Stepping on toes

How conversational messaging aids customer engagement for SMEs

Businesses are evolving and every niche in the Nigerian market is looking for ways to better engage with their customers and improve profitability.

This has led businesses to adopt various innovations and leverage trends that help boost customer experience and business-to-consumer communication.

According to a survey on conversational messaging, 95 percent of consumers said they would trust a brand more if it was easy for them to initiate a conversation.

“The growing expectation to provide intelligent assistants or staff customer experience representatives to respond in real-time via channels like WhatsApp or SMS is becoming a non-negotiable for those organisations who value their customers.”

Olatayo Ladipo-Ajai, regional manager at Infobip Nigeria, explains that businesses in Nigeria are currently faced with numerous challenges, including fast-changing global economic conditions, a new post-pandemic reality, as well as a fast-growing young population that is increasingly technology-savvy.

“These prevailing market conditions have ushered in challenging times, making it increasingly difficult for organisations to maintain and attract new business. Simultaneously, companies are finding that competition is increasing, which demands better and more creative differentiation than just better pricing to maintain a competitive edge.”

He further stated that consumer behaviour is also changing drastically, with an increase in numbers of Nigerian customers choosing to engage and transact with brands online

DataReportal reports that Nigeria’s internet penetration rate stood at 55.4 percent of the total population at the start of 2023, with 122.5 million internet users recorded in January 2023. Further to this, a total of 193.9 million cellular mobile connections were active in early 2023, equivalent to 87.7 percent of the total population.

According to him, this prompts Nigerian businesses to explore more universal engagement routes to connect with their customers and interact via conversational messaging.

Ravi Sundararajan, chief operating officer of Gupshup stated that conversational messaging helps brands engage more deeply with customers – in a personalised, interactive way, in a contactless setting. And with the personalisation aspect, which is made possible with Artificial Intelligence (AI), businesses will better understand the user behaviour, requirements, and what they need, so they can tailor their services accordingly.

“Many businesses have millions of consumers and users, but earlier, brands couldn’t scale the communication. You would have one or more sales representatives trying to deal with hundreds of people and doing physical store promotions. Whereas now, when you engage them using the most natural way, which is conversational messaging, it becomes personalised, at scale.”

Conversational messaging, in the form of Rich Communication Services (RCS), can address many of these challenges, enabling businesses and brands to communicate more effectively while reaching out, attracting and converting potential customers. RCS is an evolution of SMS, which integrates features from various chat apps into one platform.

Brands use the conversation messaging platform to engage and interact personally with consumers via popular messaging channels like WhatsApp, Facebook, SMS, Instagram and others.

Since its launch in 2018, it took a while for telcos to adopt RCS and for enterprises to embrace it as a means of creating a more engaging customer communication experience. However, it is safe to say that RCS is now an established business communication channel.

Airtel, AXA Mansard partner to offer digital health plans to subscribers

By Chinwe Michael

Airtel Nigeria, a telecommunications network provider, has partnered with AXA Mansard, to launch a digital health insurance plan that provides access to basic health care consultation and minor treatment for customers on the Airtel network.

The telecommunication network made this announcement during a press launch at Airtel headquarters on April 19, 2023.

The Airtel AXA Mansard health bundle gives Airtel customers the opportunity to approach low-cost health care consolation and treatment for minor illnesses. The bundle plan is said to provide three forms of healthcare services, including telemedicine, pharmacy, and hospitalisation reimbursement, and Airtel customers can subscribe by dialing *141*44# to select the service.

Femi Oshinlaja, Chief Commercial Officer, Airtel Nigeria, described the bundle as an innovative product that has been particularly designed to make a significant difference.

“In line with Airtel’s core value, which is to deliver solutions that enrich the lives of our customers, we are pleased to partner with AXA Mansard, to launch a cutting-edge health bundle that will add value to our customers. This partnership aims to provide easy and pocket-friendly health insurance access to Airtel users, through mobile data service”, he said.

He added that the health bundle will shorten the distance between Airtel customers and healthcare providers such as hospitals and pharmacies. “With this simple cover,” he noted, “users may now have access to the medication of up to N60,000 and hospitalisation cover of N50,000 per year.”

Also commenting on the launch, Tope Adeniyi, managing director and chief executive officer, AXA Mansard, hailed the partnership between the two companies for deploying technology to make far-reaching impact in healthcare.

“We are delighted to collaborate with Airtel to make health insurance accessible through mobile services, and we believe that this is currently one of the most innovative and relevant solutions that will empower more Nigerians to conveniently access best-in-class health insurance value offerings,” he said.

Some of the other interventions made by Airtel as part of its continuing commitment to health and wellness in Nigeria include the N200 million investment in the refurbishment and outfitting of the infectious disease center at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in addition to a donation of N20 million from personal contributions by Airtel employees which was described by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as the first of its kind, and many several other projects under Airtel’s award-winning Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, Airtel Touching Lives.