Mobile Self-Service Adds Another Nuance

Taking customer care directly to the customers is an important next step for the business world, as individuals are increasingly conducting business transactions on their handheld mobile devices. One application targeting this emerging trend is the newly launched Nuance Mobile Care, the latest offering from Nuance Communications, the Burlington, Mass.–based provider of speech and imaging solutions.

Nuance Mobile Care is designed to help users solve simple problems by themselves -- including customer care and billing issues -- directly on their handset, eliminating the need for interactive voice response (IVR) systems or live agents except when absolutely necessary. "Having this as a visual experience on their handsets gives consumers one more channel to save time and get self-service as fast as possible," says Hetal Pandya, director of products for mobile care at Nuance. "Some people just hate IVRs, so we're giving them a different venue."

Key consumer-facing features include:

  • View account and pay bills — customers can access and view their account information and pay bills directly on their mobile devices.
  • Manage plan — consumers can peruse their current plan details and, if necessary, can upgrade their plans based on usage information.
  • Device support — includes multiple handset platforms, such as those running Windows Mobile and Symbian operating systems.

Pandya says that Mobile Care's user interface is a key differentiator. "It has the speed the consumer expects but does not block [him] from going to a live agent," she stresses. "It provides a path for the user, so there is no feeling that [he is] stuck in a channel and cannot get out."

She likens the Mobile Care solution to self-service kiosks found in many airports: Live agents manning the counter are often located right next to the kiosk and are sometimes free to help travelers, and yet many customers will still use the self-service route for tasks such as obtaining boarding passes and check-in. "It's just faster," she says.

The key is in the user experience, Pandya says -- an experience improved by the fact that users of the embedded Mobile Care solution don't have to download any separate applications onto their devices. "Ultimately it's a carrier product," she says, "and the need to manage, maintain, and update the experience [behind the scenes] without bothering the consumer is very important."

Pandya is quick to point out that there are also clear gains for any business incorporating Mobile Care into its customer service repertoire. She points to Nuance-sponsored research that indicates the average live-agent call costs approximately $5. The company claims that, during Mobile Care's beta-testing period, users made roughly 60 percent fewer calls directed to live agents.

Tony Cripps, principal analyst at London-based telecommunications and consulting firm Ovum, echoes Pandya's sentiments and calls Mobile Care a well-timed offering, given the depths of the ongoing recession. "The growing complexity of mobile handsets and services has led to a significant increase in customer-care call volumes and resultant costs to operators," he said, in a statement. "Products that let operators fix common problems directly on a user's device without involving a live agent offer both user-experience and cost-saving benefits -- especially important in the current economy."

[For more on CRM amid the economic downturn, see the February 2009 edition of CRM magazine, The Recession Issue.]

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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