You’ve picked up one of the hot smartphones and loaded it with all the cool apps.  Now, you’re using one of those apps to book a hotel room.  You’ve authenticated with your preferred guest number, entered your trip destination and dates, and targeted a short list of fun properties. However, you can’t find the amenities list to decide which hotel best suits you.  So, you abandon the app and phone the call center.  Here’s the end result:

  • You’re now less satisfied as a customer because you’ve lost all of the authentication and contextual data as the process for booking the hotel starts over.
  • You taught yourself to use the most expensive method of contact (phone call to live agent) both for this time and in future.
  • Your image of the hotel chain is lessened by the poor experience from the cool smartphone app that you wanted to use but took you longer anyway.

Or worse – you decided to try a competitor hotel’s smartphone app to book your room. A 2011 Harris Interactive study found that 63% of all online adults surveyed said they would be less likely to buy from the same company via other purchase channels if they experienced a problem conducting a mobile transaction.

Soaring Smartphone Use Brings Customer Service Issues to Forefront

As consumers, more of us are using smartphones to handle tasks more efficiently—and the number of users continues to grow. Nielsen estimates that 44% of Americans use smartphones today (and over 50% in some other developed countries).

Business is driving smartphone adoption, especially in the retail space where mobile shopping is soaring. RSR Research found that 92% of B2C winners (retailers who outperform their peers in year-over-year sales growth) have decided that consumers are using mobile as part of their shopping experience and they need to be there.  Projecting that into the future, Tealeaf Technologies suggests that mobile devices will become the No. 1 medium for digital commerce by 2015. That’s why it is disturbing that so many adult smartphone users (84% in the U.S., according to a recent Harris study) reported problems with mobile transactions.

Apps to the Rescue – Customer Service within Smartphone Apps

A proactive and potentially more satisfying solution to this dilemma is to make customer service resources available within the smartphone app.  This function effectively links mobility to customer service in the channel the customer chose, increasing customer satisfaction. Remember, you chose to use that app as your preference for a reason, and making that interaction into a satisfying one honors your choice.

When you, as a customer, feel your desires are valued by the company you want to do business with, you get a stronger impression that your business is valued, which encourages customer loyalty.  And, since the cost-per-contact is lower in the app than for a call to the contact center, keeping the customer in the mobility channel also reduces customer service operating expenses.

Leading contact center technologies have developed and are enhancing capabilities that provide that link of mobility to customer service.  Functionally, ranges from opening a chat window in the app for customers to connect with a live contact center agent to enabling a voice conversation within the app that brings the context and customer data as a screen pop to the agent.

Options for Deployment – Start with Strategy

There are many choices for how businesses can deploy app-based customer service based on cost to procure and deploy, meeting the specific customer contact requirements of the business, and finding interaction with the best-suited contact center resources that are integrated both into the smartphone app and the host environment.

In our experience at AT&T Consulting, we find that the most actionable and accurate way for businesses to sort through these choices and find the solution that works best is with a comprehensive contact center strategy. A contact center strategy provides definitive and custom recommendations and a cost/benefit analysis that aligns with your business objectives and customer preferences.

Has your business added smartphone apps for sales or other customer contact?  Are you looking for ways to reduce OpEx costs and not reduce customer service?  We want to hear from you.  Please leave your comments below.