacted by these demands are in customer service, education, healthcare, and finance.
Another interesting trend is orchestrating IoT devices through a CPaaS platform…but we’ll leave that for another post to dig into it deeper.
It’s all about the customers (i.e. use-cases), baby
Technology is a vast sea of possibilities. It takes reasonable and careful navigation, even if the destination was not exactly defined. Ideally, there is a good rapport and connection (and expectations) between both the Business and Developer teams (gosh, a post on its own) – to be agile, fast and in sync with how to best add value to their customers, existing or potential.
CPaaS helps by simplifying the complex, expanding the voice and depth of a brand or organization’s communications to new horizons.
Sounds great, where do I start?
We find a good way to test a new feature, upgrade or a new use case, is by asking these qualifying questions:
Who is the user? Make it all about the customer(s) POV. Remember, you, as the product developer/owner/manager/financier or even QA tester, are NOT the end user. And no, focus groups or random surveys are often not where the juiciest insights are found. Find them by continuously engaging with your customers.
What do they [the customers] need to do? Or rather, what are they doing right now, that can be improved?
Do they really need it? Justify and align the challenge with the desired outcome. Differentiate between the “need” and the “want”. Also, what competitive advantage can be gained?
And last but not least, how can this be tracked, monitored, to see if its working (adding value) for my customers and eventually, to my bottom line?
Use-case development should never be spearheaded by the IT department, or even marketing. Sure, engage them, but it is ultimately business that sets the tone, vision and goals for use-case development.
Look out for Part 3 of this insights series
In Part 3 we’ll talk about a massive, and overlooked trend in the CPaaS space, and that is… telecom operators. Leveraging their own communication tools and infrastructure, and how they are just catching up to this space.
We’ll also talk about how CPaaS can serve as a catalyst to create big, country wide digital ecosystems. Where technical and non-technical people and professionals of all walks of life (and use-cases), can be a part of.
Are you an enterprise exploring digital transformation, wondering “Huh? This sea of endless CPaaS inspired goodness, is available to me? Where do I start?” contact us and we’ll be happy have a chat about it.