Mobile Chat Will Widen The Gap Between Overlooked And Innovative Mobile Customer Support

Mobile remains a fragmented strategy in many companies. Ownership is not always clear. And customer service is commonly — woefully — overlooked.

The gap between overlooked mobile customer service and innovative mobile customer support will widen. And those innovative eBusiness leaders will increasingly look to mobile chat.

Website chat has revolutionized how customers and eBusinesses engage with one another, and it has quickly grown into one of the most satisfying channels among online customer service options. In the last two years, consumer’s adoption of website chat has nearly doubled; at 62%, it has the highest satisfaction rating among all online customer support channels. In fact, Generations Z and X have higher satisfaction chatting with a live agent than speaking on the telephone with a live agent. (See my the January 23, 2012, "Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 eBusiness Strategy" report.)

Mobile chat can do the same for mobile offerings.

Today's innovative mobile features offer consumers wide-ranging functionality, such as making access to reviews and product specs as easy as scanning a QR code, turning passive catalogs into interactive style guides, and proactively sending mobile coupons. Mobile chat will increasingly enhance these mobile offerings, making them even more interactive and engaging while also supporting revenue goals.

Take Aveda’s mobile app, for example. Consumers can have a chat session to get product recommendations from an expert. This is a quick, engaging interaction — one that may never inspire a telephone call, but the convenience of a mobile chat could easily support a sale while also extending Aveda’s ability to engage customers.

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Deepening The Relationship Between Marketing And Service Is Critical For Social Success

Only a short couple of years ago, social media was squarely the domain of marketing and public relations. But consumers changed the rules. They didn’t want to use social media purely for engagement; they wanted to talk to someone behind the brand to get support and share their experiences.

eBusinesses have responded. According to a recent study from Booz & Company, 75% of marketers using social media identify customer service as a primary use of their social media platform.

Unfortunately, there is a gap between objective and performance. A large reason for this gap is the role of customer support in social media leadership. According to the same Booz & Company survey, only 26% of respondents describe customer service as a department responsible for contributing leadership to social media strategies. This doesn’t surprise me. I speak frequently with organizations that describe customer support’s role as more involved than a year or two ago – typically support provides manpower to assist in support-related social content – but they are not deeply involved in driving strategy.

I believe consumer behavior will continue to push eBusinesses to re-evaluate their approach to social media and move to more strategic integration between marketing, branding, and customer service. Why? Consumer adoption of both direct social support and peer-to-peer support has exploded in the last two years. See “Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 eBusiness Strategy.” Further, the majority of consumers expect a reply to their positive and negative comments on Facebook and Twitter.

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When Was "You're Welcome" Replaced With "Uh-Huh"?

One of the essential differentiators of great customer service experiences is the human interaction.

Some folks want a chatty interaction with a full narrative on the weather. Others just want quick and friendly contact. But the bottom line is this we all want to have an experience that leads us to feel appreciated. This human interaction is key element to one of the three tenets of our Customer Experience Index: "How enjoyable were they to do business with?"

I considered this recently while at my neighborhood pharmacy. The company offers best-in-class customer service technology. They proactively remind me of prescription refills, they have a sophisticated mobile app, and their store layout is easy to navigate.

But I am invariably invited from the queue to the cash register by a shout of "Next!" and the only words offered to me are the sum I owe. For all their best-in-class retail and mobile strategies, I never walk away feeling that the company is enjoyable to do business with. Instead, I walk away wondering when was "you're welcome" replaced with "uh-huh"?

A great customer service experience is the result of the right technology, processes, and the human factor. To ensure the human factor isn’t marginalized, eBusiness leaders must:

  • Embed the ideal customer experience in your culture. Make it clear what customer service exchange will reflect your brand. Be explicit. Train and reward employees to personify your ideal brand experience.
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Customer Service Satisfaction Challenges Stereotypes

Data tells a story and sometimes it’s a story with an unexpected plot twist. Such is the case with online customer service data we have just published in my report called “Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 eBusiness Strategy.”

