The fact that most customers will use multimodal smartphones and tablets rather than a POTS phone for customer service is opening the door to greater use of online self-service applications, as well as more opportunities for automated business process notifications. Both capabilities will help reduce support costs and increase customer satisfaction.
However, nothing is ever perfect, and the need for live assistance will still pop up whenever a mobile customer is interacting directly with a business application. The question is whether the old agent skills are good enough for the mobile online customer.
Unlike the situation when contact centers handled phone calls, e-mails, faxes, and even chats separately, multimodal customers may want to start in one mode of communication, but then change to another as the situation warrants. Don’t expect as the communication mode changes that you can simply switch customers to different agents. As survey results have repeatedly shown, customers hate it when they get transferred from one agent to another, especially if they have to repeat all the information they have already given.
So, it is getting very obvious that a request for live assistance requires it to be confined to a single agent, not only for performance efficiency, but also to ensure efficient use of a customer’s time. There are, however, some operational benefits to be gained from the fact that a mobile customer is both more accessible and can be helped in a variety of modes of interaction.
The Multimodal Agent Desktop
While there may indeed be times when customer assistance is provided by a mobile field service person or subject matter expert, the basic role of a customer service agent is typically handled from the desktop. Step one in planning for support for mobile customers is to provide desktop capabilities that enable the agent to interact with customers in any way they prefer.
A key consideration is that when voice conversations do not originate from the PSTN, but rather over the Internet from with a self-service mobile app. This approach has been widely promoted by Amazon via the Mayday Button video service designed for its Kindle HDX tablet users. With the huge growth of mobile apps, coupled with the likes of WebRTC for voice and video Internet connectivity, we are seeing more cloud service offerings that support both self-services and flexible click-for-assistance options for mobile customers.
Some of the capabilities that desktop agents will need are not really new, but must be expanded to exploit new capabilities of mobile customers. That includes the ability to:
• have convenient access to all customer information and activity data prior to the current contact;
• handle all forms of inbound and outbound forms of contact;
• launch on-camera interactions when video contact is required;
• control screen sharing with the customer, based on the customer’s mobile device capabilities;
• exploit virtual queuing and callbacks; and
• appropriately respond to customer posts on social networks.
Customer Choice of Agents
Since mobile customers will be doing many of the simple tasks with self-services, e.g., status information, basic transactions, etc., requests for assistance will now require more specific agent skills. Rather than guess about selecting a particular agent who can best satisfy the customer’s needs, it is now becoming practical to let the customer do the selection themselves, based on two factors: agent skills/experience, and agent availability to respond.
That kind of choice couldn’t be made over a phone in the past, but with screen-based smartphones and tablets, it is now practical. (It is available as a service offering of Interactive Intelligence.)
With this capability, responsibility and control is passed on to the mobile customer, who can decide then what will be most practical and not waste any time for everyone concerned.
Edited by Maurice Nagle