The Clientelis platform is designed to be open, and to allow for integration with new channels, as the growth of the internet-of-things sees more and more devices become connected. The following are the main channels that we currently provide as part of our solutions:

Mobile App

There are a number of key reasons why mobile apps are used by businesses, non-governmental organisations and mHealth projects:

  • They can be the ideal solution for last-mile use-cases for some projects. A mobile app can be built to have off-line data-storage capabilities which allows the serviceses to be freed from the geographic constraint of needing to be where there is infrastructure.
  • A mobile app make full use of the hardware of the phone or tablet, in a way that a web-app can't. For example if you need your users to be able scan barcodes with the device's camera, then a mobile app is the ideal way to go.
  • A mobile app on a phone is much much more easily portable and inconspicuous as well as cheaper than a laptop computer. This has important safety benefits for your field staff.
  • A mobile app is generally more user-friendly as well as faster than the same functionality implemented as a web-app. ~They are also easier-to-use because, especially in Africa, phones and phone-apps are more familiar than web-apps.
  • A mobile app can be used to provide better customer service, by putting powerful functionality in the hands of customers.
  • A mobile app is also ideal if you want to put advanced functionalities in the hands of your customers (for example a medication dosage calculator for a pediatrician, or a "find nearest mechanic" lookup facility for drivers)
  • A mobile app is also a great tool for moniotring & evaluation, with its ability to collect field-data, including GPS coordinates of field staff, and synchronise it back to the server.

For Clientelis, the mobile app is never the full solution. We approach design of mobile apps with a view to where the app fits in within the overall use-case, taking into account data origination, monitoring and evaluation, user literacy and other factors.

Example of mobile app

SMS Messaging

SMS is a technology that billions of people are very familiar with and use on a daily basis. Services can be built using Outbound SMS, Inbound SMS or a combination of both (two-way-SMS). The following are some highlights of what it can be used for:


Outbound SMS

SMS is a powerful tool, and still the most versatile and widely accessible channel in rural parts of Africa. It has many benefits:

  • Control over Deliverability: messages can be sent instantly, or sent based on some target date (e.g. 24 ours before a doctors appointment)
  • High Open Rate: Almost every SMS sent is read, whereas only a fraction of emails are read.
  • Reliable: Unlike email, SMS dones't have to battle against spam filters as do email.
  • Accessible: Unlike channels like email, almost everyone can receive SMS, as long as there is basic cellphone coverage, and the target has a mobile phone.

For Clientelis, the mobile app is never the full solution. We approach design of mobile apps with a view to where the app fits in within the overall use-case, taking into account data origination, monitoring and evaluation, user literacy and other factors.

Links can be included in SMS to deliver all kinds of online content, from academic papers, to videos or surveys. There are many options:

  • A straight link to a web-page. In this case, any tracking will be done with the normal tools used to track the activity on the website (e.g. Google Analytics)
  • A shortlink which can be used to track how many clicks were received by the content from each SMS campaign.
  • A personalized shortlink which can be used to track which respondents clicked on the link. A personalized shortlink might also be required if the content is also personalized (e.g. an online survey)
Example of SMS with cancer patient question

Example of SMS with hamper voucher

Inbound SMS

The vast bulk of business or professional SMS involves outbound messaging: sending reminders, notifications and other messages to staff or customers. However inbound SMS messaging can also be a very valuable tool, especially in low-resource areas where mobile data may not be available.


How it works

Inbound SMS requires two things:

  • A phone number to receive the messages and route them to your server. This can be a shortcode (5 characters) or a virtual long number (which typically looks like normal - or sometimes slighly elongated - cellphone number). Clientelis can set this up for you through our partners.
  • A set of agreed keywords which are defined when the service is put in place. Keywords will be assigned meanings, for example 'OUT' meaning unsubscribe from the service, 'HELP' meaning call me back etc. Clientelis will provide suggestions during the requirements analysis phase of the project.