Online customer service channel usage has shifted dramatically from two years ago. There are also significant differences in satisfaction between channels, particularly among different generations.

“Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 eBusiness Strategy” challenges some long-held assumptions about online customer service and customer behavior including:

  • Not everyone prefers the telephone. I have been writing for some time that call deflection is win-win when it gives other options to consumers who prefer support channels other than the telephone. This is echoed in our data that shows Generations Z and X have higher satisfaction chatting with a live agent rather than speaking on the telephone with a live agent.
  •  Social support is not just for younger consumers. While community support and Twitter are most widely adopted among younger consumers, don't assume social support is the domain of younger consumers: online community support is also used by 30% of consumers between the ages of 32 to 45 and 20% of online consumers between the ages of 46 to 55. 
  • Don’t underestimate the high demand of the senior segment.While we may stereotypically associate impatience with youthful generations, there is a higher likelihood of impatience among Older Boomers and Seniors when it comes to wanting quick answers online and the likelihood to abandon if a website fails to deliver.  
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Selecting The Right Virtual Agent Vendor For Your eBusiness

What do Aetna, the US Army, L’Oreal, and the London 2012 Olympic Games have in common? Each of these diverse organizations has deployed a virtual agent.

Virtual agents are software services that provide automated assistance by simulating a two-way conversation with customers. And they have come a long way from Clippy the dancing paper clip. The technology has demonstrated its ability to achieve business benefits, including improving efficiencies by deflecting calls to the contact center, managing initial customer contact by collecting information to populate a service ticket, and heightening the efficiency of contact reps when a case is escalated to live help

Selecting the right virtual agent vendor can be a complex undertaking because it can have an impact on multiple functional areas, including eBusiness, business processes, IT, customer experience, and, potentially, legal and governance.

To help navigate this process, we have published a new report, Five Essential eBusiness Criteria For A Successful Virtual Agent Vendor Selection.

Unlike traditional keyword search, which focuses on words or word patterns, virtual agents use some form of natural language processing (NLP) that derives intent by utilizing complex algorithms. 

One of the questions that I am most commonly asked by eBusiness professionals is how to assess how well a virtual agent understands conversation. 

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Facebook Matters To Customer Service

A couple of years ago, most of my conversations with eBusiness leaders about the future role of Facebook and customer service concluded with cautious skepticism: “Why would customers go to our Facebook page for customer service when we have plenty of other channels for them?”   The most frequent verdict was that Facebook might become important to customer service but it wasn’t a priority.

The verdict is now coming in.

And Facebook is important.

The Facebook UK team ran a number of polls recently asking consumers about why they talk about brands and what they talk about.  They found that 23% of Facebook users want customer service and expert advice when they become a fan of a company’s page.

Savvy eBusiness leaders now understand: you need to go to where your customers are.

And if your customers are on Facebook, then Facebook needs to become a higher profile in your overall cusotmer service strategy.

Audio brand Shure recognized an opportunity to go to where its customers are: Facebook. With RightNow CX for Facebook, Shure extended  its customer service reach to Facebook. Customers can find answers directly from a customer support tab on the company’s Facebook page and pose questions privately to an agent via Facebook.

Live chat is beginning to appear Facebook. Nykredit,the largest provider of mortgage lending in Denmark, offers chat via their Facebook page through vendor Netop.

Earlier this year, virtual agent vendor NoHold launched a virtual agent on Facebook for consumer electronics company View Sonic.


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Oracle Purchases RightNow Technologies

Less than a week after purchasing Endeca, Oracle extended its acquisition run with the announcement that it was purchasing Montana-based RightNow Technologies for $1.5 billion.

This deal is particularly interesting because, as the Wall St Journal notes, it marks the first time Oracle has bought a company  that sells application programs accessed primarily over the Internet as software as a service. This is being widely interpreted as a shot across Salesforce’s bow.

