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Mobile Customer Service at its Brightest

Last Friday I was on a rather typical online purchasing surge and booked five flights, several hotel stays, a conference registration, and a few NYC car services. Nothing like an hour and a few thousand dollars to get the weekend started.

Since the above is rather representative of my life, it is fair to say that my credit card company and I are dear friends. As a very frequent traveler, they’ve learned to stop asking questions about my whereabouts and the bizarre places my card is used. I often envision that the algorithm assessing my charges is a bright beam of light ping-ponging furiously across a world map. Chase is used to my neurotic spending, and I don’t hear much from them.

Now don’t get me wrong, fraud protection at Chase has done their job well over the years and I’ve periodically been locked out of my account, subjected to painfully long fraud alert phone calls, and been temporarily suspended until all charges have been verified. Not very convenient when one is traversing the globe.

With all that said, I was actually a little surprised on Friday to get a text message from Chase after I registered for the upcoming Customer Response Summit next month. In the midst of all the spending, that particular purchase didn’t sit right with my bouncing algorithmic beam of light. Awesomely enough, it was not a human that contacted me. My beam of light came in the form of an automated SMS bot. He was short, simple, and completely non-intrusive. I simply responded back with one character and my purchase was confirmed. No suspension, no lockout, no human needed. I continue to be a very satisfied Chase customer.

What was even MORE awesome, was that I’ve been talking up a storm recently about this very topic! At the end of 2012 the good people at Voxeo sponsored an in-depth survey around mobile customer care, and ICMI just published the corresponding research report and whitepaper. Interested folks can also listen to me and Voxeo passionately discuss the need for a Mobile Customer Service Strategy during a webinar and an educast. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Our ICMI community seems to think so too, as there were so many insightful questions after the Voxeo webinar that we didn’t get to answer them all. You can find them all below, with equally insightful responses from Voxeo. Mobile is truly changing how we look at, expect, and deliver customer service…and it is as exciting as a bright beam of light ping-ponging furiously across the world.

Q: What is going to happen to IVR apps with mobility?

Voxeo: People talk about voice "dying," but that is not going to happen. Will IVR usage diminish as new customer self-service options become available? Probably. But more likely, a shift from heavy IVR self-service to basic call routing is going to happen, as customers are trying to self-serve on the visual and mobile channels first. Only if all self-service options have been exploited will the customer reach out to the contact center, where IVR applications can pre-qualify the call before a transfer. It is crucial to maintain the context of the customer’s recent transaction, though, to avoid frustration with repetitive data input.

The IVR experience when launched from a mobile customer care portal might sound like this: "Hello Mr. Smith. I see that you were having trouble with a payment of your utility bill. Is that what you are calling about?"

Q: Please comment on the important role of cloud-based services for supporting mobile customers.

Voxeo: Cloud-based services ease adoption, making the latest technology advancements and standards rapidly available at affordable "pay-as-you-go" pricing models. When it comes to mobile channels, cloud solutions can deliver the reliability and scale needed to support high-volume traffic. True mobile customer care encompasses multiple channels such as voice (IVR), SMS, mobile Web, native, and social media, and involves other technologies such as outbound communication and location-based services. Managing the hardware, software, network and platform integrations required for this variety of services becomes prohibitive for any IT and contact center organization whose core business is to serve customers.

Q: Have contact centers decreased CSR workforce by implementing mobile solutions?

Voxeo: Mobile is the killer device for customer self-service. Mobile customer service apps that take advantage of the power of the device to deliver rich customer experiences will alleviate pressure on the contact center to provide live agent assistance. It will also further diminish the need for human assistance with simple tasks and transactions, clearing the way for agents to focus on more complex customer needs.

Q: How can companies avoid building separate parallel (mobile and phone based) systems requiring their own development and support teams?

Voxeo: As companies seek to support an expanding list of self-service options, a tightly integrated, multi-channel platform and application lifecycle management suite should be a top priority. This approach eliminates duplicate investments in hardware, application development, backend integrations and ongoing maintenance, as well as analytics and reporting. The legal and commercial implications of a "one throat to choke" approach, by reducing the overhead of multi-vendor due diligence and vendor selection, must also not be ignored. More importantly, though, it facilitates a more unified and consistent customer experience across channels.

Using a "design once, deploy anywhere" architecture enables the creation of one application that can be deployed across any combination of voice, SMS, mobile web and social channels. While each interface is optimized for its channel, all channels offer similar menu options, services and personalization strategies by sharing business logic and information stores.

Q: Please comment on the increased role of outbound communication.

Voxeo: As companies struggle to differentiate their products and services, and consumers have a growing number of options, the customer experience has become critically important. Reacting to customer questions and problems is no longer enough. Customer-centric organizations now recognize the power of outbound communications in proactively serving the customer with reminders, value-added services and important updates that can diffuse potentially frustrating situations and prevent calls from happening in the first place, which will help reduce costs. Mobile web, smartphone, SMS and even social communication channels open new, highly convenient and affordable ways for companies to take advantage of outbound.