Mobile Customer Care Just Got Stickier

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Much has been written about speech-enabled mobility applications in the past, but never more than last year, when Siri was introduced for the iPhone. Siri was not the first virtual assistant, and she won't be—and hasn't been—the last.

Although virtual assistants provide service to end users, it's not the same "customer service" you get from chatting online or talking to an agent. Often, when a customer wants service from a business while mobile, he or she calls a company's 800 number from a mobile device. Unless the mobile number is connected to a record, limited information is passed to the IVR or agent, forcing the caller to repeat information.

Developing mobility as a customer care channel has long been a priority of contact center managers, and vendors have been responding. Recently, the pace of innovation has quickened, with rapidfire announcements affecting mobile customer care, speech-enabled and not. From a contact center perspective, the goals of these applications are to address ease of use, reduce service costs, increase customer satisfaction, and get customers to continually reuse the application (aka "stickiness").

Here's a rundown on what's out there now:

Nuance.The pioneer in mobile customer care is Nuance, with its ability to speech-enable IVR and mobile applications. Nuance's Mobile Advantage portfolio targets multiple contact center goals. For example, Nuance Call Intercept solves the problem of "discoverability" by intercepting calls to the contact center, launching the application, and proactively providing customers with information. This simultaneously lowers service costs by reducing calls into the contact center should the customer decide to continue with self-service, and making the application visible to the customer, rather than inactive on an app list.

Genesys. Genesys Mobile Engagement combines conversation history, context, and business rules in mobile applications, bringing the uniqueness of mobility into the service equation. For example, with Live Connect, the customer can request service with a single button push (is speech next?), and the application can use the GPS to provide location-based service information. Customers can engage with the company, or have relevant service updates sent as alerts.

Interactive Intelligence. Interaction Mobilizer is a software platform that enables businesses to rapidly deploy mobile customer care applications by writing and deploying once, and automatically updating to different operating systems. Mobilizer allows an enterprise to offer branded, self-service applications on Windows, Android, or an iPhone, as well as social media sites and smart devices, such as the iPad. Applications can be published to any app store or corporate Web site for download. Mobilizer allows customers to request live service directly from the app (call-back, chat, etc.) while the agent receives all relevant contextual information to offer better service.

NICE Systems. NICE Mobile Reach provides personalized service to mobile customers by using contextual information on where customers are in the process when they request help, then providing them with the best channel to complete their transaction. For example, if a frequent flyer receives a flight cancellation and rebooking alert, he can launch that airline's Mobile Reach app, check the available flights, and, if no options are suitable, click on "Get Help." Mobile Reach then sends the best interaction channel options for the customer to rebook, based on the profile and status, flight and interaction history, current circumstances, and best agent available. Customers who choose to speak with an agent are directly connected without having to go through the IVR, and all contextual and customer information appears on the agent's screen, including any options the customer had previously looked at.

The focus on mobile applications is intense. This spring, we saw these four vendors and others lay a solid foundation for helping enterprises add mobile devices as a customer support channel. The logical first step for many of these is to integrate the customer context and data delivered and retrieved from the device to back office databases, and agents if the user chooses to switch channels, but speech enabling these applications is sure to follow.

Nancy Jamison is a principal analyst for contact centers at Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at nancy.jamison@frost.com, or follow her on Twitter @NancyJami.

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