Customer Service? We’ve Got an App for That!

Rapid smartphone adoption has given consumers access to powerful multimedia devices with extremely sophisticated capabilities. We carry these devices with us all the time, and we use them to manage and organise all aspects of our social lives— as well as to control interactions with the different organisations with which we engage. Indeed, a significant proportion of the calls into your contact centre today are already coming from these devices.

By Julian Corden, Sabio

Is the customer calling simply because they are out and about without web access? Even if the customer does need to call, do we really need to put them through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system? Finally, if our agents are busy, should we really be wasting the customer’s time by making them queue to speak to us? Such calls wouldn’t have to be made if the customer had access to an appropriate mobile app.
There’s a much smarter and more efficient way of delivering customer service to today’s smartphone users. By creating mobile apps, organisations could potentially avoid the need for call-in customers in the first place. The benefits of this approach aren’t just felt by the customer: by avoiding unnecessary calls through mobile fulfilment and by reducing average handling times through automated customer ID and verification, contact centres can reduce staffing costs and boost customer loyalty.
Customer recognition is key
Contact centres have long struggled with understanding exactly who their customers are and why they are calling. Having this information at the outset not only greatly assists with trying to route the caller to the agent that’s best suited to helping them, but can also reduce average handling times by up to 60 seconds per call. These days, the customer is normally asked to input a series of responses via an IVR platform in order to gather such information.
Recent speech technology advances have dramatically improved the ease of use of this process, essentially replicating the traditional receptionist function before selecting the appropriate resource to handle the contact. Customers, however, would still much rather have their call answered within a couple of rings by an expert. But what if our contact centres could know exactly who is calling them and why—even before the customer places the call? The customer experience would change dramatically. First, we could completely remove IVR from the customer experience. Using our knowledge of the customer’s identity and the reason for his/her call, we can ensure that interactions are routed directly to the appropriate agent.
And here’s where smartphones enter the picture: They carry the potential to store all of the identification and verification data. Today’s consumers already have to remember a multitude of different identification and verification tokens such as usernames, membership numbers, card numbers, account numbers, passwords and “out of wallet” questions. Mobile apps can serve as a secure “locker” for this data; hence, users will only need to input required security data into an application once and have a single password to access their data in the future.
Taking this concept one step further, the location awareness of mobile devices can also be used to support different security profiles, depending on where the device is being used. If the user is at home, for example, a password would not be required for the utility company’s metre-reading app. However, when away from the home, the password is reactivated. This approach would require the user to establish “safe zones,” with security profiles recognising your location via GPS.
The ultimate goal is to greatly enhance the ease with which your organisation does business, while still maintaining the right security levels for each task. For applications that require a higher level of security—such as large fund transfers or financial trades—the multi-modal capabilities of mobile devices can once again be leveraged. A trade, for example, could be set up using a smartphone, but only confirmed when the user authorises it with his/her voice biometric. This would simply require the user to speak their “passphrase” into the smartphone to authorise the transaction.
Alternatively, an even more convenient biometric could be achieved by accessing the front-facing camera that is increasingly integrated into smartphones. Biometric face recognition provides an incredibly convenient and secure way of passing security on a smartphone in a non-intrusive manner. The smartphone does this by using the camera to plot the key characteristics of the customer’s face. Once the faceprint is registered, users will only have to look at their device to pass security. Using these wellestablished biometrics will offer new and unprecedented levels of security and convenience to smartphones users.
Clearly, businesses have yet to fully exploit the potential of the app phenomenon, particularly in industries where customer service is key.