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Are You Ready for 3rd Generation Mobile Customer Service Strategy?

by Karnail Jita, Jacada, Inc. - March 25, 2013

Are You Ready for 3rd Generation Mobile Customer Service Strategy?
By Karnail Jita, Jacada, Inc.


The 1980’s saw the introduction and subsequent explosion of voice-based call centers such that today, there’s no organization without a small army of agents taking calls from customers. Voice interaction moved into electronic interaction with email, web self-service, chat, and the dreaded IVR. But very recently another channel has established itself: mobile devices. This makes the potential interaction with a call center to move on a tremendously large scale from voice to mobile self-service.

Has this happened overnight? Not at all. Will smartphone service replace voice channels? In the short to medium term, probably not. Traditional customer service through phone and email will remain because mobile isn’t for everyone – some don’t have a smartphone or prefer the comfort of talking immediately to a human agent.

Early forays into customer self-service on smartphones was particularly limited, but at the same time exciting as a portent of things to come.

Second generation app experiences took a huge leap forward by allowing true, though limited, self-service. A customer could now check their bank balance any time of the day, transfer money, look up a mobile phone bill, apply for a loan, and so on. Most of these interactions, while of value to a consumer and reduce the cost base to the organization, fail to fully engage a customer. This is where third generation apps are making an impact.

Third generation smartphone apps are sophisticated apps that expose complex customer service processes, supporting personalized and contextualized interactions on the smartphone. The net effect of which, means a much higher chance of successful resolution of a customer’s needs than ever before.

What this means to contact center management is higher rates of call deflections and a reduction in operating costs. Leading organizations recognize this but what many miss is an option to seamlessly switch the customer from the app back into the contact center, when the customer deems necessary.

Do’s and don’ts of a 3rd Generation Customer Service Mobile Strategy

The challenge in the current global economic climate, with drastically decreased budgets is, how to justify spend on a mobile customer service initiative?

1. Expose more processes to the smartphone

The technology exists to expose processes to the smartphone and to do this at a relatively low cost. Today technology allows for a non-invasive integration approach to wrap existing mainframe, Windows or Web functions into transactional services on the smartphone. If constrained by legacy systems that only allow companies to offer very limited mobile services, the company will suffer as customers will leave and choose a company that makes doing business easier.

2. Personalize and Contextualize the Customer Experience

An organization holds a wealth of information about customers: their profile, needs, products, services etc. Using these details, the app experience can be personalized and contextualized so it’s more relevant and therefore, there’s less chance of the customer calling into the contact center. Knowing the context of the customer also means they can be presented with relevant up sell and cross sell offers.

3. Connect the Customer Interaction and the Contact Center Agent

If a customer does need to call into the contact center, the app experience has to seamlessly transition him there in order to be considered a true value. There should be a simple “Click to Call” option making it as simple as possible for a customer to connect with a live agent. Using appropriate context, the call should be smart routed to the correct agent, not a general contact center number. If the app is integrated into the contact center telephony infrastructure, customer data and context can be screen popped onto the agent desktop. The agent knows the customer, knows their journey, knows what they’re calling about and can continue with where they left off on the smartphone.

Of course, if a suitable agent isn’t available the customer should be informed as to the current wait time and given a call back option.

4. Save identity verification time

For most purposes, a customer has to sign in or log on before they can access the services of the smartphone app. If that customer subsequently needs to call the contact center while still within the app, their identity has already been verified so the agent can start to help them without having to establish their identity. This alone can save 30-60 seconds on the average handle time of a call.

5. Map the IVR journey into a Visual IVR and reuse the existing telephony infrastructure

Customers generally dislike IVR’s for their incessant routing options and inability to handle customer requirements. However, the IVR and complementary ACD telephony equipment serve many vital purposes for the efficient running of today’s contact centre. If implemented efficiently, IVR routing rules are a form of customer self service and vital call deflection for the contact centre. This intelligence can be reused in a Visual IVR app that mirrors contact centre telephony IVR options and functionality but shown as an app on a smartphone. It is much easier for a customer to view and navigate options on a smartphone than listen through a never ending list of menus.

Contact centre management will want to distinguish calls originating from apps and non-apps. One way is simply by having smartphone apps use a different phone number. Smart routing means IVR rules can be deployed to route these types of calls to the appropriate agent combined with context for the agent to know the customer and their issue.

6. Make mobile a rapidly evolving channel

Customer service innovators are all about making the smartphone even more of an automated channel that customers will naturally want to go to as their first point of contact. To reduce the risk of slowing down innovation, companies need a lighter touch to building smartphone solutions. Organizations should seek agile design technologies, in which customer interactions can be created, updated and duplicated to other channels, on the fly.

7. Don’t encapsulate mobile into a separate channel

Companies that implement mobile as a totally separate channel to voice, email, chat and so on. In some cases this has arisen from internal company politics and squabbles that serve only to stifle smartphone implementation. The net result is that mobile has a separate budget from other channels, which can mean a smartphone customer experience that is inconsistent with the experience the customer is exposed to on the web and or on the phone.

8. Know what your customers use your app for

If implemented from the outset, smartphone interactions yield a wide range of valuable insights into customer behavior. What are the most common reasons for customer X who has products A, B and C for using the app? What are the most popular reasons for customer to use the app? What was the last thing the customer was doing before they pressed Click to Call?

All these near real time metrics and more offer valuable analysis into just what customers are doing with the app and therefore, help shape successive versions to more accurately map onto customer needs rather than what the company thinks they want.

9. Don’t forget about Click to Chat

Chat growth on the internet has exploded just like growth in the use of apps on smartphones so as a result customers are increasingly expecting Chat on the app as another channel alongside existing ones. The technology exists to make this happen and absorb it into the contact center’s overall solution.

Conclusion

Voice will never disappear as a customer service channel. There’s a strong demand for self-service so before calling the contact centre, the majority of customers attempt to use a company’s web self service in order to resolve their query or issue. However, a poor, limited experience isn’t conducive to customer retention. Now that smartphone mobile customer service apps are increasingly considered as a route to self service, it follows that customers need to be offered an app experience implemented as a feature rich channel. And, when the customers need to call, they are painlessly connected to the contact centre. What’s needed to implement this is an approach that complements the existing infrastructure without implementing a costly, large scale IT project.

The rewards are enviable. Contact centres realize that successful mobile self service transactions cost a fraction of the cost of the voice channel. A good starting point is to offer smartphone functionality that addresses the most popular reasons for calling the contact center to immediately start avoided costly calls.






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