I went to the chiropractor the other day. Back ache. So I explained to him where it hurt, how it hurt, what I did that probably made it hurt, etc. That examination probably took about 10 minutes, during which he took some notes. Finally, he prescribed some physical treatment by one of his massage therapists. So I walked over to her room, laid down, waited a couple minutes until she arrived. I am sure she had a brief discussion with the doctor, or at least read the notes so she knew what the issue was. But what happened? She walked in and asked me what she could do for me. Uh… excuse me? Didn’t I just spend 10 minutes with your colleague going through all of this? It was frustrating. I didn’t want to explain it all over again, I just wanted her to follow up from my previous session with the doctor!
Wait a minute, you might think… what does this have to do with customer service and the contact center? Well, a lot. Think about early IVR. Early IVR systems implemented basic call routing, prequalifying callers to route them to agents with the right skills. A great cost saver, and a tolerable but already somewhat frustrating caller experience. Next, IVR introduced self-service capabilities. Without wait time, customers could now do simple transactions or retrieve information all by themselves, without human intervention. Awesome! But wait… Machines are not people. People program machines. What if a customer has an issue the machine hadn’t been programmed for? The customer needs to talk to a human. OK, no problem, engineers thought, let’s put the customer into the queue, so they can talk to an agent! Problem solved!
Really? Not so much. Nothing is more frustrating than a customer service representative who has no clue what I, the customer, have done the last 4 minutes, entering account numbers, wading through menus, tolerating misrecognitions of badly tuned speech recognition engines, etc. The same way I was frustrated with my chiropractor experience; I expected the therapist to know about my previous discussion with the doctor!
Better IVR systems implement what’s now anciently called “CTI”, Computer Telephony Integration (modern telephony systems are all software, so why does it need special integration?). The context of an IVR interaction is proactively pushed to the agent’s screen. When they pick up the phone, they can *continue* the conversation vs. start it from scratch. I feel well-served by a company that implements good CTI.
But what do we see in the mobile app space now? Smartphone apps for customer service make the same mistake again. Really??? Have we learned nothing? Today, when I am stuck in a mobile app trying to serve myself, I oftentimes have to leave the app, go to my browser and google for their service hotline! Only to be put on hold in a generic queue, ending up with a service rep who has no clue what I have already done in the app. How’s that for some really bad customer experience?
I believe the problem lies with the scope that traditional mobile app dev shops have, which is too narrow and doesn’t take customer care into account. For customer care apps, you would want someone who understands the requirements in a multi-channel contact center environment, who understands the challenges and has proven to bridge the gap still existing today between customer service channels. And someone who has embraced the various mobile channels (voice, SMS, USSD, mobile Web, IM) early on. (Voxeo, hint hint, turned multi-channel with their VoiceObjects product back in 2007, offering the first integrated multi-channel self-service platform).
So how would a solution look like? If a customer is stuck in a mobile app, they should have an in-app option to speak to a CSR right now, right here. And they should expect the CSR to know exactly who they are, what business they do with the company, what they tried in the app, and where they failed. In other words, to cite myself, when the agent picks up the phone, “they can *continue* the conversation vs. start it from scratch”. It’s the same concept, really. Voxeo provides both of these technologies; using our Phono product, you can offer an in-app phone experience. Using CTI integrations, either via HTTP or via SIP, you can attach context information to the agent call to enable screen-pop on the agent desktop. Integrating with your CRM, you can have the agent get full insight into who the customer is and what they have done in the past.
The technology to ensure a smooth experience for your customer is there. Just make sure to consult the right people! Have you jumped on the mobile band waggon early on? Great! Have you considered the gap I explained? No? Well, now you know who can help.
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- Voxeo’s IMified lets companies easily add Twitter for customer service
- The Evolution Of the Contact Center: Voxeo At Mobile Voice Conference
- Voxeo and ICMI Webinar: Building a Mobile Customer Service Strategy
- Voxeo @ 9th Annual Customer Contact East: The Mobile Paradigm Shift
- Be a Part Of ICMI’s Mobile Customer Service Strategy Research Study!