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Mobile Customer Service: A Look at the Opportunities and Challenges

While at ACCE 2013, I had the opportunity to sit in on a panel discussion on Innovative Approaches to Self-Service. The session garnered discussion around social, chat, web, IVR, and mobile. As May is the month of mobile here at ICMI, I took the opportunity to chat in a bit more detail with one of the panelists, Justin Lemrow of Contact Solutions. Curious how to integrate mobile into the other more traditional channels your contact center offers? Wondering how to drive traffic to mobile, or measure customer satisfaction in mobile channels? Read on for those answers and more!

ICMI: Tell me about a great mobile customer service experience you’ve personally had.

Justin Lemrow: The mobile channel is great for consumers because it converges channels, increases convenience and productivity, and affords a more personalized experience. In the infancy of mobile customer service, we are already seeing great things.

I am sure many have had the great experience I had just last week. I took a bike ride. I realized when I got home that I had lost my water bottle! No problem! I grabbed my iPhone, tapped the Amazon icon, and searched for “water bottle.”

Then I filtered by price and then color, and voila! There’s one that looks pretty good! I checked reviews and then with a single tap of a button, it’s ordered. I immediately got a pop up on my screen – an email was sent to me confirming my order.

That evening I received a text: my order had shipped! Another text came the next day telling me my new water bottle had arrived. I arrived home that evening to unwrap my new water bottle. That’s awesome!

My story highlights the problem and the opportunity with mobile customer service. Mobile customer service today is much about front-end purchase research—like my water bottle story—and post-sale relationship—like changing a seat on a flight. If you want to contact customer support for a more general question about your account, your choices are either to go through the web on your smart phone or call. There’s a real opportunity for mobile customer service in the contact center, and we are barely seeing what’s possible today. It’s an exciting time to be focused on mobile customer service.

ICMI: How can call centers best integrate mobile into the other more traditional customer service channels they offer?

Justin Lemrow: It is crucial to recognize that mobile is not just another channel…or for that matter, it is not just multiple channels (voice, web, mobile app) that happen to be on one device. Mobile allows for a convergence of channels. A holistic approach to integrating channels into the mobile environment is incredibly important. If you force mobile to align with existing channels one at a time, you will exacerbate the same cross-channel data silo issues that exist today. And then the problem grows exponentially.

Our industry today is prone to this inside out thinking—how do we integrate channels in the call center and provide a seamless experience—versus outside in—how do we create an integrated multi-channel experience from the device in the customers hand. It’s not about integrating mobile into the more traditional channels. It’s about providing a seamless experience made possible by converging channels.

ICMI: What do you see as the biggest challenges of implementing and integrating mobile as a customer service channel?

Justin Lemrow: First and foremost, enterprise mobile strategies do not naturally consider access to call center based customer service to be a key element. They usually start as an extension of what is being done on the web. It’s a little like a newspaper’s first web presence, circa 1996. Most took what they knew of layout and design of the paper and just pasted it on a website. Capabilities were limited to what you could do with the hard copy version – read stories and turn pages. Only the text was smaller and tougher to read. Unfortunately, enterprise mobile strategies typically neglect customer service.

Second, the investment to keep relevant and compelling customer service applications in the hands of customers is significant, including mobile application developers, development platforms (like cloud based MEAP and MBaas infrastructure), backend system integration, application delivery, etc. It is a big commitment and investment, not just to get the mobile app out there, but to maintain it, keep it fresh, etc.

Third, customers want fewer mobile apps, not more. An app for every company consumers want to access through the mobile phone is not realistic or sustainable. It’s too cumbersome. Competition for the consumer’s mobile screen real estate is fierce. As consumers ourselves, we can all understand this. You may easily have 20-30 businesses with which you have a long term relationship as a consumer, but you are not going to have 20-30 applications on your phone to support those relationships. Studies show that the typical consumer maintains use and focus on only eight applications regularly, and nearly two thirds of those applications are usually replaced with new ones within a year. That makes keeping customers engaged a daunting challenge.

ICMI: What are some ways to drive traffic towards self-service channels such as mobile?

Justin Lemrow: This is the easy part! It’s already happening! Based on Contact Solutions’ information, roughly 70% of customer service calls into the contact center are coming from mobile phones already. If consumers are already on their mobile phones—and they clearly are—the transition to a quicker, easier mobile app is the next logical step. Since the device converges traditional channels on a single device, it is easy to for consumers to be directed to the mobile channel.

ICMI: How do the expectations of self-service customers differ from the expectations of customers using traditional channels? How do you manage those expectations?

Justin Lemrow: More so than other channels, mobile gives the user a sense of control. The mobile phone has become the personal device, delivering context relevant interactions—that is, I can get precisely what I need, where and when I need it. There is an expectation that any app should make my life more convenient, on my terms.

Because of that added context and sense of control, there are higher expectations by mobile users when using traditional channels to get service. Because the mobile experience affords more consumer control and convenience, the need for better CX in other channels is heightened. For example, if I pick up the phone and talk to a customer service agent, I want instant access…no holding…and I expect them to just fix my problem with no effort from me…I have much less tolerance now for interactions where I do not feel I have control. The customer experience, while always important, has become even more so as a result.

ICMI: How do you measure customer satisfaction in mobile channels?

Justin Lemrow: There are several metrics to measure customer satisfaction in mobile. The most telling—in my opinion—is frequency of use. If consumers have success using an app, they will go back to it. If the experience is not helpful and/or enjoyable, the app will be gone from their devices.

But beyond that, it’s important to measure customer satisfaction in mobile self-service in a way somewhat similar to other channels. At Contact Solutions, we measure the interactions that drive goal completion—what is the user trying to accomplish, and are those interactions successful using self-service? Our proprietary approach quantifies the customer experience across eight different metrics—all of which map back to the demonstrated ease, efficiency, and enjoyment of the experience.

As trends demonstrate mobile adoption continuing to grow at an astonishing rate, it’s imperative that organizations employ a mobile customer service strategy. With one third of ICMI’s emerging channel survey participants responding that they don’t yet support mobile as a channel, there is clearly still a lot of work to be done.

About Justin Lemrow:

In his role as Director of the Continuous Improvement (CI) Practice at Contact Solutions, Justin Lemrow oversees the delivery of guaranteed business results to enterprise customers. Blending both business and technical experience, Justin has built an effective approach for matching and evaluating solution improvements for executive business owners. Under his leadership, the Contact Solutions CI Practice quantifies recommended improvements to increase revenue (improving customer experience) and operational savings (increasing self-service). A Six Sigma Black Belt who visits more than a dozen contact centers a year, Justin has more than a decade of process improvement experience in the contact center.