With many of us spending more time on our smartphones than ever before, there’s no shortage of business cases a company could make for developing its own mobile app. Strangely enough, though, customer service is often not one of them.
It’s not that companies are creating apps without thinking through the ways in which they could enhance the customer experience they deliver. A great mobile app could extend your e-commerce capabilities, for instance, so that people don’t have to be sitting at home to quickly place and track an order.
Some apps are created with more of a marketing objective in mind. The app may offer a way for customers to sign up and receive promotions, discounts and other rewards as part of a customer loyalty program. When your customers are engaged with an app like that, it also becomes a great vehicle for launching new products and services.
While those sorts of ideas will often help get the green light to go ahead and develop an app, however, it’s the service and support capabilities that could determine whether your customers give you more business or not (and perhaps uninstalling the app).
As always, this is an area where thinking about your customer personas and imagining how they would interact with an app will keep you on the right path.
Imagine a customer who is using an app and sees an alert about a new appliance they want to get in their kitchen. If they created an account within the app, your marketing team was probably able to confidently predict this offer would interest them.
As they look at the product in the app more closely, though, the customer has some questions. They might not understand the product specs. Maybe they are unsure whether they have to install it themselves or could pay your firm to do it. What if they believe there is a smaller (or cheaper) model and they want insight on the differences?
If the customer has to leave the app, go online and look for your company’s toll-free number or email address, it’s not just your app that has let them down. The overall customer experience has failed them.
This is why service and support leaders need to be part of app development conversations early on, so they can provide some guidance on where customers might need assistance.
These are the capabilities the team could be considering as part of the development process:
Remember going to the mall and seeing a large digital display with a map of all the stores and a “YOU ARE HERE” arrow? Those still exist, but they can draw crowds around them and you still have to make an educated guess about where you’re going.
The same problem exists at hotels, resorts, museums and many other public spaces. Wayfinding isn’t always considered as something linked to the customer service department, but it shares the same value in providing answers when people need it.
A good app could offer wayfinding that’s laser-accurate, thanks to a smartphone’s internal GPS features.
There are a growing number of us who now spend so much time texting we can type with our phones almost as quickly as we speak. That makes offering conversations directly within an app a no-brainer for most brands.
Some companies have a chatbot available the moment you open an app. It’s a way of welcoming customers in a friendly manner. At the same time, they are double-checking that customers understand everything they need to know about the app, the company’s products and services or its policies.
The answers to the most frequently-asked questions can be pre-programmed into a chatbot, and those with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities can learn from each interaction and add more answers over time.
You can also have an in-app chat that connects directly to your contact centre for those who have more complex questions, or who want help from a live agent. There may be other kinds of apps where a chatbot doesn’t pop up right away, but can be activated by a button the moment customers need support.
Depending on what else they’re doing at the time, customers might only have a limited ability to read within an app. Usually, though, they can watch something.
Explainer videos can be used to help customers understand the layout and features of the app itself. They could also serve as another form of digitized FAQ list, except that they show as well as tell customers the things they want to know about.
Video isn’t just a great medium for pre-recorded assets, though. It can be a way for customers to directly engage with key members of your team when the occasion demands it.
Examples here include a store associate who can’t get to a customer right away, an offsite expert who can give customers options about a service they’re thinking about using, or a technician who can teach customers some self-service techniques when they need to repair a product themselves.
The conversations within an app don’t have to be limited to you and your customers. You can design an app with messaging capabilities so that customers can talk to each other.
These virtual communities can offer up another avenue for customers to take a self-serve approach to their problems, or simply answer each other’s questions. (It can also help a lot in terms of driving engagement with the app overall.)
Finally, remember that your app can offer a critical mechanism for capturing the voice of your customers. You can use in-app ratings, set up feedback surveys or even encourage them to share their experiences via audio or video clip.
There will always be some customers who want to get out of an app, put down their smartphone and use a different route to getting the customer service they need. That’s okay.
The point is to offer a true omnichannel service and support experience — and you don’t have that unless you’re providing help through a mobile app along with everything else.