In the last few weeks, we've all watched as the mobile world rode out a roller coaster of announcements and technology glitches. It began with the release of the iPhone 4S and Siri, which were met with mixed reactions yet high demand by consumers; then the RIM/Blackberry outage that affected thousands of smartphone users; and, finally, the data problems with the iOS 5 software updates that took hold of the media and consumers. One overarching issue that resonated: the need for quality customer service.
In today's competitive service provider marketplace, consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to selecting a vendor for their mobile phone, Internet, or cable/satellite services. With these providers becoming increasingly equal in terms of price point and technology, customer service has become the differentiator that often sets providers apart. In fact, we recently conducted a survey with Echo Research of more than 1,000 smartphone users to gauge the importance they placed on customer service as well as the expectations they had for their service providers.
The results showcase both the positive and negative effects poor customer service can have on service providers. For example, two thirds of consumers would be willing to spend more money with their service provider if they consistently received exceptional customer service. However, three in five consumers stated it would take only two or three instances of poor customer service from a mobile phone, Internet, or cable/satellite TV service provider before they would consider switching. Nearly one in five would consider changing providers immediately after an initial poor customer service experience.
There is no doubt that consumers' demands are high. In order for service providers to stay competitive and drive customer loyalty, they need to focus on the things that matter to their customers. This includes the need to:
Meet customers where they want to be met with multichannel customer service. Consumers' expectations are constantly changing, and they have varying expectations for the channels in which they are served. Our study found that more than half of the respondents used as many as 10 mobile applications on a daily basis. Furthermore, 50 percent would be open to using a mobile customer care application before contacting the contact center for help. Another 56 percent would prefer to use a mobile application than call the contact center. As adoption of smartphones grows along with use of mobile apps, service providers need to begin putting resources behind developing these applications to meet this demand.
Utilize all of your resources. If you create a customer care Web site, make sure you are taking advantage of its full functionality. Provide visuals, video, chat capabilities, etc. The same applies to mobile applications. A smartphone is both a computer and a phone, so make sure to tap into its full power and capabilities. Provide various options for the user to search, including talk, touch, and text, which will make the mobile application both easy to use and most valuable to the consumer. Also, offer options to leverage information from all channels for the consumer to access—offer them the chance to go to a Web site or an application, chat with an agent, or call an agent.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Every company will experience a technology glitch or customer care issue at some point. It is not a matter of IF it will happen, but how you handle it with your customers that will matter most to them in the end. Most customers will accept a problem if they are not surprised. Be proactive with your communication. Don't hide from the issue; rather tell customers there is a problem, keep them informed of the progress, and then tell them when it is resolved.
Keep from hiding behind technology. Many service providers have systems in place that offer an automated menu to solve problems when consumers call into the contact center. While these systems can be useful in allowing consumers to quickly address their needs, offer the human touch and make it easy for them to reach someone if they have a problem—or if they simply prefer this method of communication.
Make it seamless. No one wants to call an automated system to start solving a problem only to have to call the contact center and start over again. Nor do they want to be on a mobile application and have to search for a number to reach a live agent. Use technology to your advantage to ensure a seamless experience that remembers the history of the consumer and makes self-service options intuitive. For service providers, customer loyalty and retention has never been more important. Simply put, keeping an existing customer carries a much lower cost than acquiring a new one. Now is the time for service providers to get ahead of the curve and find new ways to create unique and positive customer experiences. Your customers will thank you for it.
Scott Kolman is senior vice president of marketing at SpeechCycle, where he is responsible for driving industry awareness of the company's groundbreaking SmartCare Mobile solution and guiding its go-to-market strategy. He has more than 20 years of experience in the communications industry. Follow him on Twitter @speechcycle.