Putting Smart Devices at the Heart of Multichannel Customer Service

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Mobile application downloads are on the rise, with more and more consumers looking for multichannel customer service and ways to interact with their favorite brands on the go. Yet, while mobile phones and tablets are inherently smart, many companies have yet to embrace these tools in an intelligent way when it comes to enhancing customer service. Typically, when consumers seek customer support over the phone, they automatically associate the task with the frustrating “voice robot” known as interactive voice response (IVR). But, as we move into the digital and mobile age, the days of long, complicated IVR menus and hold music face imminent extinction as the need for multichannel interactive response (MIR) takes precedence.

Unfortunately, in many instances, the antiquated IVR technology of yesterday continues to hinder the technological advancements of tomorrow. You see, if mobile app users have questions for the brand at hand, the app’s “Contact Us” button typically provides nothing more than a link to the company’s 1-800 number. Though these naturally smart devices put chat, video, and photo capabilities in the palm of the consumer’s hand, brands still force customers to use the toll-free voice feature, thereby eliminating the channel’s potential richness and the chance for truly multichannel communications with consumers.

Before approaching mobile applications with such misguided techniques, companies must look at the intrinsic value and benefits of smart devices. Along with voice conversations, smartphones allow consumers to chat or text, which many prefer when it comes to connecting with friends and family. However, companies rarely take advantage of this channel’s multimedia capabilities. These applications allow customers to browse product catalogues, or access their bank account information, but they rarely reflect how customers are actually engaging with the company via mobile. If companies truly think about how they can leverage the smart device, they open themselves up to opportunities that eliminate business costs and improve the customer experience.

Consider mobile’s multichannel nature: Each device allows users to share videos and photos quickly and easily. If companies were to embrace the benefits of the multichannel customer service conversation, they could enable customers to snap photos or record video when an issue arises so the customer service specialist in charge of their case can actually see the problem they’re tackling. Geo-location also has the potential to improve satisfaction because companies can provide Google map directions to the nearest retail location if the situation arises. These methods will not only boost efficiency, but also enhance the overall customer experience—something many are willing to shout from the rooftops, or social media as the case may be.

However, the failure to embrace the opportunities associated with mobile may slow the adoption of the company’s mobile app and encourage customers to seek answers elsewhere. If companies don’t provide customers with the right experience via the service channel of their choice, they typically go to other service channels to get support. Today, we are seeing customers move to social media if they are not getting responsive answers through the company’s mobile app, website, or even their toll-free number. They take to social media channels to complain because they want the attention and support they didn’t receive during their previous attempts. The current customer experience paradigm rewards those who use public forums to complain, for their stories hurt brands, inciting quick response from the company in trouble as they swiftly move to do damage control.

The key to future success lies with a company’s ability to understand how consumers interact with other consumers and blend these behaviors with their business approach. IVR must be laid to rest so its successor, MIR, may bring the multichannel customer service interactive experience to the fore. Companies that neglect to establish consumer context by looking at digital device data not only provide a disservice to their customers, but also to their entire organization, for they miss a huge opportunity to provide superior customer service that would improve customer loyalty, reduce churn, trim down business costs. Mobile technology may be advancing rapidly, but businesses across industries still have a long road ahead.