Why real-time engagement is not a priority for younger brands like Grab and SingLife

For Grab and SingLife, the next frontier in winning the ‘customer experience (CX) war’ is proactive engagement.

Real-time engagement is not a long-term objective for younger brands like ride-sharing unicorn Grab and insurer Singapore Life (SingLife), because they have other immediate priorities like scale, efficiency and product development, experts say.

At a roundtable organised by Salesforce to discuss the fifth edition of its State of Marketing report, Rana Saha, the senior director for growth marketing at Grab, shared that his current top priorities are scale and efficiency as the company looks to integrate data from the customers they serve across a wide spectrum of verticals and services from transport to food.

"Getting the marketing infrastructure and foundations around data management in place is the prelude to synthesizing the data for insights, before using the insights to implement quality engagement in real-time," he explained.

Liam McCance, chief marketing officer at SingLife, shared similar sentiments with Saha. He said his priority is using data to build a product that can earn a customer relationship before looking to real-time engagement.

Jess O’Reilly, the regional vice president for marketing cloud in Asia at Salesforce, explained that it is important that marketers not only understand where the industry is going, but also their business and the stage that it is in, in terms of building the customer journey and experience.

“Regardless of what businesses indicate as their top priority, the motivation to deliver an exceptional customer experience should sit at the centre of all they do,” she told The Drum. “Businesses in Asia must consider how they can elevate the customer experience in a way that makes sense for their brand and the stage it is in.”

Malcolm Koh, customer experience strategist in APAC at Zendesk, noted digital businesses like Grab and SingLife, already put the customer at the center of their business models, which means real-time engagement is built into their DNA.

For Grab and SingLife, the next frontier in winning the ‘customer experience (CX) war’ is proactive engagement, said Koh, pointing out that marketers are all too familiar with wanting to tell customers what they need before they realize they need it, and now CX leaders are also embracing this mindset.

“Today’s consumers are moving at the speed of light, and they expect you are too. While most customers still typically expect responses to their issues within 24 hours, that period now feels much longer than it used to,” he explained to The Drum.

“These days, even a couple of hours can feel like an eternity, and conversely, it is absolutely mind-boggling how much can happen in just a couple of hours.”

However, Koh stressed that for legacy brands who are currently in the process of modernizing their customer support, real-time engagement is still a top priority. He said their approach is more deliberate and requires buy-in and investment from multiple business functions to bring it to life.

“Regardless of how young or old your business is, the ongoing challenge for CX and marketing leaders is to work together to better understand the customer and how they can add value to each interaction. The intersection of CX and marketing is truly where art meets science in the business world,” he added.

Joseph Suriya, the senior director of marketing for APAC at Tealium, pointed out for SingLife, the sales cycle is part of a longer-term decision-making process, requiring considerable research and comparison. He said for Grab, the focus is on convenience and price, with little other information required by a consumer to decide, which means price takes priority and other messages have less relevance.

“Despite the longer sales cycle for SingLife, their systems should still understand the customer in real time – including where they are in the customer journey – to be able to respond accordingly,” he explains. “In this instance, when research is likely to be followed by a period of reflection, attention spans are longer and more focused, so getting the right marketing messages to resonate is the priority.”

Engaging the customer in real-time

For legacy brands like MSIG Singapore, the insurer has looked at new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), telematics, application programming interface (API) and robotics to augment its omnichannel customer experience in the past two years, said Sharon Teo, the senior vice president of corporate services at MSIG Singapore.

This is because advancements in digital technology have led to higher expectations for real-time responsiveness, she explains, which means businesses must either move at the speed of their customers or risk losing their customers. To meet the needs of the “new insurance customer”, it is one of MSIG’s top digital goals to provide an ‘always-on’ experience.

Teo, who heads up business and digital transformation for the business, also shares that after MSIG realized more and more customers were starting to prefer to self-serve and make purchases online, it built a customer portal to provide a simple and fast buying experience. Customers too, can submit their claims and track their claims status through this portal.

In addition, MSIG’s AI-chatbot Mae, helps to answer any customer queries round-the-clock. On average, Mae handles over 3000 questions every month. According to Teo, with the help of Mae, MSIG can respond to a large volume of inquiries, which tends to surge during peak travel seasons or following the happening of major events at their travel destination.

“On a deeper level, we are also leveraging on telematics to better understand and engage our UMax motor policyholders on real-time. Telematics is used to record our policyholders’ driving behavior and it relays instant feedback to the policyholders through a mobile app to help them improve their driving,” she said.

“To resolve customers’ pain points during their claims journey, we deployed APIs to link up with the banks’ payment systems so our customers can receive instant real-time electronic payment of their claims.”

Teo admits that while some of the technologies MSIG adopt may not necessarily be as apparent in terms of real-time engagement, it benefits the insurer’s customers nonetheless with faster response times.

One such example is Robotic Processing Automation, which has enabled MSIG to automate manual and repetitive tasks so it can turnaround their customers’ policies or claims faster.

“Today we use robotics to process motor fleet policies and register travel claims, as well as perform other claims and processing needs. We have improved the time taken for motor policy processing by 80% and travel claims acknowledgment by 70%. This positive impact goes all the way down to the value-chain as customers do not have to contact us to ask about their policy document or claims,” she explained.

Effective ways of using data to engage customers in real-time

MSIG believes that in order to effectively apply customer data, collaboration and synergies across teams must be achieved, said Teo. She added that her colleagues are guided by a clear goal and strategy on the collection and application of data that will add-value across the enterprise including sales, servicing, underwriting and claims teams.

“To be a customer-centric insurer, the ability to capture and use customer data to design products and solutions, and to enhance the customer experience is very important to us,” she explained.

“MSIG will be embarking on advanced analytics to drive more accurate and granular pricing and underwriting, especially for smart products to offer on-demand solutions and pricing in real-time.”

Koh agreed, and adds regardless of the age or size of the business, it is paramount that teams collaborate and share their data in order to paint a fuller picture of the customer and understand their needs and expectation.

He said the first step to building a truly effective CX strategy, grounded in a desire to provide more impactful real-time engagement, is to integrate the existing data and draw out the most relevant insights to help you make more informed decisions.

“Business leaders, including marketers, can use those insights to help develop a more connected experience across all the channels that are available, and wherever their customers choose to engage,” he added.

Salesforce’s O’Reilly stressed that the customer experience not only involves marketing, but also product development, the sales experience, post-purchase customer service, and more.

As brands increasingly look to invest in the management and control of first-party customer data that comes from various teams and sources across the business, integration is imperative in ensuring that the data comes together to generate a holistic understanding of the customer.

“More importantly, that any resulting knowledge is fed back across the entire business to impact strategies and maximize the customer experience. This starts by ensuring that individual channels do not remain within confined silos, but instead start to work together to share data, analytics and even metrics,” she says.

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