It is getting very obvious that business customer services are moving from telephony-based call centers and very limited IVR capabilities, to more cost-efficient, online self-services with more flexible, multimodal click for live assistance. It’s not that customers will immediately stop making phone calls for customer assistance, but such contacts will increasingly be made over the Internet, within online and mobile self-service apps.
So, it’s not so much that businesses have to replace their existing customer service call center operations, but rather they will have to develop new and complementary capabilities to service properly their many customers, who now have multimodal smartphones and tablets and will want to exploit UC flexibility and IP-based connectivity, rather than limited legacy PSTN contacts. In terms of business benefits, moving to IP voice and video connections, especially with integrated access from browsers through the increasing adoption of WebRTC, will also significantly reduce the costs of legacy telephony access.
Where Do You Start? – Mobile Click for Assistance
Many business organizations already have online websites and portals, where authorized customers can directly access information and perform simple online transactions. Many organizations have also already branched out and developed mobile app versions of these online applications for the most popular smartphones and tablets that consumers are currently using. So, the next important step really is to UC-enable such mobile apps when the consumer needs live assistance within the context of specific mobile use case applications.
This capability is already being offered by a number of cloud service providers, since they also support development and access to mobile apps in private, public, and hybrid clouds. So, rather than publish a legacy call center phone number in the mobile, online application, which would require initiating a separate, blind phone call, a more flexible, click-for-assistance connection can be offered within the context of the individual application.
Such an approach will provide more contextual information about why the customer is making contact, rather than just identifying who the customer is or where he or she is located at the moment. This will enable the contact center function to more accurately respond to the customer’s current assistance needs, including exploiting the greater accessibility and flexibility of contact that a mobile smartphone user will inherently have.
Next Step – Proactive Mobile Notifications
After taking care of what mobile customer demands for both self-service apps and access to live assistance, the next logical step is to support the benefits of increased contact accessibility to mobile customers. Such capabilities have traditionally been handled by contact centers in initiating outbound phone calls for the timely delivery of important information to customers, e.g., reminders of appointments. However, with multimodal smartphones, notifications don’t have to be just disruptive and expensive voice calls any more, but can be in the form of text messages that contain flexible response links for greater mobile recipient choice.
The label typically used to describe such automated outbound notification services has been communications-enabled business process. Although the concepts have been around for a while, it is only with the greater use of mobile technologies that practical implementations can be considered. So, as part of the strategic planning for mobile customer service, this capability should be considered based on practical vertical market use cases.
Who Will Do the Heavy Lifting?
Communications technology has reached a point where it has become too complex for internal IT organizations to handle. That is one reason that cloud-based services are displacing legacy premises-based technologies. It has also become difficult for business management to define new communication solutions, although they may be able to identify their operational business problems with customers.
For this reason, there has been rapid growth in professional services, both by independent consultants and solution integrators, as well as from technology vendors. Accordingly, it will be important to utilize objective and trusted resources to start planning strategically to implement the above two steps for mobile customer services. Once that has been done, then it will appropriate to look at the impact the changes will have on internal staff, i.e., all customer-facing staff.
Art Rosenberg (News - Alert) is with The Unified-View/ UC Strategies Expert.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi