Customer Service Experience 2014 Day Two: Don't Even Think About Hanging Up on Mobile

NEW YORK—Customer care served up through multiple channels was a common theme on the second day of the Customer Service Experience conference, but according to industry experts, it is striking how many companies don't realize the wealth of information that can come from the fingertips of their customers. The theme resonated with conference attendees, particularly in the mobile space.

Keith Dawson, practice leader at Ovum, pointed out that customers have the opportunity to easily loop from one contact channel to another and between touch points by using mobile devices. He gave an example of consumers using smartphones while shopping. A customer might be in a store and think about buying something. She may check the price using her phone to see what the product costs online. Or a customer might take a photo of an item and save the picture, thinking that he will buy it sometime down the road. Those experiences are what Dawson calls "quintessential channel hopping," a behavior that is well entrenched in consumers.

"It's interesting how radically something as simple as the mode of devices is changing the entire paradigm of how we think about the customer's experience, Dawson said. "There's really no [other] place that customers are so subject to that urge to switch channels, even though they don't realize what they're doing it; they don't have to think about their channel of choice or think about migrating from one channel to another."

But while customers might not be cognizant of their actions, their mobile devices are storing a wealth of consumer information. Dawson points out that mobile devices contain voice, chat, SMS, inbound and outbound processing, on-premises, and cloud tools.

"[Mobile devices] retain scads of rich, actionable data about customers," Dawson said. "There is consumer identification, authentication, private information, and unique identifiers about who they are and what they're doing. But yet, when you look at the customer service landscape and what companies are actually thinking about doing with all that stuff, it's not bloody much at this point."

While considering the mobile channel, one big area of concern is siloed customer engagement practices and strategies. "[They're] held in very restrictive domains that don't engage with each other, Dawson said. "If you don't engage with each other in your business, then it's going to be very hard to argue that you're engaging successfully [on an external basis] with your customers."

Dawson also said that until recently it was taken for granted that customers used landlines when calling in to the contact center. However, according to his company's research, several changes are in play. In a survey of advanced and emerging countries, Ovum estimated that by 2016, the total call volume coming into customer service and tech support centers will start to drop in advanced countries.

"That's the predicted beginning of the decline of voice as the major channel for customers," Dawson explained. "That's when all the alternative channels start to come into play. They will begin to siphon off some of that call volume...but that doesn't mean that voice is going away."

Companies are already seeing that 30 to 40 percent of calls are coming from mobile devices of all kinds, mostly from smartphones, according to Dawson. By 2018, more than half of calls will come from mobile phones. Companies would do well to take notice now and implement plans to deal with the shift.

"The transition from landlines to mobile that we're already going through is as important to the service industry as the transition from rotary to DTML (dual tone multifrequency)," Dawson said.