The Smartphone and the Tablet: Catalysts of Change in Mobile Customer Care

K. Landoline

K. Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Today, there are more mobile phones in service in the U.S. than there are people.  It is estimated that 40% of these phones are smartphones, and this percentage will likely double in the next four to five years.
  • Smartphones and tablets offer a broad range of functionality that will improve the mobile customer service offerings of enterprise contact centers.  To date, contact center application providers have only scratched the surface of the many possibilities.

In my December 22, 2011 blog entry, “Step Two in Mobilizing Your Contact Center: Create a Continuous and Seamless Customer Experience,” I discussed the importance of providing a smooth transition from self-service to live agent assistance on the mobile phone.  Since that blog was published, no fewer than four contact center software providers (Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, NICE Systems, and Virtual Hold Technology) have announced or introduced such functionality to take advantage of the advanced capabilities available on increasingly ubiquitous smartphones and tablets.  While this is very encouraging, I see it only as an initial step in capitalizing on the capabilities of these devices.

I see the smartphone and tablet as vehicles of change in customer service that could stimulate the mobile customer service market and make it the primary channel used for customer service in the future.  The size and quality of the screens, their ability to store customer information and communicate with the contact center software, and the capability to capture call interaction information (context) and pass it to the appropriate agent are all attractive features that position them for success in the customer care environment.  Another valuable asset inherent in smartphones and tablets is the ability of the device to pinpoint, with great accuracy, the user’s position based on geographic coordinates.  Currently, very few of these rich features are being leveraged by contact center software developers to serve their mobile customers.

The visual IVR capability, based on the relatively large and high-quality screen, can be utilized to enable users to perform self-service applications easily by using a flick of the finger to walk through what might otherwise be a tedious and confusing “Say ‘one’ for this”-type robotic conversation.  It can also facilitate more intricate self-service operations, such as the selection of an airline seat without the assistance of an agent while the customer is away from his desk and working from a mobile device.  Making self-service easier and better for the mobile customer is crucial to contact center cost-cutting, because the average agent-handled call costs a company between $15 and $25 by most estimates.

The smartphone’s ability to store customer information, such as customer ID, password, and individual preferences, can speed up interactions substantially, saving the customer and contact center agent time while saving the enterprise money with shorter call durations. The as yet unexploited ability to pinpoint a caller’s location (given the customer preauthorizes the transfer of this sensitive information) can be invaluable in improving customer service, as live agents or even automated systems are able to direct the mobile customer to the nearest bank branch or retail storefront where their requests for service can be fulfilled.

Additional customer care functionality that can and should be enabled by the proliferation of application-rich smartphones and tablets includes callback enablement (scheduled or virtual queue) and social media integration, which will allow the call center agent to tie into the user’s personal information available on social sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.  This will supply agents with information that can enable faster problem resolution and service completion.  Eventually, there will come a time when more sophisticated applications such as real-time multimedia collaboration, including video streaming, screen push/sharing, and video chats between customers and agents, can be made viable on mobile devices at reasonable cost to enhance customer/agent relationships and interactions.

About Ken Landoline
As Principal Analyst within the Current Analysis Business Technology and Software group Ken Landoline tracks the enterprise unified communications and contact center (UCCC) markets.

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