Digital Real-Time Communications for Customer Relationships

One of the big changes in recent times has been that we as consumers have a digital identity in the form of an mobile number and an email ID. This identity allows companies to reach us in (near) real-time with their communications. For this communication to be effective, I think it has to be based on the 3 Ps of Push, Permission and Profile. Push and Permission ensure that once I opt-in (or decide not to opt-out), I can receive a stream of information without having to do anything else. Profile can help make that info more useful to me – in fact, I am willing to share data about myself if the company can use it constructively to tailor what it sends me.

This is the context in which I believe that digital communications in the form of Push SMS and Push Mail will grow tremendously in the years to come. SMS has an immediacy to it but is restricted to 160 chars. Email can provide the richer and longer form of communication. The two can work powerfully as a combo. The challenge for businesses is to be able to connect three things: my “customer code/account number” that they have internally with my mobile number and email ID. If they do this, they can now build a deeper relationship with me (something that I also want as a consumer of their brand)more cost-effectively than anything that has been possible in the past.

In fact, this communication with customers will cost companies about Re 1 per customer per month. Assume a company sends about 10 messages to me in a month (a couple a week, by SMS/email). At about 10 paise per message, for just a rupee a month, a company can effectively build a “hotline” to me — one that I will be delighted by because it is being done with me permission. (In fact, I know that I can opt-0ut from if I so desire at any time.)

Building relationships based on push and permission can help companies dramatically reduce the cost of incremental contact with the customer. The first – and every – touchpoint should be used to get the customer to opt-in to an information channel from the company. This is what will be a game-changer in customer relationships management.

This is the big opportunity that is there in transforming the way companies connect with existing and prospective customers in a mobile-centric world. Just look at a country like India. The top 10 crore – 100 million – consumers (about 20% of the population) each have about 10 relationships that they would like to have with brands – and where brands would be more than happy to spend a rupee a month to keep the hotline open to them. This is a Rs 1200 crore ($250 million) a year market opportunity for businesses waiting to be tapped. That figure is about 2X the size of the current Internet advertising market in India.