Mobile Customer Services – The Third “C” of “UC&C2”
When you hear talk about “Unified Communications,” you hear it often labeled as “UC&C,” where they add in “collaboration.” There is nothing wrong with highlighting collaboration and the exchange of business information between groups of people as being supported by the flexibility that UC offers for ongoing (“persistent”) multimodal communications. However, this can also include the ability for mobile customers to “click-for-assistance” in a variety of modes, including IM, voice, video (Amazon’s “Mayday”), depending upon their current situation and preferences.
As mobile consumers become increasingly interactive with online business process applications and more accessible with their smartphones and tablets, “business communications” must now also include the ability for such automated applications to contact individual end users (notifications, alerts, etc.) as well as allow the mobile recipients to respond quickly and easily with their choice of mode (voice/video call, multimodal messaging, etc.).
Such automated notifications/responses have been laying dormant under the label of Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), but now that communications have been moving into the clouds, they can be more easily integrated with cloud applications to provide CEPB functionality. I therefore suggest that the addition of mobile customer services to business communications can now be described as an extension of UC&C to “UC&C2 ,” where the third “C” represents interactions with customers.
Planning for the Future of UC&C2
Most of your consumers/customers are already using personal smartphones for their business communications. Pretty soon it will be all of them, so, it is really time to start accommodating them with multimodal Mobile Customer Services, not just your legacy telephone answering call center technology. That would include “click-for-assistance” options within mobile online self-service applications, using the likes of WebRTC.
However, expect to keep getting customer voice calls over the PSTN for quite a while, even though you will now be getting more multimodal customer assistance contacts from mobile consumers.
So, what should you do?
You have been through this kind of problem in the past, e.g., when customers started sending you emails and fax, and, more recently when you offered them chat options for online self-service applications. These alternative modes of interaction made you consider simply dedicating your customer-facing staff to separate modes of initial contacts, rather than try to train your staff to dynamically handle every kind of customer contact. That way, it was more efficient for an agent to stick with one mode, rather than constantly switch modes between email, chat, and voice.
With multimodal customer assistance (frequenty referred to as “omnichannel”), you must now be prepared to not only respond to various initial forms of contact (text, voice, video, social), but also to escalate to real-time interactions with consumers who either want to verbally describe or show you videos (e.g., healthcare applications, accidents, etc.) or will benefit from seeing the person who is helping them online (e.g., Amazon’s “Mayday” button). However, don’t kid yourself about always putting your agents on video, because they almost need to be good actors, well dressed with proper lighting, as well as having knowledge and conversational skills.
The Benefits of Accommodating Mobile Customers
The real challenge is to accommodate the new mobile customer who will be using a variety of BYOD smart phones. Fortunately, there are several important benefits to both the customer and to the customer service operation that is prepared to support such new mobile customer services. I won’t go into too much detail here, but the list of benefits is significant, and include the following:
For the Mobile Customer:
- More personalized interactions anywhere, any time, any mode of contact
- Smartphones will increase self-service opportunities with mobile apps that also allow flexible “click-for-assistance” options
- They also enable flexible options (text, voice, video) to initiate business contacts with customer support staff, depending on preference or environment needs
- Smartphones extend the opportunity to exchange information while also having a real-time conversation. This will speed up the customer service process, including capturing text information without manual transcription, thus increasing customer satisfaction
- Engaging in a self-service online app provides useful context to an agent who is providing live assistance, rather than requiring the customer to describe everything verbally
- Because mobile customers are more accessible than legacy wired telephony users, they can now benefit from time-sensitive proactive notifications and response options that may require their prompt attention, e.g., health care status, reminder messages, bank account status, etc.
- Mobile customers will particularly benefit from “virtual queuing” and callbacks, rather having to wait on “hold,” because they are so much more accessible
For the Customer Support Operation:
- Mobile self-service apps will significantly reduce the need for live assistance as well as increase customer satisfaction
- There will be less pressure to respond immediately to incoming call traffic from mobile customers because of “virtual queuing” flexibility, which will also minimize staffing requirements
- With mobile online self-service apps as a starting point, incoming contacts will have important context information that will enable support staff to know more about the customer’s immediate needs without wasting time by interrogating the caller. This will help route the call more accurately, e.g., language requirements, as well as reinforce the responding agent’s image as being knowledgable and understanding to the caller.
- Moving contact center software into clouds, along with UCaaS, will facilitate integrations with premise-based technologies and reduce implementation costs for new Mobile Customer Services
There are obviously other important issues that will be involved in planning, implementing, and training both your mobile customers for new Mobile UC&C2 usage, but the key point I am making is that step one is to plan on supporting mobile customers separately at first with a cloud-based service implementation and with a different support group staff. That will allow retaining existing call center technology and staff to perform traditional call handling, while learning how to support the new breed of mobile customers. This will help in planning for a graceful transition to the multimodal future of customer care, where voice calls will no longer use just the PSTN.
If you are attending Enterprise Connect 2015, you will hear more about Mobile Customer Services in a panel discussion chaired by Sheila McGee-Smith.