The Two UC Sides of The Mobile Customer Interaction Coin
Have you noticed that UC industry pundits are now talking more about customer service interactions lately, rather than just about productivity benefits of UC for employee “collaboration?”
Business communications, in general, have been impacted by end user mobility, with organizations realizing that they really can’t prevent employees from using their own smartphone for all their contacts. What is now being recognized by the contact center industry is that “Customer BYOD” and UC enablement is an even bigger challenge for supporting customer services, because it affects not only mobile customers, but also their customer-facing support staff.
Legacy call centers were pretty simple, although limited in flexible functionality, because both callers and agents used a single, standardized form of real-time connectivity and interaction with voice, the telephone. It got a little more complex for the agents when customers initiated contacts with email and chat. However, contact centers “siloed” these activities, so that agent task priorities were based on type of contact involved. Chat became a contextual real-time option for customers to get live assistance while in an online application.
With mobile, multi-modal smartphones and tablets, customers can now interact in a variety of communication modes and even easily change modes dynamically, as their circumstances dictate. The question is, can the customer support agent be able to keep up with what a customer can do with a mobile smartphone or tablet?
What a Customer Will Really Do With a Mobile Smartphone
In any strategic business activity, the needs of revenue-generating customers typically come first!
It is therefore necessary to look at the impact of Mobile UC from a customer’s perspective as the starting point for what the customer-facing services will require to meet new mobile customer needs. That customer needs will range from mobile access to online self-service applications to pro-active mobile notifications and alerts that are personalized and authorized by the individual recipients, with both types of interactions providing for flexible contacts with live assistance.
One reason to list the different things a mobile consumer/customer can do when interacting with a business organization, is to identify the primary means of contact interfaces and options for dynamically switching seamlessly to other connections on demand. That is essentially the key benefit for UC enablement that can be applied to all types of business process applications.
1. Contextual contact initiation – Unlike traditional telephone calling, where the caller needs to know a specific telephone number to get information and customer services, mobile users can benefit from starting with access to any form of online information from a web search or from links in messages and social posts received.
2. More self-service applications – Once online to a desired website, the mobile user can explore appropriate options to directly access various types of information and to perform various self-service transactions. The growing role of “cloud”-based applications will facilitate flexibility for mobile customer access to such self-service applications, as well as efficient access to live assistance.
3. More selective live assistance – Most customers will only need live assistance on an exception basis, so whenever they reach such a point, that is when they can initiate a contact for live assistance. Most importantly, such assistance can be much more selective and contextual; that is, the customer can choose the mode of contact that is needed, and the context of whatever has been done with self-services, will better determine the skill level required for such live assistance.
The fact that a mobile customer is now more accessible and flexible with asmartphone means that the response can include a choice of different options for any real-time connections with live assistance.
4. Choice of contact mode – Depending upon their current situation and endpoint device capabilities, e.g., driving a car, in a noisy environment, sitting in a meeting, etc., the user can also dynamically choose the mode and medium of input or output most appropriate at the moment, i.e., speech, text, real-time chat, voice/video calls.
5. More proactive notifications – With more automated business process applications in play, there is now an opportunity to increase operational efficiencies and improve customer satisfaction, by proactively notifying customers of personalized situations that are important and time-sensitive. This will not only reduce problems caused by awareness delays, but can also increase operational efficiencies and people productivity. (Health care, financial, legal, government, and travel vertical markets are good examples.)
The bottom line is that customer services will not necessarily start off with a traditional phone call, but can involve a voice or video conversation on demand while using any online application. Needless to say, such real-time connections may be simplified through new WebRTC protocols, rather than legacy PSTN switch connections.
How Will Customer-facing Agents Be Affected?
There will also be several things that can change the rules for customer assistance to multi-modal, mobile customers because of Mobile UC. These will affect both inbound and outbound contacts with mobile consumers.
1. Inbound contact mode – Both first line agents or subject matter experts will have to be prepared to interact with a customer in the customer’s mode of contact, voice, IM, text/voice message, chat, video, social network post, etc. Their desktop must provide multi-modal communication capabilities, just like a customer’s smartphone.
2. Agents won’t have to respond in the same mode – Unless it is a real-time conversation with voice or chat, agents will be able to use different forms of response to a customer contact. Incoming video calls can be responded to with just voice, voice messages can be retrieved and responded to with text, chat can be escalated to voice or video, social network postings can be responded to directly, etc.
3. Real-time outbound contacts to mobile customers will contextually exploit recipient availability (presence) – Traditional phone call notifications will increasingly be replaced by automated notifications, as noted earlier. Live contacts will be enabled once an automated contact is made and the recipient then wishes to interact with a live person in their choice of mode (Voice, Video, Chat). Therefore, agents must be prepared to communicate dynamically with what the recipient wants, including changing modes from chat to voice to video.
4. When video is involved, agents won’t necessarily have to be “on camera” – Traditional call center agents and “home agents” benefit by not having to be seen, just heard. So, even though video can be exploited, it can be optionally and selectively used in conjunction with a voice conversation. In particular, it will be most frequently used to exchange information, e.g., demonstrate how to do something, show the status of something, etc.
5. Any real-time connection with a customer can be escalated to an “expert” or authorizing manager – UC enablement will facilitate contextually escalating the customer connection (inbound or outbound) from the agent to an available “expert” or a manager to satisfy the customer needs. As with any access to live assistance by a mobile consumer, that can mean responding in a choice of response modes.
What I have tried to describe is the future of the next-generation UC-enabled interaction center that will support live assistance, as it will impact customers and the agents that must provide assistance in a mobile, multi-modal world. I haven’t discussed the role of “cloud”-based customer services and self-service applications, which can facilitate the migration of legacy contact centers to accommodate both mobile customers and home agents.
Because “Consumer BYOD” will dominate mobile customer services, the issue of redesigning online applications for mobile devices and the new security requirements for information access or delivery to customers must also be seriously considered. This is where innovative communications technology providers like Interactive Intelligence, AVST, and Echopass are starting to offer integrated communication applications and hosted “cloud” services to facilitate the transformation of legacy telephony customer services into mobile, multi-modal interactions between both people and with online self-services.
The telephone isn’t going away, but voice is being subsumed by IP communications and mobile, personalized, multi-modal smartphones and tablets, making it necessary for legacy contact centers to start changing quickly.