Mobile Users Need The Privacy of Text Messaging
The recent negative reaction to the FCC’s plan to allow air travelers to use their mobile phones during a flight is a good example why voice interfaces will not be practical when the user is in a public environment. Voice conversations are not going away for person-to-person communications, and will be available under the UC umbrella for a long time. However, because of the dynamic situational needs of a mobile user, voice will not always be the most appropriate or efficient mode to communicate with others or interact with a self-service online application. Why? Because mobile end users still need both privacy in their interactions wherever they are, and must also avoid disrupting any local activity they are participating in (e.g. a meeting). Finally, if a mobile end user is in a noisy environment, voice conversations will be difficult or impossible to conduct efficiently.
So, what is a practical mobile alternative to a traditional business phone conversation?
Person-to-Person Text Contacts
Text messaging in near-real time is a practical way to make contact and exchange information with people and is becoming readily available through smartphones and tablets. Text chat (IM) has rapidly become a convenient way to communicate person-to-person and even in groups. Rather than a traditional phone call being a first step for contacts with people, we now see various forms of text-based communications becoming the starting point, whether it be an IM contact (e.g., Lync), an email, an SMS message, or even a social post.
Text messaging, especially email, has been around for a long time and is slowly but surely displacing “blind” phone calls for person-to-person contacts. With smartphones and UC flexibility, text messages can be readily escalated via UC to a voice or video connection or even a group conference call based upon the availability of the communicating parties. Email has always been particularly useful for exchanging information and other messages.
What is most important to consider is that, as end users become more mobile, they will not necessarily be able to easily engage in a voice or “on-camera” video exchange. What will then be the most basic, reliable, and least disruptive form of communication will be text messaging and visual information exchanges.
Automated Notifications and Online Interactions
Because mobile users with smartphones and tablets can now interact with automated business process applications, such users can be either a contact initiator or recipient of an interaction with an online application. In particular, with increased mobile accessibility, end users can receive timely automated notifications from any of their service providers, whenever there is a situation that they need to be aware of and should take action for.
Mobile notification messages will be particularly time productive, because they can include informational text or photos, and immediate response options for access to online self-service apps or flexible “click-for assistance” access to qualified personnel. In this way, the communication loop can be quickly closed cost-efficiently in time-sensitive business processes, especially in vertical markets like health care, financial services, government, etc.
With unified communications, mobile recipients should be able to exploit different levels of non-disruptive notification and response. This can include the use of screen-based, wearable iWatches (Apple, Pebble), which can simply “tap” the recipient’s wrist without generating disruptive sounds for an incoming phone call or text message. After such a notification “tap” is received, the actual visual or voice content can then be selectively controlled by the recipient and responded to, based on their current situation and convenient access to a smartphone or tablet for voice or video conversations.
Just as a voice conversation can be disruptive or difficult in a person-to-person connection, the same will apply to any interaction with an automated application. Privacy considerations will also apply when interacting with a mobile app, thus limiting the use of voice input and output for legacy telephony IVR self-service applications. That is why self-service applications are moving towards visual user interfaces. While a case may be made for mobile users to consider wearing wireless Bluetooth headsets to deal with person-to-person voice/video calls, interactions with just self-service mobile apps won’t really benefit from that approach.
Incidentally, there is also a need for mobile recipients to have screening control over the many automated notifications they may receive from business process applications (CEBP), some of which will be important, others just annoying. (See my recent post on that subject.)
The bottom line for business communications mobility is that it will require users to have flexible control over how they want to initiate a contact and how they want to receive and respond to a contact. Such contacts will increasingly be various forms of near real-time messaging, since mobile recipients will be less available to have ad hoc real-time voice or video conversations.