People are passionate about their mobile devices, as demonstrated by the long lines that Apple Stores draw days before the debut of a new iPhone or iPad. Regardless of the brand, the release of each new smartphone model and operating system brings more features and capabilities to support consumers’ on-the-go lifestyles. Mobile technology is advancing at breakneck speed— more rapidly than many companies are prepared for. Yet the rule for business is adapt and innovate, or lose out to the competition.
Mobile usage among consumers continues to grow, as well. The average American now spends 3.3 hours a day on their smartphone, according to the “2014 Mobile Behavior Report,” from digital marketing firm ExactTarget. Leading-edge businesses are looking for ways to deliver a meaningful experience based on when, where and how customers are using their mobile devices.
Having a mobile presence has become a requirement and not just a nice-to-have, says Jennifer Waite, product marketing manager at inContact. “Customers have gotten to the point where they expect companies to be where they are. People aren’t always at home when they make phone calls or sitting in front of a desktop computer while searching for information. They’re in their cars, they’re running errands—they’re doing a search while they’re waiting and have a few spare moments.
For some companies, that may require a 24/7 or follow-the-sun service strategy, she says. At the most basic, companies need to clearly communicate when they are available to customers. “Customers don’t necessarily expect 24/7 service in the mobile channel, but it’s important to let customers know when you’re not available and when they can expect a response.”
Connecting via Mobile
How can companies leverage mobile-enabled channels to add value for customers? The following are a few communication tools that offer considerable opportunities to enhance the mobile service experience.
CLICK TO TALK AND CLICK TO CHAT
The simplest way to incorporate a mobile presence into the contact center is by inserting a click-totalk or click-to-chat button on the website. This allows customers who access the company’s website from a mobile device to get instantly connected to the contact center to have their issue handled, Waite says.
Some companies are taking it a step further by monitoring the presence of a visitor on their mobile site, she adds. For instance, when a visitor lingers too long on a certain web page or keeps returning to the same page, a chat box will pop up with an invitation to connect with an agent.
Since mobile screen space is limited, offering chat as a transparent overlay helps to keep the customer connected to the website with which they’re interacting, says Marina Kalika, director of product marketing for TouchCommerce, a provider of online engagement solutions. Companies can customize chat skins that allow customers to see the brand’s website in the background behind the chat, as well as actions, such as when the agent is typing, to assure customers that the live conversation is still in progress and they haven’t disconnected. TouchCommerce’s mobile chat solution also helps to keep customers engaged in the conversation with its minimized chat mode that offers a scrolling marquee which displays the most recent agent message and an incremental message indicator that displays the number of unread agent messages.
Text messaging is quickly becoming a preferred method for simple service-related tasks. A recent Harris Poll, on behalf of cloud- based business communications platform provider OneReach, found that 64% of U.S. adults who have text messaging capability say that they would prefer to perform some types of customer service activities through text messaging versus over the phone. The types of service activities included checking order status, scheduling/changing appointments, making/confirming reservations, asking questions, finding store locations, refilling orders and resetting passwords.
Mobile SMS provides an ideal first point of contact since conversations can be captured, which can provide critical insights for the next agent who needs to pick up the interaction, says inContact’s Waite. With contactaware SMS capability, mobile SMS messages can be routed through the universal queue to the appropriate agent, who can interact with the customer in a two-way conversation via mobile text. inContact’s cloud contact center solution captures and routes the full SMS/text history and conversation ensuring a seamless experience across multiple interactions for customers. “By providing contact center agents with a full history of all of the SMS messages, agents don’t have to take three steps back in order to move forward with a customer,” she adds.
Waite says that companies are even beginning to advertise SMS as their new method of self-service since simple transactions can be more effectively handled via mobile. For instance, a bank customer who wants to find out his balance can simply text an inquiry. With that keyword and the phone number that is associated with the account, the bank can send him the balance information. It’s a quick, streamlined transaction versus the multiple steps customers typically would have to take to get the same information via IVR or web self-service.
While SMS and click-to-talk/chat are the more common types of mobile service interactions that companies are implementing today, also available but not yet widely adopted is mobile co-browsing, in which agents and customers can access the same web pages. Co-browsing capabilities allow organizations to offer enhanced technical support, shopping assistance or real-time help with online forms, just to name a few examples.
Co-browsing can be integrated with workflow technology to provide an easy-to-use communication tool that delivers an interactive workflow experience which is shared with customers, says Matt Lautz, president and CIO of cloud communications provider CorvisaCloud. This can be especially helpful during complex transactions in which customers want to have a more interactive experience with the agent. He points to the insurance industry as an example, where calls to help new customers navigate plan options and fill out complex application forms can last as long as an hour. Workflow technology embedded into the CorvisaOne contact center product suite and platform allows centers to provide an interactive experience by sharing portions of the workflow with the customer.
“Callers can see the steps on their smartphone or tablet, and they can interact with it,” Lautz explains. “When customers call to talk about insurance options, instead of having the agent read those to them, they can view the information onscreen and walk through thesteps in realtime with the agent.”
The ability to both hear and view complex details ensures that callers have a better understanding of the information, and helps to decrease talk time. “The transformation to mobile has powerful benefits not just for the consumer, but when used appropriately, also for the agent and the organization,” Lautz says.
The Mobile Experience Is About Convenience
Consumers are starting to spend almost as much time using their smartphones and tablets as they spend watching television (127 minutes per day vs. 168, according to mobile analytics firm Flurry). Or doing both. Analytics firm Nielsen found that 88% of consumers use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV.
That is what makes mobile channels such a strong differentiator for brands like Total Gym Fitness. As a brand that promotes its products through television infomercials, it’s very common for viewers to pick up their smartphone or tablet to look for more information about the products being advertised.“We have realized that our customer’s first touchpoint on mobile is a very important one,” says Vice President of Marketing Joe Crowley.
But purchasing a big-ticket item, such as home gym exercise equipment, is not a decision that most consumers make lightly. “Customers will frequently need multiple touchpoints with our organization before they ultimately make the decision to try the product in their home,” Crowley says. “Our customers’ expectations are that, no matter what device they pick up at any given time,they want to be able to interact with us—24/7, 365 days a year.”
Four years ago, Total Gym partnered with TouchCommerce to provide live chat for its desktop site, and more recently, added its mobile chat solution to the channel mix. Importantly, the experience is tailored for the mobile device. “The customer who is on a mobile device may have very different types of questions,” Crowley says. “They may be less educated about the product [than a desktop visitor], so the mobile chat interaction becomes a critical first touchpoint to answer their questions.”
Total Gym’s call center agents are trained to adjust their responses when interacting with customers via mobile chat. While the call center uses a conversational-based selling approach over the phone and via desktop chat, which involves engaging with customers to find out about their goals and objectives, mobile chat calls for much briefer responses. “Excessive verbiage can look very intimidating on a mobile screen, to the point that potential customers might close the chat and move on,” Crowley says.
Besides providing a convenient and always-accessible channel for customers, the benefits of chat, overall, have been considerable for Total Gym, Crowley says.
“We get so much information from chat—it’s like having a focus group of your customers telling your agents what they can and cannot find on your website,” he adds. “It allows us to make the improvements that benefit our customers.”
– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, www.contactcenterpipeline.com