Founded in 1850, American Express (Amex) is a multi-national behemoth, specializing in payment card services. Although few remember this today, the emphasis on ‘express‘ comes from its origin as an express mail venture in Buffalo, New York. Though far from being the Fortune 500 company it would eventually become; even in 1850, Amex was a pioneer in it’s freight-forwarding business — earning a reputation as a company people could trust while transporting some of their most valuable possessions.
When Amex introduced its first ‘charge card’ in 1958, it did so because customers needed the security of traveller’s cheques combined with the added flexibility of credit. The rest as they say, is history.
Today American Express is not only the world’s largest issuer of charge cards but also offers offers financial planning, corporate and credit cards, brokerage services, mutual funds, insurance and other investment products.
How did a humble express mail venture become a financial giant? The story lies in its ability to constantly unlock new revenue opportunities by leveraging its customer trust & satisfaction.
Given this backstory, it should comes as no surprise that Amex’s Indian subsidiary – American Express India has been carrying forward its pioneering legacy. Here’s how American Express India used Chatbots to supercharge their customer marketing campaigns ⤵️
The Underrated Importance Of Customer Marketing
The word ‘marketing’ is often associated with the practice of attracting new customers with the help of ‘Mad-Men’ like skills. But in reality, marketing includes so much more!
One such domain of marketing that rarely gets the spotlight is: Customer Marketing. This refers to any marketing activity or campaigns directed at one’s existing customers. By focusing on elevating and leveraging current customers’ experiences, customer marketing can help drive 👇🏼
- Retention 🕛
- Growth 📈
Why would a business try to sell to its existing customer base when there’s an endless supply of fresh-faces to convince? Because according to Marketing Metrics, businesses have a 60 to 70% chance of selling to an existing customer while the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5% to 20%. This increased probability makes customer marketing an extremely high RoI strategy that grows the bottom-line by 👇🏼
- Reducing Churn Rate 🏃🏼♂️
- Increasing Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) 🎖️
For a business like American Express India, which sells a vide variety of financial products to the upper end of the Indian market — customer marketing is a ‘must have’ in their toolbox. While mass-market brands often have huge a huge customer base with limited disposable incomes, Amex due due to its premium positioning strategy has built a solid customer base among the top earners in India. This naturally translates to a focus on customer marketing that includes convincing existing customers👇🏼
- To ‘upgrade’ their present services (for eg; from Gold Card to a Platinum Reserve Card)
- To buy fresh financial products (for eg; Amex Accidental Insurance)
But this is easier said than done. How exactly did Amex India go about achieving these customer marketing goals? Which channels did they choose? What challenges did they face?
To answer all of these, we need to examine ⤵️
Why Amex Needed Chatbots To Supercharge Their SMS Marketing Campaigns
Amex India‘s Customer Marketing relies heavily on SMS campaigns. As mobile phones have become ubiquitous today — running marketing SMS campaigns comes with the distinct advantage of reaching right inside your SMS inbox. As Amex had a substantial pool of clients who had opted-in for SMS promotionals, text messages seemed like an inexpensive and scalable strategy for sending “offers” related to upgrades & newly launched products, while also explaining their benefits.
Yet as we all know, SMS Marketing is not an un-alloyed good in 2022. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio; Than are dreamt of in your marketing meetings”
Years of spammy messaging practices have nearly killed the response rate for SMS campaigns. While SMS marketing can still boast of a 90%+ open rate (something that every SMS Marketing Blog touts), what is the point of that magical number if a majority of your customers simply delete your SMS within seconds of reading it. Without actual engagement, SMS marketing becomes a futile ritual.
This was a challenge that Amex India was well aware of. They knew they loved the advantages and ease of SMS marketing campaigns, but they also knew they needed a solution to increase engagement on their customer marketing SMSes. They needed a solution that 👇🏼
🎯 Could be easily integrated within their existing SMS campaigns.
🎯 Could be easily automated and scaled.
🎯 Could drive their customer engagement numbers up.
🎯 Could hold the attention of their customer-base.
That’s how Tars Chatbots came into the picture.
How Did Amex Deploy Tars Chatbots
Tars partnered with Amex to build an extremely innovative solution in the form of Customer Marketing Chatbots, that could be easily added to their SMS Marketing campaigns. As each chatbot was contained within an independent landing page, all users had to do was click on an SMS Link to engage in an automated, human-like conversation 👇🏼
Not only did chatbots fulfil the exact criteria that Amex wanted, but Tars Chatbots had the added bonus of having a long history of incentivizing conversations for other enterprise-level businesses.
This meant that while initially our chatbots were used for just customer marketing SMSes (for eg: card upgrades & reward point offers), Amex eventually ended up using us for other SMS campaigns too, for eg application completion reminders and card delivery address collection 👇🏼
In fact, Amex India saw such value in Tars Chatbots, that they even added us to their official website as one of the ‘Top Links’, titled ‘Chat To Explore Benefits’👇🏼
This precisely why chatbots are often referred to as an omni-channel solution.
What Does A Conversation With An Amex Chatbot Look Like
Step 1️⃣: Suppose you’re an American Express card-member who has received an SMS notification for a new EMI scheme that has been launched by the company. You notice there is a link there prompting you to have a ‘conversation’. Intrigued as you are, you click on in it, seeing something like this 👇🏼
Step 2️⃣: A way to split your credit card transactions into flexible EMIs? Sounds amazing, but you’re a little apprehensive (as we all are) about the interest rates and what your actual repayment plan would look like. That’s when the chatbot presents you with the following options 👇🏼
Step 3️⃣: As a financially responsible adult, of course you want to know more about what you’re getting yourself into. So you click on the second option, which then prompts the chatbot to enter the transaction amount on which you would like to calculate your EMI 👇🏼
Step 4️⃣: Let’s say you enter ₹ 40,000 as the transaction amount and hit the send button. Once that’s done, the chatbot will ask you to choose a repayment tenure 👇🏼
Step 5️⃣: Once you’ve chosen your repayment tenure, the chatbot will automatically calculate your EMI to be ₹3629 every month, while also informing you about the interests and charges you’ll be paying. By now you’re pretty convinced, certainly way more than you were when you saw a 50 character SMS.
So of course you choose to proceed with your application 👇🏼
Step 6️⃣: Finally, the bot asks you to fill a form to verify yourself, gives you a link to learn more about EMI offers, and then thanks you for choosing American Express 👇🏼
Step 7️⃣: The moment you click on the ‘Complete Application’ button, you are redirected to the EMI form on Amex’s page, which looks something like this 👇🏼
What Was The Impact of Amex’s Chatbot Strategy?
The impact was tremendous! By deploying Tars Chatbots within SMS Marketing Campaigns & their official website, Amex was able to automate tens of thousands of conversations, with an incredible goal completion rate of 49.3% !
This meant that out 1 out every 2 customers who conversed with the chatbot, ended up doing exactly what Amex India wanted! In other words, when the cute widget on the bottom of every one of our pages say “Ready to transform your customer experience“, we really do meant it!
How To Get Started?
Book a demo with us today and one of our in-house chatbot experts will personally explain how you can use chatbots to supercharge engagement at every stage of your customer journey!
Soham is a content marketer on the Tars team. When he’s not writing kickass blog posts like the one you just read he’s reading obscure articles from history’s foremost anti-enlightenment thinkers and writing treatises to send to his 3 substack subscribers.