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Mobility is Making Customer Service Smart

Some aspects of customer service are never going to change – anyone asking for assistance expects to be helped by someone who is knowledgeable, pleasant, presents the answer from the caller’s perspective, and is professional. There are other characteristics that callers prefer in their service provider, but they are not a core requirement. Most of us want to be helped by someone who seems interested and cares, as well as someone who “really gets it.” It’s not easy to do a good job of delivering customer service, and it’s only going to become more challenging as customer expectations become more demanding.

There are some interesting attitudes among callers today, including the fact that many would prefer not to have to call and speak to a customer service person. Calling and asking for help is the last resort for a surprising number of millennials. For many, “talking” means SMS or texting, and it’s taken as a personal affront if data is not available in their preferred channel.

In this environment, mobile applications (apps) are emerging at a rapid clip. Consumers cannot get enough of them, even if all they do is acquire them (mostly for free), use them once or twice, and move on to the next potentially more exciting application. While it may seem frivolous to purchase an app to point out the exact location of different stars in the night sky (actually, I think it’s rather cool), it’s not inane to want an app for banking, insurance, shopping, traffic, travel reservations, or to make medical appointments.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use your smart phone – the one thing most of us do not leave home without – to take care of the majority of customer service needs via an app. That way, you don’t need to look things up on the Web or place a call, which is often less convenient. Google is great as a last resort, but a customer service app that knows who you are, what you want to do, provides answers quickly and accurately, facilitates chat/texting to the organization, and connects you to a service person with all contextually relevant information when you need live-agent assistance (without having to go through the voice response system), is appealing for boomers and millennials alike. Actually, it’s more than just a desire. Mobile apps are going to play an important role in customer service, and if your organization doesn’t provide it, customers will find companies or organizations that do. What I am saying is that, in general, convenience is more important than loyalty. Your customers are going to be loyal to their smart phone, and it’s up to you to figure out how to fit into their world.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. There is a huge amount of investment happening, and technology providers from many different functional areas are building and delivering mobile application frameworks to enable businesses to rapidly create and deliver apps to their customers, B2B partners or other consumers. These new frameworks are being designed for business users, not IT people, so you don’t need to be a programmer to use them. Even better, some of the mobile technology vendors, such as Jacada, Interactive Intelligence and Nuance, clearly get it – it’s one thing to build and deliver a flexible mobile app development environment; it’s another to be able to deliver an attractive and easy-to-use app that also makes it convenient for users to obtain live agent assistance, if it becomes necessary. Consumers want to do it their way – via their mobile devices, without having to start over again when they need to move to a different channel. It seems like the smart phones are actually making some companies “smart.”


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Ask the Experts

I did a little experiment this weekend. Every time I made a retail purchase, I kept the receipt to see if it had an incentive for me to take a survey about my experience. I have 6 receipts, and everyone is asking me to take a survey. I wonder why companies are surveying their customers, and what they are doing with survey findings? What’s your opinion?

The industry, no doubt about it, is suffering from “surveyitis.” Some companies conduct surveys because they think it’s a good way to engage their customers, but they never plan to use the findings. Other companies survey their customers primarily to use the results for marketing purposes – they want to put out press releases claiming great customer satisfaction rates. Some departments survey for their own benefit only; there may be multiple departments in a company sending surveys to the same customers, but the findings are not shared among the relevant groups.

However, for all of the misguided reasons why companies survey their customers, there are two really serious issues. First, the companies do not use the information provided in the surveys – findings come in and are summarized into pretty charts and graphs and delivered to a senior executive who may (or may not) view the data, but no action is taken. The second problem is that companies do not close the loop and inform their customers – who gave their valuable time to share their thoughts and suggestions to the company – what they did with the information.

A few companies use survey results effectively and take immediate action based on feedback from their customers. There are also many examples of good survey practices. Unfortunately, too many companies do not understand the true purpose of surveys and, as a result, they do not conduct them properly or use their results appropriately, if at all. However, there is no doubt that many consumers want to share their thoughts with anyone who will “listen” – take a look at all of the social media sites dedicated to allowing people to share both positive and negative opinions (we listed some of them in the September 2011 Newsletter), as well as Twitter, blogs, etc.

Net/net: companies need to do a better job of listening, and if they are going to use surveys, they should follow survey best practices, which include having a corporate surveying strategy, applying findings on a timely basis, and getting back to participants to let them know how their feedback was used. Survey results should be a call to action and should be used to drive change as quickly as possible.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at