Customer Mobility Isn’t A Single “Channel!”

It’s bad enough that “unified communications” (UC) is still a confusing term for many people, but I am now seeing “multi-channel” customer service also adding to the confusion by some industry analysts describing “mobility” as a “channel” or ignoring “cloud” services as a practical means of implementing customer interactions. Another source of confusion comes from pundits not differentiating access to self-service business applications with communication applications for contacts with people. The communication applications are really “self-service,” too, since customers don’t need someone else to initiate a phone call, send an email, post a social comment, or start an IM chat. That’s where UC enablement provides simplified interoperability between the two types of applications.

While there are different modes of contact with people and interactions with self-service applications available to mobile consumers who have smartphones and tablets, each mode is a different “channel” from the user interface and endpoint device perspective. The fact that the network connection (wired, wireless) is the same or different for any type of interaction makes little difference to the user experience (unless it is too slow!).

How Remote Customer Service Is Changing

Customer service is changing dramatically as consumers become more mobile and thus become both more contact accessible as well as have greater direct access to online information and services. Organizations, whether large enterprises or small businesses, will all be affected by the impact of multi-modal smartphones and tablets on traditional telephone-based customer interactions.

As confirmed in many recent market studies, mobile customers are now expecting:

· More access to mobile online self-services

· Pro-active mobile notifications and alerts, rather than calling in or checking online

· Greater flexibility in choice of user interfaces (voice, visual)

· Options for multiple forms of “smart” access to live assistance when needed

The contact center of yesterday must start planning now to accommodate the new technologies that support such interactions for both mobile customers and customer assistance staff, wherever they may be located. Migrating contact center applications for mobile customers will be most cost-efficiently facilitated by moving to “cloud” based hosted and managed services, but “Customer BYOD” needs will also require self-service applications to be redesigned for device-independence and offer more flexible choices for user interaction interfaces.

Telephone calls are not going to disappear, but the traditional need for voice conversations is being subsumed by other forms of inbound and outbound contacts, including social network postings, text chat, and video calls. As reflected in a recent market study, customers prefer interacting with online applications first, before requiring access to live assistance.

Customer Service Experience Is Becoming More Critical For Business Performance

Providing good customer experiences will be key to customer support, satisfaction, and retention. As applied to self-service applications, it will make a big difference in handling increased mobile consumer needs by minimizing the need for live assistance. So, providing a unified view of all customer contact activities will be needed in designing both personalized self- service applications and providing live assistance on demand. This is where the benefits of “cloud” based applications and contextual data storage will cost-efficiently support the dynamic needs of multi-modal customer service management.

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