Are You Serving Your Mobile Customers?

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Smartphones and customer care service have become interlinked in every vertical in the enterprise, particularly in service sectors such as the financial and hospitality industries. In fact, it's become de rigueur. The demand has been fueled by on-the-go consumers and what can be termed "the Siri effect." Smartphone users have become spoiled by their ability to receive instant answers to their questions, and expect companies to provide the same service when it comes to customer care.

"For larger enterprises, it was an OMG moment," says Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research. "Companies [knew that they] needed to have a mobile strategy."

With mobile technology reaching a second generation, Miller says, come issues such as marketing departments talking to customer care people. Companies are realizing that they need to extend the CRM that powers the contact center with an e-commerce site, for example.

"This is an opportunity to have a concerted effort to reach the 80 percent of the customer base that is likely to be contacting them through a mobile device," he says. "There is confusion about who's paying for it and who owns it, but no one is arguing that they need to do something to reach their mobile customers—that's a given."

Indeed, companies would do well to consider all an all-hands-on-deck approach.

"A cross-departmental team is really important for a successful mobile customer service strategy," said Sarah Stealey Reed, content director and senior analyst at the International Customer Management Institute, in an email. "Contact centers that get involved early in both the planning and support have the best opportunity to provide the desired customer experience. Yet according to our research, they are not involved about a third of the time. And when they are, it's mostly at the end, after other departments have made key decisions."

Putting Your Customers in the Driver's Seat

While you may be able to track your customer's channel preferences, an important point in mapping out a mobile strategy is to put your customers in control. In other words, companies shouldn't dictate when or where their customers contact them. A recent survey from Contact Solutions, a provider of cloud-based and mobile customer self-service solutions, found that consumers overwhelmingly agree that their customer service needs are not being served, especially in mobile. Mike McShea, senior vice president of marketing and products at Contact Solutions, says that a company shouldn't start or stop interactions at its own convenience.

"It has to do with both when and how you have customers communicate with you," McShea says. "If your only option as a customer is a 1-800 number, then the customer sitting there is waiting for the phone to be answered or has to work through the IVR—the company's in control of how the customer interacts. With mobile phones, customers are used to doing what they want, when they want. There's immediacy and a lot of communication options, and they expect to have access to those. You still want to give customers options, such a text or voice or video inside the mobile app. It's in the hands of the customer."

Making Mobile Stand Out

It's also vital that companies treat the smartphone as a convergence of customer communication channels into a mobile app that can deliver a great customer experience, not just another customer care channel coming into the call center, says McShea, who calls this a "fractured experience." For example, if a customer transitions from a mobile app to customer care by hitting a button, whether it's a 1-800 button or email button, companies 

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