5 Brands That Are Nailing Mobile Customer Service

Successfully delivering customer service through an app requires much more than a mobile-friendly FAQ section. Customers' expectations for the level of service they receive are growing across channels. Mobile is no exception, and the best apps are the ones that "elevate customer service to customer experience," Shep Hyken, author and customer experience expert, says. These five brands are not only excelling at providing mobile support basics but are also taking their apps to the next level with unique engagement opportunities that further brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.


1. T-Mobile 

T-mobile has taken on its competitors in a major way recently, introducing new, flexible phone plans and targeting younger users with its upbeat and entertaining ads. But the company has gotten serious about customer service, too.T-Mobile has been using Spakcentral's customer engagement platform and was able to reduce its social media response times from hours to minutes. Sparkcentral's introduction of in-app messaging will offer customers an even easier way to access live agents quickly.

"Sparkcentral makes achieving outstanding customer service a cake walk," Michelle Matson, director of social media services at T-Mobile, told Website Magazine. "From being able to create a customized branded experience, to reaching customers on the medium of their choice, Sparkcentral is the go-to if you want happy customers. And, with the addition of In-App Messaging, we will raise the bar on customer service to completely new heights."

2. Drybar

The youngest brand on this list, Drybar is becoming a customer service force to be reckoned with. The Uber of hair salons, this nationwide chain of blowout studios is all about mobile self-service. Its app enables customers to find their closest Drybar location; schedule, view, and cancel appointments; add or change stored credit card information; link directly to the company's social network pages; and if all else fails, use a click-to-call button to reach a rep on the phone. In some areas, customers can even book a stylist to come to their home or office.

"Consumers expect self-service," Hyken says. "They don't want to waste time on the phone…they just want to figure out the problem for themselves. They especially don't want to call in for basics, like scheduling." For Drybar, the mobile experience is key. Many locations in New York City, for example, don't even have a regular phone on-site. All customer interactions are handled through the mobile app, or email. And its strategy is paying off—since 2009, the company has opened 40 salons throughout the country and is bringing in roughly $50 million in revenue annually.

3. Starwood Hotels and Resorts

The Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) app serves to eliminate one of the most frustrating aspects of staying in a hotel—the dreaded check-in line. The SPG app not only enables guests to check in through their mobile device but also provides them with a digital key that can be used to enter their rooms. "There are a number of hotels that do mobile check-in, but then you still eventually have to stop by the check-in desk to pick up your key. Starwood lets customers skip the front desk entirely,” says Chip Bell, author and customer service consultant.

Mobile (or keyless) entry should be a key component of every hotel's app, Bell says, because it streamlines the check-in process and anticipates another hotel-related customer service issue. It's not uncommon for guests to forget their card in their room or accidentally deactivate their card by storing it too close to their cell phones. "By putting that key onto the mobile device, they're preventing the problem and saving guests from another trip to the lobby," he says.

4. Starbucks

Thanks to its widely successful loyalty program, Starbucks has become mobile app royalty, experts agree. The brand is one of few that has been able to make mobile payments a reality—as of April 2015, more than 19 percent of its total payments come in through the mobile app. The loyalty program, which promises a free beverage after 12 purchases, draws customers into the mobile experience, but they stay for its ease of use and customer service effectiveness. It excels at the basics, such as pinpointing the closest location, and offers a vast list of other support capabilities. Customers can send and receive mobile gift cards, access the menu, update and manage their payment preferences, earn free songs and apps, and, of course, make payments at Starbucks and Teavana locations. In some areas, the app also enables customers to place orders in advance for pick-up.

"Starbucks is up there when it comes to mobile customer service," Hyken says. "They're generating engagement all around by offering useful features, and customers love it," he adds.


5. Con Edison

In the background most of the time, utility apps are among the most important resources that a consumer can have during a weather emergency or power outage. Con Edison has been working with Usablenet, a mobile platform provider, to build an app that keeps customers informed during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy. The app provides maps of outage areas and gives detailed updates on when power is restored so users don’t have to call the contact center for information.

The app is also useful during non-emergency periods. Customers can view their usage, pay their bills, report problems, and follow Con Edison's social media news feed. Other utility companies have since followed Con Edison's example, but Con Ed was among the first to deliver a mobile experience for utility customers, and remains a pioneer.

As brands dive into mobile customer service, it's important to remember that mobile remains a very personal channel. "This phone is never more than a few inches away. Consumers are using it all the time, but that doesn't mean that they want to be inundated with marketing and sales messaging. If they've downloaded your brand's app, it's your responsibility to be useful to them. That means providing great service and experience, not selling to them," Bell says. A good mobile app experience should simply speak for itself, he adds.

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