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How to deliver quality mobile customer service

Companies need to focus on molding a customer experience that meets the needs of their increasingly mobile customer bases.

Providing mobile customer service has become a mandate for organizations. Mobile devices, including smartphones...

and tablets, enable customers to use a variety of communication channels, such as voice, email, live chat and SMS text, to interact with an organization. Since a single device contains all of this functionality, customers expect responses to questions and service issue resolution whenever they want, wherever they are and through their channel of choice.

According to July 2015 data by eMarketer, mobile digital media time in the U.S. has now surpassed PC use: mobile use is at 51%, compared to desktop (42%). With the mobile trend ensconced -- at least for the foreseeable future -- companies have got to find ways to meet and serve customers where they are. That makes mobile device strategy mission critical.

Organizations developing mobile customer service strategies need to address fundamental questions and leverage key opportunities to provide the best customer experience. A mobile customer experience that features easily accessible resources along with information and help with minimal customer effort will lead to higher levels of customer loyalty and retention.

The ideal mobile customer service experience requires a thorough understanding of what customers expect from a company's mobile offering and the types of transactions that occur through mobile devices.

Mobile customer service: website vs. app

Before setting out to craft a mobile device strategy, companies need to ask themselves whether they want to commit to a responsive mobile website, which could basically be a mobile version of a desktop website, or a mobile application designed specifically for the mobile user. These options provide two very different experiences and offer different things for mobile customers.

Organizations need to develop simple UIs and processes to allow customers to use multiple channels to complete a service interaction.

Some organizations believe that as long as their website can be accessed through a mobile device they are providing mobile customer service. Websites that have been developed for PCs, even if adapted for a mobile device, often do not provide a friendly user interface, requiring a user to manually zoom into key fields and navigate through an excess of information. Even websites that are customized to a mobile environment could be frustrating for customers because they aren't visually appealing or easy to navigate.

From an organization's perspective, it is likely to be more expensive to provide apps that work on a variety of platforms and need to be constantly upgraded. But this incremental expense is likely to be offset by providing a better user experience driving customer loyalty and retention along with an opportunity to grow a brand.

Think of this decision as the difference between sitting at the "children's table" and the "adult table" at Thanksgiving. The food is great at both tables, but the experience should be better at the "adult table." Like a user interface, this may depend on who is actually at the table.

Exploiting mobile customer service opportunities

Many opportunities noted below can be leveraged from a mobile Web interface and a mobile app. Moving to an app platform provides additional capabilities to further enhance the customer experience. Some of the opportunities that organizations must consider when developing a mobile customer experience include:

  • Design for customers' mobile preferences. Organizations must understand the types of transactions that occur on mobile devices and what kinds of information customers expect from a mobile app. Mobile customers are likely to need specific information instantaneously, such as what their balance is or the locations of physical stores. Once an organization understands the types of queries that customers make on mobile devices, they can design easy user interfaces (UI) that give customers the information they need in as few taps as possible.
  • Provide simple channel pivot. Organizations need to develop simple UIs and processes to allow customers to use multiple channels to complete a service interaction. For example, a customer who is browsing a website must have the ability to access a "push to call" feature so that they can instantly access an agent at any time. Similar to a telephone call that is dial transferred, a customer who pivots to the voice channel does not want to repeat information. Organizations need to develop supporting processes that include passing key pieces of information to the customer service agent such as positive identification of a customer using biometrics (e.g., voice, fingerprint or facial recognition) the customer's online purchase and interaction history and his specific preferences and demographics. Transferring information at this crucial pivot point speaks to the ease and value of the customer experience, which can win or lose a sale.
  • Enhance ways to service customers. Mobile customer service provides opportunities to enhance how service is delivered to customers. The customer should be able to access key product information, FAQs and other help as well as having an easy path to a service agent if he chooses. For the example of a customer assembling a barbecue, an ideal mobile customer experience includes the capability for a customer to research assembly directions, initiate a phone call for additional help and send pictures so the agent can see where a mistake may have occurred. Companies committing to an app for mobile customer service must provide easily accessible resources for the customer and design it in an intuitive way, which will promote a good customer experience.
  • Personalize customer interactions. Mobile customer service enables companies to offer personalized service to its customers, which could include a customer's location from GPS or other information stored on a mobile device that may be critical for an interaction. Organizations need to think about if they want to offer coupons exclusively to mobile shoppers or offer perks and deals based on a customer's shopping history and habits. For many, the mobile customer experience is a key cog in an omnichannel strategy that links customer activity across many touchpoints and personalizing the shopping experience on mobile devices is an important step in achieving that.

Organizations need to exploit the new mandate of mobile customer service. Companies need to view the investment in a mobile device strategy as an opportunity to enhance the customer experience, leading to greater sales by simplifying customer effort and, as a result, improving customer loyalty and retention.

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This was last published in November 2015

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What successes or failures has your company had in crafting a mobile customer service strategy?
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There will be fewer sales, a shrinking support network and little hope for growth unless companies focus on their customers' needs. Certainly for mobile customers, but for those surviving on landlines and dial up, too.
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