Interacting with Customers in Motion

Interacting with Customers in Motion

Customers are increasingly using mobile devices to interact with companies. This trend represents a significant opportunity for organizations to develop customer contact applications that enrich the customer experience. Organizations also are grappling with some of the challenges inherent in the use of mobile devices. This Market Insight examines mobility from the perspectives of the opportunities and challenges enterprise face when incorporating mobility into their customer interaction strategies.

The Rise of Wireless

Wireless is fast becoming the norm in personal communications in North America. Consider these statistics:
• U.S. market. Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the U.S. wireless subscriber base will reachX million in 2017, having grown from X million in 2011, at a compound annual growth rate of X percent. The wireless penetration rate will climb to X percent fromX percent over the same time frame.
• Canadian market. A similar trend towards wireless is underway in Canada, though at a slower rate than in the U.S. Frost & Sullivan forecasts Canada's wireless penetration rate, at X percent in 2011, will increase to X percent by 2017.
This preference for wireless devices extends to contact centers and IVR systems. Here are two examples from vendors in this space:
• West. The company reports that approximately X percent of all calls it takes for clients of its West Interactive division are from customers who are using their mobile devices and phones
• LivePerson. The provider of chat solutions reports that X-X percent of its chat traffic comes from mobile phones and tablets.

Wireless carriers have increased consumer expectations regarding device and network capabilities. At the same time, enterprises are able to deliver a higher quality of self- and agent-assisted service over wireless devices. The following features demonstrate some of these capabilities.

• Geolocation. Geolocation—the capability of knowing where users are by tracking their phone through its GPS coordinates—takes on critical importance with mobile devices because it enables companies to provide location-based services (LBS). Integrated into an enterprise mobile app, LBS can enable customers to find the relevant businesses and services that are nearest to them, such as ATMs, accommodations, gas stations, and stores. LBS can also enable businesses to locate their customers. For example, it could be used by insurance providers and tow truck drivers to pinpoint the location of customers requesting roadside assistance. LBS can also be used proactively by businesses to create a higher level of service, and generate extra revenue. For example, if a customer is at a resort and has registered their smartphone, or has been provided a VIP phone as part of their stay, the resort might push an offer to the device for a free drink or appetizer at one of their restaurants.

• Image/Video Capture. Most wireless devices are now fitted with cameras that produce remarkably clear still and video images, while wireless broadband connections (3G, 4G/ LTE) deliver them. Users have become adept at using these features to create high quality shots and clips. These capabilities can be used to bolster customer service and support. For example, a customer's still photos or video clips can help a sales person understand what they are looking for in a product—i.e., a carpet to match décor. At the same time, an insurance agent can tell their client what to take photos of after an accident, and walk them through a potentially stressful process. Finally, a tech support rep can send instructional images and video clips to individuals' devices.

• While still pictures are easy to transmit and receive, there are still hurdles with using video. These include carrier speeds, locally available bandwidth, and specific device capabilities that vary by model. Above all, the market may not yet see many use cases for mobile video.

• Mobile Web and mobile apps. Consumers have demonstrated a strong preference for web self-service; Frost & Sullivan research ranks it ahead of all other contact channels in terms of customer satisfaction. Consumers are now taking this choice on the road through their mobile devices in what has become known as the mobile Web. Mobile apps are very popular with consumers. Customers engage with mobile-optimized Web sites directly and indirectly with mobile apps. Mobile apps are downloadable software applications that enable users to conduct Web interactions as self-service or with agent assistance on the devices, including voice and chat.

• QR codes. QR codes are the "digital hieroglyphics" that appear in a growing number of media such as direct mail, statements, print ads, store displays, and signage. They are essentially an advanced version of bar codes, and can be scanned off the display of the device. QR codes contain detailed information about products and services such as store locations and Web sites. They can represent targeted offers or mobile coupons, which are released to individuals when they take photos of the codes with their wireless devices. Companies are finding more uses for QR codes. For example, airlines are now embedding them in emails that customers can scan at gates in lieu of issuing paper boarding passes.

• SMS/text. "Texting" is synonymous with mobile. SMS/text can be and is used by both customers and agents to interact with each other, and for outbound proactive customer contact (PCC) applications.

Connecting Mobile Customers

Numerous vendors have introduced products that enable and enhance mobile customer interactions. It is clear that a significant amount of research has gone into understanding how customers use mobile applications and their preferences for the way they want the interaction handled, particularly when they need live assistance. For example, vendors agree that with mobility, the customer engagement model needs to shift from music on hold to either providing immediate access to the agent, or Xpercent virtual queue with immediate or scheduled callback. There's also a need to carry context from one channel to another. Vendors have also made what is displayed and heard in the mobile application more usable, and taken advantage of the unique properties of mobile devices. The following developments in mobile customer interactions are noteworthy. Representative vendor solutions are noted in context.

• Multiple device and platform support. Solutions are being written for multiple devices and platforms. West's Mobile Managed Service solution enables and supports mobile-optimized websites, smartphone and tablet apps across all major platforms, along with mobile messaging such as SMS/MMS push notifications. West's platform can expedite support for new devices and handle upgrades.

• Speech-enabled solutions. Speech front ends are critical to mobile interactions because they automate and shorten live agent calls. They also permit hands-free device use. Lexee from Angel offers a conversational user interface, including voice authentication for applications requiring greater security. Nina, developed by Nuance, incorporates multiple speech technologies, including natural language understanding that improves conversational flow and accuracy.

Table of Contents

1. The Rise of Wireless
2. Connecting Mobile Customers
3. Hearing the Customers and Agents
4. Bridging Wireless Gaps
5. Summary and Recommendations