Mercator Blog

Rethinking Support in The Age of the Mobile Centric Consumer
Date: November 19, 2013
Tim Sloane
Vice President, Payments Innovation
We are all changing how we behave as we adapt to smartphone technologies. Mobile apps have literally changed our daily routine. We receive information when we need it, such as alerts about delays on upcoming flights, trains, and buses. We order a taxi, or lunch from a food truck, and get a message back telling us when and where we will be met. We see where our friends are, or will be, so we can join them. We find merchants near us highly rated by others and with the push of a button, we can share our opinion with friends and strangers.

Companies are learning how to respond to this real-time environment and leverage the “big data” these interactions create. Some companies are now monitoring social networks for negative comments in order to address the consumers’ stated problem. Other companies are identifying the best locations for a new store by monitoring consumers as they “check-in” from one location to another and security is added to mobile payments using geo-fencing. Mobile is driving innovation across almost all aspects of business; except customer service – which remains almost exactly the same as it was 20 years ago – call the 800 number or use your Web browser if you want help.

In September, Amazon introduced the Mayday Button, which is built into every Amazon Kindle Fire HDX tablet. Have a problem? Touch the “Mayday” button and a support rep appears on your screen ready to answer your question, or even to take control of the device to do it for you. This is an incredible support option being delivered on a $229 device.

Compare this with the service options available on the most expensive mobile solutions in the market today, they still don’t offer a built-in support function, much less offer something as novel as Mayday. But of course, there should be a range of different solutions that fit somewhere between the nothing of most solutions in the market and the extravagance of the Mayday button.

But still missing, even from Mayday, is a solution that analyzes usage data to improve the support delivered directly on the mobile device. The mobile solution should be able to collect and utilize user data to improve the support experience – but so far almost none do.

Last month, Contact Solutions introduced My:Time, software that integrates into a providers existing mobile app to enable the delivery of a customer support experience that reacts intelligently, not just to the problem it determines the user is experiencing, but also in how it enables the user to resolve problems.

Using My:Time, the consumers can start a customer service interaction, stop it when interrupted, and then resume again as time allows. This eliminates a phone call to the support desk, but it still supports voice input. This model supports a seamless transition between self-service and contact center agents without having to leave the app, re-authenticate, or repeat personal information.

Perhaps the most interesting capability, for companies that wish to take service to the next level, is the ability of My:Time to be integrated to backend data to provide the user a list of options created intelligently. This is accomplished through the IVR solution that Contact Solutions offers that prioritizes the drop-down list presented to the user based on information pulled from backend data, so the mobile user rarely needs to stumble through a long list. For example, the fact the user was declined at a store due to a $75 hold from gas pumped earlier automatically puts the appropriate resolution at the top of the list.

One would think that with all of the interest in big data and customer retention, that support would be built into smart phone applications, but most companies are not organized to deliver smart support options. Call center operations are typically a shared resource for multiple business units. In a financial institution, the call center might support multiple credit and debit card plans as well as several deposit account plans. This need to address a large volume of call types makes it extremely difficult for the call center to create a specialized solution for just one business unit. But as more examples of exemplary customer support are delivered to market that are similar to Amazon’s Mayday or Contact Solution’s My:Time, an increasing number of businesses will enable similar solutions to remain competitive – and as a disgruntled and frustrated mobile app user, the sooner the better.