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Issue 15 | December 2015

After wrapping up some work in California one morning, I flew to Baltimore (a 4.5-hour flight) and dropped into a popular clothing store ("fine haberdashery") on the way to my destination in Annapolis, Maryland. I selected a few things and handed my credit card to the cashier. He swiped it, paused, swiped it again, and, looking over his reading glasses at me, asked if I cared to use another card. That's odd, I thought, this card should work.

I made my way to a corner of the store, dialed the number on the back of the card, and entered the account information prompted by the system (quite a juggling act between my phone, card and knee–as–makeshift–workstation). When I reached an agent, the first thing he requested was ... you guessed it ... the account number. I repeated the information, he pulled up the file, and he could see that the card was suspended because it had been used that day in a different part of the country (yep, me in L.A. five hours earlier). It's worth noting that the credit card is affiliated with an airline. He apologized, explained what had happened and immediately turned on the card.

It's amazing how much mobile has changed things since that experience only a few years ago: instant notifications, thumbprint authentication, capabilities that make communication much easier than whispering long numbers in public spaces. And by all predictions, we're just getting warmed up.

Thanks so much for reading, and have a wonderful 2016!

I hope you enjoy this issue.

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland


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There are an estimated 7 billion active mobile phone subscriptions today—one for every living person on the planet, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Of course, the number can be misleading, given that many people in developed regions have multiple devices, while others still do not have access. Even so, the proliferation of mobile, growing percentage of the world's population that has a device, and prevalence of smartphones (at close to 3 billion) represent stunning social and technological developments.

The impact on sales alone—never mind all the ways service is delivered—is eye–popping. Goldman Sachs estimates that through 2015, 686 million consumers around the globe will have made a purchase on their mobile devices. By 2018, the number is projected to be 1.9 billion.

For those shaping and managing customer services and the overall customer experience, this is getting interesting! You'll find it no surprise that mobile represented the largest growth in access channel usage over the past year, according to ICMI research:

  • Mobile 18.9%
  • Chat 12.5%
  • Social media 9%
  • Video 7%
  • SMS 6.4%

Mobile is, of course, much more than just a channel. From a service and interaction perspective, mobile can enable new channels (e.g., interactions that begin within mobile apps), can be a seamless conduit to existing channels (i.e., phone, chat, social communities, and others), and can facilitate new combinations (e.g., texting a picture or short video to an insurance adjuster while reviewing the case with them).

So, how do you cultivate an effective mobile strategy? How do you tackle this vast and fast–changing opportunity?

My emphatic encouragement is to start by getting your organization aligned. Ensure that everybody, across functional areas, is working towards the same objectives.

I recall visiting a health care organization that was working on a suite of mobile–based health management tools—very useful new apps. But they were being developed and launched largely independent of contact center involvement (different divisions, separate teams). The results were predictable: service misses and gaps. The solution was to create a cross–functional team (marketing, IT, contact center, et al.) with a comprehensive view of the customer experience, and then incorporate planning activities into ongoing developments. Customer experience improved quickly.

Once the organization is on board and a working group established, there are some emerging practices we strongly encourage you to incorporate, including:

  • Shape your mobile customer service strategy. As outlined here, this involves anticipating customer expectations, including the features and functions they desire (e.g., text); updating your customer access strategy; and putting processes in place to effectively handle the different types of workload that will evolve.
  • Cultivate unified tools and processes. This helps reduce customer effort, facilitates a 360–degree view of the customer and the context of service interactions, and, ultimately, enables an engaging experience. This step also involves ensuring that agents have the tools they need.
  • Establish direct links and easy transitions between the channels. Some channels are more suitable for evolving issues than others (e.g., agent interactions can sometimes benefit from providing on–the–fly links to Web resources). There is a lot of room for improvement here. Research conducted by Aspect indicates that 61% of customers have not been able to easily switch from one channel to another when interacting with customer service. On the upside, Twitter research found that "when brands created personal interactions—defined as conversations that included the customer's name and the customer service rep's signature in tweets—77% of those customers were likely to recommend the brand."
  • Get your apps in good shape. By all means, don't dither—get them out there. But you've got to ensure they are ready for prime time. In results that were probably no surprise, a Compuware study found that customers have little tolerance for glitchy or unstable mobile apps. Specifically, 71% of users have a low tolerance for unstable apps and will delete an app if it crashes. And 79% of users report that they would only retry an app once or twice if it failed to work the first time. Speed is also important; Walmart boosted conversions 2% simply by improving app load time from 7.2 to 2.9 seconds.
  • Finally, as you think through your strategy, don't be afraid of enabling seamless connections to agents. (The mobile app of one of the airlines I often fly provides easy alternatives. I'll always go as far as possible with self-serve, confident that help is available if needed. Another carrier I fly makes reaching an agent from their app far less intuitive; their intent might be to avoid calls, but I tend to call sooner and more often, not wanting to start from scratch if something gets complicated.)

Mobile is an unprecedented opportunity to differentiate through service. Restructure your organization as needed, update your customer access strategy, and plan and manage workloads as they evolve. Above all, ensure that strategy and planning in this fast-moving space is a living, ongoing part of your organization's development.

Recent Issues

Retailers reported that sales via smartphones grew an average of 87% in 2014.
(Source: Forrester, 2015 report)

71% of in–store shoppers who use smartphones for research say their device has become more important to their in-store experience.
(Source: Google)

59% of consumers have received an advertising message on their smartphone from a brand or retailer related to their current location. 84% of these consumers said they are somewhat, very, or extremely likely to respond to these types of offers.
(Source: Stratecast)

74% of customers use three or more channels for customer service–related issues.
(Source: ICMI)

More than a third of the time (35%), customers expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative on any channel.
(Source: Zendesk)

23% of shoppers using a mobile phone in–store use a social network. More than half of them use the social network for product or brand discovery or for peer feedback on purchases, rather than for socializing.
(Source: Millward Brown Digital)

Assemble a cross-functional team for a quick (60– to 90–minute) brainstorm on how mobile will impact each of the ten components of your customer access strategy (You do have a customer access strategy? ☺), including:

  • Customers (segments, prospects)
  • Types of interactions
  • Access channels (Web, phone, chat, mobile, social, et al.)
  • Hours of operation (by channel)
  • Service level objectives
  • Routing methodology
  • People/technology resources required
  • Information required
  • Analysis, improvement process
  • Guidelines for deploying new channels and services

What did you find? Does your CAS need an update? What are the next steps to put that initiative in motion?

  • New ebook (free), ICMI's Guide to Contact Center Metrics, by Brad Cleveland and Justin Robbins.
  • See the new statistics page at www.bradcleveland.com, with sections on customer expectations, contact centers, and social/mobile/tech.
  • ICYMI, here's a short (four-minute) video Brad and the ICMI team developed that shows how service has evolved over the past three decades.
  • Public workshop opportunity with Brad: Orlando, FL, March 7–10, 2016, Brad will facilitate two courses on contact center strategy and management.

*Brad delivers many private keynotes, workshops, and executive briefings to organizations and associations. For more information, contact info@bradcleveland.com.

Brad has devoted his career to maximizing the value of customer-facing services. As a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, and president/CEO, he has seen change from many perspectives and has a deep understanding of the critical importance of customer service delivery to an organization's success. He has worked across 45 states and in 60 countries, and has been privileged to assist in the evolution of service delivery for clients such as American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, USAA, and others, as well as for governments across the globe. Brad serves as a senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and is an in-demand speaker and consultant.

To inquire about consulting or speaking, connect through any of the channels below.

© 2015 Brad Cleveland   All Rights Reserved