Mobility May Shake up the Service World
Some aspects of customer service are never going to change—for example, anyone asking for assistance expects to be helped by someone who is knowledgeable, pleasant, presents the answer from the caller's perspective, and is professional. There are other characteristics that callers prefer in their service provider, but they are not core requirements. Most of us want to be helped by someone who seems interested and cares, as well as someone who "really gets it." It's not easy to do a good job of delivering customer service, and it's only going to become more challenging as customer expectations become more demanding.
There are some interesting attitudes among callers today, including the fact that many would prefer not to have to call and speak to a customer service representative. Calling and asking for help is the last resort for a surprising number of Millennials. For many, "talking" means SMS or texting, and they take it as a personal affront if data is not available in their preferred channel.
In this environment, mobile applications are emerging at a rapid clip. Consumers cannot get enough of them, even if all they do is acquire them (mostly for free), use them once or twice, and move on to the next potentially more exciting application. While it may seem frivolous to purchase an app to point out the exact location of different stars in the night sky (actually, I think it's rather cool), it's not inane to want an app for banking, insurance, shopping, traffic, travel reservations, or to make medical appointments.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to use your smartphone—the one thing most of us do not leave home without—to take care of the majority of customer service needs via an app? That way, you don't need to look things up on the Web or place a call, which is often less convenient. Google is great as a last resort, but a customer service app that knows who you are, what you want to do, provides answers quickly and accurately, facilitates chat/texting to the organization, and connects you to a service person with all contextually relevant information when you need live-agent assistance (without having to go through the voice response system) is appealing to Boomers and Millennials alike. Actually, it's more than just a desire. Mobile apps are going to play an important role in customer service, and if your organization doesn't provide them, customers will find companies or organizations that do. What I am saying is that, in general, convenience is more important than loyalty. Your customers are going to be loyal to their smartphone, and it's up to you to figure out how to fit into their world.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. There is a huge amount of investment happening, and technology providers from many different functional areas are building and delivering mobile application frameworks to enable businesses to rapidly create and deliver apps to their customers, B2B partners, or other consumers. These new frameworks are being designed for business users, not IT people, so you don't need to be a programmer to use them. Even better, some of the mobile technology vendors, such as Jacada, Interactive Intelligence, and Nuance, clearly get it—it's one thing to build and deliver a flexible mobile app development environment; it's another to be able to deliver an attractive and easy-to-use app that also makes it convenient for users to obtain live agent assistance, if it becomes necessary. Consumers want to do it their way—via their mobile devices, without having to start over again when they need to move to a different channel. It seems like the smartphones are actually making some companies "smart."
Donna Fluss (email@example.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting.
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