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Customer Care in a World Filled with Mobile Apps and 50 Billion Connected Devices

This post originally appeared on RichardDumas.com.

Last week, Salesforce launched their new platform, Salesforce1, which unifies Force.com, Heroku and ExactTarget while providing new developer APIs and services designed to make building and selling mobile apps easier. In his keynote, CEO, Marc Benioff, described a world that was not just about thousands of new devices but about a future with 50 billion connected things, a world where everything from plane engines to toothbrushes are connected devices, all reporting data into your CRM. It’s an impressive vision, one that Salesforce is betting heavily on.

Whether you share a vision of an “Internet of Things” or not, there is no denying that we live in an increasing mobile world where consumers spend more and more of their time engaging with your business through mobile devices.

And that has to make you wonder, how the heck are you are going to support customers who are using all of those devices and apps?

While at the event, I made my way over to a session called “4 Key Steps to Getting Started in Mobile Customer Support” to find out what Brad Cleveland and Sarah Stealey Reed from ICMI had to say. Here’s some of what I heard.

Mobile Customer Care

Cleveland and Reed presented ICMI’s research from their “2013 Mobile Customer Service Strategy Report”, conducted with 422 contact center leaders, as well as a set of recommendations for how contact centers should structure their thinking when considering providing mobile support.

They began by stressing that offering voice as the only support option for customers was no longer cutting it. Given the huge number of mobile subscribers (6.8 billion mobile subscribers worldwide and 460 million in the US) and survey results that indicate substantial interest in mobile support, it’s a point that’s pretty hard to dispute.

However, their survey also indicated that the majority of businesses (61%) don’t currently support mobile in any way. That's a wee bit of a problem if you believe that the number of devices and apps will only increase.

They also stressed that they did not view mobile as a channel but as a platform. Consumers don’t just access support from within a mobile app, they also use their devices to call, text, email and use social tools to contact customer support.  So developing a mobile strategy has to do with determining how your customers want to get help when using their mobile devices. They also counseled the audience to always provide a way out of self-service mobile support by offering an option to call and speak to a live person.

Developing a Strategy

They recommended that organizations first look at their industry and the competitive landscape to evaluate what others were doing and to determine if offering mobile support would offer a competitive advantage. (Their survey results showed that over 60% believed that it would)

Cleveland then advised that contact center managers first understand their own organization. He stressed the importance of understanding the spectrum of mobile apps offered; who in the business is responsible for mobile and working to contribute a unique support perspective to strategy discussions. Contributing valuable information about consumer sentiment, adoption and use will help contact center managers to gain a seat at the planning table.

Cleveland and Reed told the audience to thoroughly understand how, when and where their customers would interact with support through various channels. For example, do customers tend to contact support when in the airport where they expect an immediate response and might not want to talk on the phone because of the noisy environment?  Based on how customers want to engage, decisions could be made about which channels to offer along with required service levels.

Cleveland then advised the audience to think about the kind of people that would be needed to staff each channel. If your customers prefer to contact support through email you will need agents with strong writing skills. Similarly, for phone support, agents with strong conversational skills would be preferred and for social care those skilled at communicating through text would be most appropriate.

Finally, Cleveland discussed planning and forecasting, describing how each channel (and agent group) would have different service level requirements, expected response times and handle times that would effect staffing needs.

That’s just a snapshot of wealth of information and analysis that Cleveland and Reed provided during their session on building a mobile support strategy.  They have more useful research and best practices available here.

Take aways

ICMI's survey reported that 93% of customers would be more satisfied if offered their preferred channel and 49% would be willing to move to a competitor who did offer their preferred channel. If you believe those results and share Salesforce's prediction that we are moving toward a world that is increasingly mobile and app centric then it’s probably also time to start thinking about how you will put a plan in place to support consumers with an increasingly diverse set of engagement needs.