Inbound SMS using keywords can have many benefits:

  • It allows you to engage in a conversation with your audience.
  • It allows you to receive input in a machine-readable way, from people who, because of the underdeveloped infrastrucutre where they live, have no other means of communication.
  • It allows you to be compliant with local regulations (e.g. having a mechanism for customers to unsubscribe)

There are a myriad of different uses-cases that inbound SMS can be applied to, including the following:


USSD

USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Data Service) is a GSM protocol used to allow interactive communication between a mobile handset and a service provider’s computers. It is a technology that allows users who do NOT have ‘data bundles’ loaded on their handsets, to nevertheless interact in real-time with data-type services. It is a core cellular service and is universally available on every cell-phone in Africa, although it is true that it can be challenging to establish commercial services in some countries.

Services where a USSD short code can be used in the healthcare context include:

  • To provide nurses/patients/retail attendants with self-help functionality (e.g. to look up a device error code)
  • For nurses/patients to request a call-back (as an alternative to Toll-Free numbers where such services aren't available)
  • To provide lookup capabilities (i.e. to look up points balance of a loyalty card)
  • To create surveys or contests, which are used to collect information on customers.
  • As part of a consent-management process.

The key benefits of USSD include:

  • Familiarity: people, especially those on lower incomes are familiar with it, as it is widely used to reload airtime on pay-as-you-go phones.
  • Reverse Billing: it is possible to offer services at no cost to the end user in many countries, so your customers won't pay a penny.
  • Universal: USSD works on all GMS mobile phones, including very basic phones.
  • Reliable: USSD is more reliable than channels like SMS.
Example of a USSD menu

E-Mail

Email is probably the single most important channel for businesses, NGOs or healthcare organizations. We routinely use it in an automated way within our solutions for the following purposes:

  • Welcome: Send welcome emails to new users who are registered on the system.
  • Notifications: Notify users or internal teams when there is an important update in the system (helpdesk ticket has been closed, your order is scheduled to be delivered on... etc.)
  • Requests: Email can be used to request support, for example to the helpdesk.
  • Request Action Email can be used to request action from users who may not be often logged in, and might not otherwise see the request. (e.g. disable stolen phone)
  • Reminders: Send reminders to users, particularly customers' internal staff, when some action is required of them. For example it may be an urgent product order which still hasn't been processed within a threshold of 4 hours.
  • Escalations: Supervisory staff might be notified if a particular process is running outside its service level paramaters.

Chatbots & OTT channels

The future of communication is OTT (or Over the Top), a way of communicating and delivering content using IP-based networks rather than being tied to a network. Channels like WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook Messenger use data, have already replaced a lot of communication that would have traditionally been carried as telephone calls or SMS.

While many places in the world, especially in Africa, don't yet have the internet infrastructure for OTT channels, they are clearly moving in that direction, and Clientelis are ready.

A chatbot is a program designed to simulate conversation with human users, using artificial intellience. Chatbots can be seen as a more functionally-rich alternative to both SMS and USSD, which can do much more. Facebook Messenger is a leading messaging application that allows for the creation of bots (bots can also be built into propietary chat platforms). Chatbots can be used:

  • To provide a way for customers to contact you. This can be done by embedding a messenger button on your website, or for example a Facebook Messenger bot can be placed behind the 'Send Message' button on your organization's Facebook page.
  • To provide your audience with a means to look up information. Like channels like USSD, your audience will be presented with menus of options that they can choose from, and navigate through the content that way. Use it to peruse product categories, or look up product error codes etc.
  • To request a call-back. The user might not find what they are looking for on the chatbot in all cases, so a means to escalate to a human support person can be included. If they request a call-back, a ticket will be created on the helpdesk software, and the customer will be called back.
  • To deliver rich content, for example training materials. For example modules on important life skills (e.g. how to wash a newborn) can be delivered as simulated chats, with images.
  • To send reminders, for example to remind patients that their next checkup is due, or they are due to pick up medication. The bot can handle collecting the additional consent that is required for this type of interaction.
Example of a Facebook Messenger bot

The key benefits of chatbots include:

  • Immediate: when customers try to contact you through a chat application they expect an immediate response. With a bot attached to the chat account, they will get one.
  • High Open Rates: messages that are received through chat apps will be read more than 80% of the time, which is much higher than channels like email.
  • Cost: many people prefer OTT channels because they are free (especially if they are on a WiFi network)
  • Automated: with a bot most interactions can be automated, which reduces workload for your staff.
  • Sophisticated: a bot can be programmed to do quite sophisticated things using artificial intelligence.


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