RightNow has a lot to offer Oracle. We rate RightNow as a leader in our WAVE for CRM customer service suites.  Along with, we called out RightNow as a SaaS solution that was faster to deploy and easier to change than traditional on-premise offerings. RightNow is well positioned to give Oracle a customer service offering for the mid market.

Like all M&A, there will be growing pains.  The companies have different strengths, sizes, and cultures.

Success will very much rely upon how effectively Oracle can differentiate between their many customer service products to ensure their portfolio targeting is optimized. With this acquisition and previous ones - such as ATG and InQuira -  there is overlapping customer service technology. It will be critical to differentiate between products such as knowledge management and chat. This will not be an easy task in this complex and ever-changing customer service technology landscape.

Reducing The Call Center Cost of Login Recovery Should Be A Top eBusiness Priority

Several weeks ago, I blogged asking for insight into the contact center costs of login recovery to help inform a project I was working on. Many companies responded — for which I thank you  — and I wanted to share some of the insights that were provided.

In the words of one eBusiness executive, “Helping customers resolve login issues is by far the largest call driver to our contact center. The costs are high — probably higher than we fully realize. But we look at it as the cost of doing business.”

Among the companies surveyed, the percentage of login issues among B2C contact center contacts ranged from  3% to 40%. Only one company was on that lower end and, while their 3% may seem small at first glance, their call center receives more than 10 million calls per year so 3% represents a hefty number of contacts. The higher end  of 30 to 40% of call center volume related to login was more common. Overall, among the companies who responded to my request for information, the operational cost of login issues ranged from $250,000/year to well over $1,000,000 per year.

These high dollar figures do not have to be the cost of doing business. Instead, eBusiness leaders should:

  • Ensure their login recover adheres to best practices. My document called “Mastering Login Issues” will hopefully provide helpful insight.
  • Consider social login, which lets users log in to your site with their social identities from Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites. This may be particularly useful for news, retail, media, entertainment.
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The Value of Live Video Chat

I have to confess, I was skeptical when I first encountered the idea of live video chat. I didn’t see how the value of seeing the person I was chatting with; after all, not seeing the person I’m speaking to on the telephone has never been an impediment to my ability to trust my bank, insurance company, or favorite retailers.

But when deployed in the right circumstances – specifically, when it leverages the value of a visual element into the chat interaction – live video chat has some potentially compelling use cases:

  • Retailer Lands’ End offers live video chat with a personal shopping assistant who can show products. In my interaction, I was able to see the size of a handbag more meaningfully than just reading its measurements.
  • Live video chat can offer a private in-person consultation. For example, specialty pharmacy implemented a webcam-based video chat program that allows customers to have demonstrations on topics such as how to inject medication properly.
  • Live video can help develop relationships. For example, a hotel offering could offer live video chat between its most frequent guests and the concierge at hotels they visit frequently; or a financial institution could use video chat between preferred customers and their financial advisors.
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The Metamorphosis To Agile Customer Service

There is growing urgency among eBusiness leaders to consider the impact of agile commerce on customer service. In the weeks since my colleague Brian Walker’s “Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce” was published, I have had many conversations with eBusiness executives and leading customer service vendors to discuss on agile commerce’s implications to customer service.  The result of these conversations is my recently published document called “The Metamorphosis To Agile Customer Service."

Technology has had a dramatic impact on when, where, and how consumers want customer service:

  • The number of connected devices is increasing. Today 59% of US online adults have more than one device that is connected to the Internet. One in five US online adults — or 37 million people — own five or more devices that are connected to the Internet. (For more insight into this, see our January 25, 2011m "Welcome To The Multichannel Multi-Connection World" report.)
  • Consumers are connected everywhere. Mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous: According to Forrester's US Mobile Technographics®, 88% of US adults own mobile phones, and 21% of US adults are Superconnecteds who use their phones for information, research, and commerce.
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