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Digital Engagement Blog

The First Pillar of Mobile-First Customer Care: App to Agent Access

Mobile First Customer Care drives mobile engagementIn part two of this mobile-first customer care series, we discussed how smartphones have changed customers’ expectations – essentially creating a “mobile mind shift” -- and we touched on the five pillars of mobile-first customer care. The mobile mind shift means customers today expect to be able to do anything via their wireless devices in their moment of need. Smart companies will travel ahead of customers and identify these “mobile moments” and find a way to service customers through them in a way that delights them.

Mobile Moments

Forrester Research describes the “mobile moment” as a point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get what he or she wants immediately and in context. Lopez Research defines Right Time Experiences (RTE) as products, services and workflows that offer a person the right information and services at the point of need or desire. Whatever you call it, it’s an expression of a complex stew of ideas:

  • Short attention spans. Customers today have short attention spans. From a variety of research sources, our attention span to accomplish something is between 6 and 14 seconds. Successful companies are those that are positioned to take advantage of these short windows of time via the mobile app.
  • “Right now” needs.  When customers engage with mobile apps, their needs are often immediate: they may need to ensure they have the money to pay for a brick-and-mortar purchase at the point of sale, for example, or they may have just missed a connecting flight and need to find another as soon as possible. It may just be that they are multi-tasking and have a small window of time to accomplish something.  
  • Non-linear Customer Journeys. The idea of a logical progression through the buyer journey using AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) is outdated and old-fashioned. Today, the buyer’s journey tends to be non-linear. Nonlinear means access to an agent in the mobile app could be needed at any point in time.
  • Long memories. Customers may have short attention spans, but they have long memories for customer support experiences that failed them. According to “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for a single negative experience.

To effectively service customers in these moments of need, a pathway to a human to get help isn’t only helpful, it’s vital.  It’s not a secret that customers aren’t particularly patient today. They want what they want, when they want it, and they have low tolerance for being expected to educate the companies they do business with in their moment of need. In most mobile customer care today, the customer’s journey is broken up into small pieces, to fit around the consumer’s multi-tasking mobile lifestyle.

A study conducted by Contact Solutions found that 71 percent of mobile consumers who purchase through mobile apps will abandon their shopping cart if the app doesn’t give them the help they need. Twenty percent of these customers said they would never use the app again if it failed to meet their expectations on the first try. Customers today expect immediate gratification, and if the mobile experience fails to deliver, the customer will readily abandon the mobile app.

Today, when a mobile app session leads to a question that requires a live customer service representative, the customer must leave the app and dial a toll-free phone number. This is true of 98% of the apps we have surveyed. Then after being on hold, when an agent answers, the customer needs to start from the beginning. It’s because the agent has entered the transaction partway down the customer’s path without any context; It creates an uneven, disjointed experience.   

Innovative companies are starting to recognize that an in-app communications capability between the customer and enterprise creates the opportunity for a much richer interaction. If designed into the app, the agent can have a complete understanding of the context of the interaction and can deliver an integrated, interactive, real-time experience – in the mobile moment. The technology is here to enable these communications, along with tools that enable an engaging collaboration between the agent and the customer to solve the problem efficiently at the time of need, without the customer having to leave the app. 

The First Pillar: App2AgentTM

No matter how well your mobile app is designed, there will frequently come moments when it has reached its limitations and customers need to interact with a live person. Even the very best mobile apps – those in financial services, airlines, insurance companies, or high-end retailers – can only go so far. This is a classic “moment of danger” for companies; if customers can’t get live help when they need it, the transaction is lost. If it happens more than once, it is easy for the customer to delete your app from their smartphone altogether.

No matter how brilliant you think your mobile app is (and how big your budget is), you will never reach a point where you can anticipate all your customers’ needs. This is why it’s critical to build your app around the idea of an embedded path to a live agent. We call this App2Agent.TM It’s a way to fix the broken mobile buyer journey and improve digital collaboration between the customer and the contact center.  Access to an agent in a way that is consistent with the “mobile customer care manifesto” discussed in the previous blog in this series: that is, mobile customer care built from the customer’s perspective and not the contact centers.

A robust app-to-agent pathway will include:

  • Convenient ability for the customer to engage from anywhere in the app, and always keeping the customer in control of when and how they engage.
  • A path to an agent via whatever mode of communication the customer chooses, whether it’s a phone call, chat, or e-mail or even video conferencing, all from within the mobile app.
  • The ability for the agent to have access to the customer’s context before he or she engaged the agent.
  • The capability for the agent to proactively engage the customer when the customer is clearly struggling. In other words, app-to-agent should also include the idea of “agent-to-app.”

Don’t Try to “Do It All”

It seems fairly clear at this time that no company is capable of building a mobile app that will do everything customers expect in an automated way. Many companies make the mistake of only investing in sophisticated features for their mobile apps in an urgent effort to make them stickier and more engaging. Often usage of these features is low because customers cannot figure out how they work. These companies have two choices: they can either fail the customer’s expectations (and subsequently fail the relationship), or they can provide a path to resolution – in the form of a live agent -- to fill in any gaps. The stakes are very high, and how company’s approach app building will determine whether these apps will be adopted or abandoned.

No matter how many millions of dollars you might spend in crafting your mobile app, if it fails to deliver these “mobile moments” that customers expect, it is wasted money at best and actively harming your customer relationships in the worst-case scenario. Customer expectations today are nearly infinite, whereas mobile app budgets are not. The idea of building an in-app path to a live agent is a critical one: customers will know that even if the app doesn’t meet their expectations, there is an “escape hatch” that will ensure resolution to their problem. 

In the next blog post in this series, we’ll cover the next foundational tenet of mobile-first customer care: The ability for the customer to interact in small, “bite-sized steps” at their convenience, and not be chained to an interaction until completion. Mobile customers are on the go and not always able to finish a transaction in one sitting. They need the ability to start, stop, and resume their interactions to fit their multi-tasking behavior. This is a radical concept that will completely change the paradigm of customer to contact center interactions – in a way that (finally) maps to the mobile lifestyle.

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Topics: Customer Care Mobile Engagement Consumer Behavior