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Recently I read that each person has an average of 1.8 devices connected to the Internet, and this number is likely to grow as people continue to buy smartphones and tablets. In parallel, the number of apps available in the various app stores is growing exponentially, with the iPhone store alone having more than 700,000 active apps. The big question for me is how much of this is about business and how much is purely social. Recently GenesysInteractive IntelligenceJacadamplsystems and NICE Systems made announcements showing they are banking on a greater portion being about business, as they all released tools that allow organizations to build what they call mobile customer service apps.

What is a mobile customer service app? As I explained during a recent webinar, it is an evolution from early times when all consumers could do was to use their favorite search engine on a mobile device to access an organization’s website. This had its limitations, not least from an accessibility point of view, and so provided very limited customer service capabilities, often limited to viewing FAQs. Next came what I call the business-specific app; for example a banking app produced by a bank that allows its customers to carry out a limited number of transactions: look up the balance of an account, for instance, or make a payment. While these advance mobile customer service, they have their limitations too, which boil down to the fact that if a transaction goes wrong the only option is to leave the app, call the contact center and start the process over again.

The latest developments aim to overcome both of these sets of limitations. They include a “click to call” icon, which allows consumers to reach the contact center without leaving the app. This means organizations can bypass IVR because the system is smart enough to recognize the caller, passing data already collected in the app to the person handling the interaction so the caller doesn’t have to start again, and giving the agent a running start in handling the interaction. If the caller wants or there is no agent available, the software can enable a callback to fit the caller’s circumstances. The most innovative of the tools allow developers to take advantage of the latest mobile device features such as touch screen data input, integration with GPS data and sharing of all forms of data, such as pictures or video. This combination of features should enhance the customer experience and contact center operations.

I say “should” because as with most innovative technologies I have my reservations as to whether they will gain wide adoption and indeed live up to customer expectations. The first challenge is for companies to choose the right app and include the right capabilities. The whole point of any app is customer use; if customers don’t use it or use it only a few times then it is unlikely to have a major impact. From the roundtables I chair at Directors’ Club customer experience days I know that many companies are struggling to see where they can mobilize their business. The discussions illustrate that companies need to think outside the box to identify what to do; quite often other members of the discussion give participants ideas they hadn’t dreamed of. A few of the discussions identified another best practice – design the app from the customer’s perspective, not the company’s. One of the most successful cases I heard came from two IT guys who developed an app for fun and designed it with what they would like to do in mind. Eventually, without any promotion, it garnered 10,000 downloads, and apparently their company is now hooked on mobile apps.

The use of smart mobile devices is increasing, and the use of mobile customer service apps will increase along with it. However, in these early days, companies need to get things right in order to avoid another version of “everyone hates IVR” with “everyone hating mobile apps.”  I’m interested in the experiences you and your company are having with mobile apps; please come and collaborate with us.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

The parent company of mplSystems, Message Pad Ltd., was founded in the U.K. in 1994 and provides the infrastructure to support contact center operations. mplSystems’ main product family is intelligentContact (iContact), which is available either on premises or in the cloud. It is an interesting mix of products that covers call, email, chat, SMS, social media management and routing from a universal queue, a new social media product that routes social media posts to agents and provides the interface through which agents can respond. It offers some WFO capabilities, such as call recording, quality monitoring and workforce management, along with a new tool set that allows companies to build mobile customer service apps and a suite of reporting and analytics tools. Companies can choose to deploy as many of these applications as they require, adding more at a later date based on business demands to build a solution that meets the organization’s business requirements. mplSystems provides services to work with customers on these type of projects.

Based on user case studies, companies can rapidly build solutions that meet business and user expectations. The resulting systems can then be deployed on the customer’s premises or can be hosted in the MPL Aurora cloud and accessed through the public Internet or a private cloud. The latter option allows companies not only to choose functionality on a needs basis but also to scale the number of users based on demand. The system can be integrated with existing PBX or ACD systems, allowing companies to continue to gain value from existing systems. It includes integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM so that companies can embed a softphone in user screens, simplifying the process of handling calls while providing access to required customer information. The system integrates communications management and WFO, the two core components required to support multichannel contact center operations.

Another key component is intelligentDesktop, a smart desktop web interface that companies can build by dragging and dropping components to offer any or all of the other functionality to employees handling interactions. This is unique way to custom-integrate capabilities. My recent research into the agent desktop shows that an appropriately customized desktop can make a vital difference to the customer experience. Mature companies have found it makes agents’ lives easier, allows them to support more types of interactions and communication channels, makes them happier and thus leads to improved customer experience and better performance against key customer metrics (and average handling time goes down as well).

The final product in mplSystems’ portfolio provides field service management, allowing companies to better manage their field service engineers. intelligentMobile is available as a mobile app, allowing integration with key smartphone capabilities such as maps and location intelligence and providing capabilities for service engineers to manage tasks through their phones. Although designed with field service in mind, from what I saw companies could use intelligentMobile to management other customer-related tasks.

mplSystems is not a globally recognized contact center provider, but it now has more than a thousand customers in 10 countries. Its portfolio of products is different from that of most companies I cover, and its integration of interaction management, WFO and the desktop is especially interesting.  I recommend companies that want to support multiskilled employees handling multiple types of interactions and communication channels take a serious look at mplSystems as they seek to improve interaction handling and the customer experience.

Regards

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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