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What the World Not Ending Means for Customer Service in 2013

Customer Experience

Well, 12/21/12 came and went without the world ending and we appear to be slipping down the “Fiscal Slope” instead of falling off any cliffs. That means we don’t get to wash our hands of the customer experience in 2013. In fact, given the way the economy in the US seems to be slowly clawing its way back from the brink of disaster and the way the developing world continues to grow and Europe manages to hang on, 2013 is actually set up to be a very interesting year where I believe we will start to see some real momentum in a couple of key areas.

Now that we’ve established that 2013 has a reasonable chance of being a reasonably normal year, here are a couple of wishes that I have for this new year:

May you actually experience “Mobile Customer Service” in 2013.

Many of the companies we work with are starting to see mobile apps as more than just a way to show the location of their nearest branch or store. Mobile applications are starting to live up to some of their potential as interesting and useful tools. Personally, I have found the American Airlines app to be very helpful.  According to Shankar Pandiath’s blog on TCMnet, 56% of fab.com’s Christmas sales in the U.S. were through its mobile applications.

However, neither of these apps currently provide me with any sort of intelligent escalation from the mobile application to an agent or other employee who can help me.  In fact, the Fab application has no escalation option to an agent included at all, if I have a problem I’ll need to dig up the phone number and call ‘em blind or try my luck on the web.

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As we talk to our customers, analysts and other folks in the industry, there seems to be a growing consensus about some things that mobile applications need to enable when a customer has a question or an issue:

  • Give customers the option to ask for help.
  • Escalate the customers to an agent.
  • Ask clarifying questions before escalation to ensure that the escalation can help them more intelligently.

This may sound like rocket science today, but we are seeing several customers embrace this vision and with luck you will usually be able to have this sort of user experience this year.

May you get the help you need in 2013 from a company via a social channel.

The last customer meeting I had in 2012 was with a fellow from a mobile carrier in Thailand (sadly, we met at the Genesys headquarters in California, not at his office).  When we talked about how his company is handling social media, he became embarrassed and admitted that their current strategy was to grab a handful of folks and create a little group that does the best they can to handcraft answer to social requests in a silo, separate from any other groups in the company and working completely in reactive mode, unable to organize their answers to help other customers with the same question and incapable of coordinating their responses with how the company treats customers on any other channels. He found cold comfort in my reassurances that his company was on par with most of the companies that we talk to here in the US or in Europe or anywhere else in the world.

It is true however, a couple of years ago Everything Everywhere (parent company for T-Mobile and Orange in the UK) got serious about their image in the social sphere.  First they created some fun videos and ads to give them a voice about their image in the social sphere.  In parallel they started a standalone group to manage social interactions just to get things rolling.

Now that they have covered the basics they are looking to provide true service in the social sphere where critical support questions can be answered once by the companies and shared across many customers.  They are also integrating their support in the social sphere into their overall support organization to provide their customers with a consistent support experience regardless of the channel they use for communication.

These new communications channels can really change the way companies interact with their customers.  Here’s hoping that you get a taste of this potential as a consumer this year.  Once people start to get good service through these emerging channels expectations will be set and there will be no looking back as the tipping point to where true service across all digital channels is reached.

For more information on how your company can use social media as a positive channel for customer service you can read our white paper on the topic.

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