Mobilize Your Customer Support Team

February 18, 2011

For many years, the idea of “going mobile” was touted as a way for a company to increase return on investment (ROI); a mobile workforce was seen as a way to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve services.  And, yet, customer support staff remained stuck in the cubicle maze, tethered to their headsets, land lines, and desktops, staring morosely at the same four walls.

But that’s all changing. The rise of cellular wireless standards (now at 4G) and resultant tidal wave of wireless hotspots, handheld computers, and smartphones is transforming the way customers behave and, hence, what they expect of the customer support team at their favorite vendors and preferred brands.

If you’re not allowing your customer support folks to deliver “on the go” services via some combination of Blackberries, iPhones, iPads, Androids, Skype, emails, SMS, tweets and the like, you can be sure your competitors are … or soon will be.

For some industries, especially those small to medium-sized businesses whose clients expect 24/7 uptime and support, going mobile is not trend-setting, it’s mandatory.

Support Requests Outside Business Hours
John Packes Jr., director of product development at Mobile Card Cast, a global multi-media network which offers mobile marketing, mobile technology, and mobile advertising, recounts some last-minute support delivered via his smartphone.  “I actually answered a support request on Christmas Eve morning via my iPhone. Being in the mobile space, we’re so used to being connected all the time, answering a few support questions or helping out our customers doesn’t really feel like work because it can be done via your phone — you don’t have to be ‘plugged in’ so to speak.

“It’s more like helping out a friend than actually working, and not all that different than posting a Facebook update or tweeting.  A commercial comes on TV, you’re waiting for a train, waiting for your food to arrive — these are all opportunities to provide some quick support and great service to your customers, if you have the technology to facilitate it.”

Eric Radtke, co-founder and director of marketing at DNS.com, a provider of hosted domain name system services, points out that half of the support issues they receive are outside of U.S. business hours and, while support volume may be light, “when an issue comes in it needs an immediate response, because in our industry seconds and minutes matter. Being able to handle customer service while mobile, especially using Skype and SMS, lets us get to the root of problems much faster and provides more assurance to the customer than waiting for an email, or being on hold on the phone while a technician works on the issue.”

Moving From Notepad to iPad
Aaron Martin, national sales operations manager at Australia-based Acorn Rental, a provider of free rental cars to insurance claim customers, says the company has equipped its field service reps with database apps on their handhelds. “Our agents no longer have to deal with the usual clutch of paper-based forms when handing over a car to customers,” Martin says. “The transactions are done on their iPads using FileMaker Go.  All changes are made in real time directly to the home office FileMaker server hosting the data files.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based MacroView Labs builds mobile apps for hotel clients such as the Bellagio, Hard Rock, and MGM that integrate instant feedback features to allow for real-time rating and issues reporting. Users can create detailed feedback surveys and five-star ratings that are sent instantly to the hotel manager so that he or she can address the problem before the guest potentially decides to write a negative review.

Enabling your support team to interact with customers quickly and in a multitude of ways not only makes agents more productive and customers more satisfied, it’s really starting to become the latest incarnation of good old-fashioned relationship building.

For more on how to provide your customers with multi-channel support, read our white paper, A Guide to Multi-Channel Customer Support.

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