Shaheen Haque, Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at Interactive Intelligence

The rise of smart devices in Egypt and a focus on customer loyalty has created the proverbial "perfect storm" for enterprises that want to reinvent the customer experience around smartphones and tablets. Gartner research indicates that 39.7 million smartphones were sold in the Middle East and Africa last year, and this is expected to grow to 65 million units this year. Global smartphone sales stood at 676 million last year and tablets at 116 million. According to a recent report by InMobi, the penetration of smartphones in Egypt stands at 26%. This is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years.

Shaheen Haque, Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at Interactive Intelligence says that these devices can help solve some of the challenges that have plagued the contact centre industry for more than 30 years. For example, caller identity, intent, and call context (what the customer tried immediately before calling) can be easily and passively established before a call begins. Caller expectations can be better managed, and enterprises can smooth the arrival rate of calls with intelligent, resource aware call-back.

Once calls are set up, interactions can be augmented with the use of data services in parallel to voice, for example by pushing content to a user's device. Mobile is a “hot initiative” in many organizations today, but the ability to translate momentum into the development of customer care capabilities varies widely based on organizational dynamics and the centre of gravity for mobile strategy within an enterprise. Simply put, the biggest challenge to the rapid implementation of smart, connected interactions is for customer care teams to collaborate effectively with teams they may not have worked with in the past. The ownership of mobile strategy within an organization dictates the approaches that care teams must take to bringing mobile capabilities to market.

Looking beyond traditional measures 

Serving consumers in a world where the frame and basis of customer engagement is rapidly shifting is one of the biggest challenges for organizations today. With the consumerisation of customer service communication taking root, implementing a successful customer care strategy means enterprises need to look beyond traditional measures and explore how they can serve the customer on the customer’s terms. A growing number of enterprises are supporting social media, SMS, web chat, and video in conjunction with traditional voice, web, and email channels. However, despite the proliferation of these alternative customer service channels the voice channel remains the most popular for customers attempting to resolve issues at the first attempt.

Mobility is upending how customer care is delivered

With voice still the dominant component of customer care, it is fair to describe most service environments as reactive. In most cases a business does nothing, takes no action, until a customer makes an inquiry. Things change slowly in this environment, but change they do. The last decade has brought a series of incremental changes to the operation of customer care. Of late those evolutionary developments have sped up quickly and become revolutionary. The context that governs the transactional relationship between an enterprise and its customers has expanded beyond landline calls into multiple channels spread across numerous media. This is challenging enough for customer care planners and the vendors that support them. When you add mobility you create a technological and operational combination that upends many of the traditional notions of how to care for customers.

Smart devices represent paradigm shifts in the way customers relate to the companies they interact with by simplifying consumer access to customer service across multiple channels. Customers’ ability to use voice, mobile apps, SMS, email, web self-service, web chat, video and social media to engage with a company through a single device is forcing enterprises to rethink their customer service strategies. While contact centers have paid a lot of attention to adapting to new contact channels they have not yet had to deal with customers who have access to all these channels (and regular voice) embedded in a single mobile device. Prudent enterprises see the device as a critical chokepoint where they can differentiate themselves when it comes to the customer experience and customer service, and are also leveraging mobile app and device capabilities to help reduce costs. The next few years will witness a proliferation of apps on smart devices as they increasingly become the heart of communication between the customer and the enterprise.

Defining a new kind of customer engagement: the smart, connected interaction

In order to ensure that the customer service in a mobile world is successful, it is important to define a new kind of customer engagement. Interactions with the customer should be smart and connected. From the business’s point of view, such interactions are more cost-effective because they allow for more careful resource allocations and better returns on potential sales opportunities. In addition, smart interactions are, by definition, better measured. Once a company moves beyond offering a straight up voice call, it needs to track more ambitious metrics such as customer value, transaction value, churn, customer longevity, and sales opportunities converted. In a fully realised SCI environment, customer–company interactions will be completed in one “touch”, extending the notion of first contact resolution to a broader spectrum of channels across devices. From the business’s point of view, such interactions are more cost effective because they allow for more careful resource allocations and better returns on potential sales opportunities. In addition, smart interactions are, by definition, better measured.

Better measurements contribute to the continued delivery of better service throughout the customer’s lifecycle. Thus the key to customer service in a mobile world is to focus on those customer interactions that have context relay to the enterprise.

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