At the end of 2011, there were six billion mobile subscriptions – the equivalent to 87 percent of the world’s population. It’s estimated that a total of 686 million smartphones will be sold in 2012. Smartphones and tablets now account for about a fifth of U.S. and Canadian web traffic. Numbers don’t lie and these statistics point to one clear conclusion – we live in a mobile-driven world.
Mobile devices have become integrated into users’ daily lives and the demand for getting real-time information at the touch of the fingertips is no longer a luxury – it’s now expected. Despite the love affair with mobile devices, there often come headaches and frustrations due to technical problems and annoyances. Smartphone users often struggle with battery life problems, microphone malfunctions and connection issues, while tablet users complain most about LED display failures, USB connection problems and poor microphone quality. Also, unique to PC users, many of the features and functionalities of a mobile device are new to consumers. Many users are just trying to understand how to get the most from their device, including how to use apps and how to connect their device to other technology in the home.
New technology today allows for connectivity to practically everything in the home – including the Internet, TVs, printers, sound systems and gaming consoles – to be controlled by a mobile device. This opens up new challenges for the service provider.
In the connected home the lines have blurred between services, devices, and experiences, resulting in high-operational costs for technical support helpdesks. Out-of-scope service requests are the norm and without addressing the issue up-front with the proper tools, training, business process, and policies, the business faces significant costs associated with end-user support and is at risk of losing its customers. As advances in consumer technology become more complex, there’s a need for businesses to support customers far beyond the point of purchase or risk facing higher support costs, dissatisfied customers, no-fault-found returns, and loss of future revenues. Telecommunications providers, retailers and OEMs are all facing unique new challenges and need to adapt to provider a greater level of support to customers.
Telecommunications service providers, more often than not, are tasked with servicing customers on many devices that are out-of-scope because they are connected to the service provider’s Internet services. While they could easily take a “not my problem” approach, customer experience is a critical component of the service provider industry, and often the greatest competitive differentiator. This leaves the burden on the telecommunications industry. For example, if you’re wireless network isn’t working, you don’t call Cisco (formerly Linksys), you likely call your Internet provider.
Consumer electronics retailers often provide a “one-and-done” customer service that doesn’t go far beyond the purchase transaction. As more consumers are connecting to multiple devices, however, it’s important to maintain these relationships to foster potential future purchases while avoiding expensive no-fault-found return costs. Retailers are beginning to see the benefit of offering technical support plans to their customers to ensure that devices are set-up and working correctly and continue to work over time, encouraging repeat customers.
Much like retailers, OEMs are starting to see the value in offering premium technical support plans that service customers beyond the point of purchase. For example, think of Apple loyalists. Part of their loyalty comes from the Apple customer experience. Apple provides the Genius bar and exceptional device support. In return, customers are loyal and tend to own multiple Apple devices. With more and more manufacturers offering multiple products, and more customers owning multiple connected devices, OEMs need to support customers across their devices to increase loyalty and influence purchase behavior.
Even if the technology issue facing the customer doesn’t concern your business, telling a customer “we can’t help you” will ultimately hurt the customer relationship. Maintaining a high-level of customer satisfaction and fostering greater business loyalty among users means that changes must be made to the way telecom service providers, retailers and manufacturers approach the technical support role.
First, these businesses must recognize that only with premium technical support can they truly address all of their challenges. The premium technical support center must enable agents to recognize and diagnose problems outside of their primary business. Specialized teams have become irrelevant and lead to routing and re-routing of calls, which only further frustrate the customer. Second, the technical support role must be built on a solid technology foundation and clear processes that enable agents to quickly and effectively resolve consumer issues. As technology, especially mobile technology changes rapidly, the ability to tap into a system that captures real-time technology challenges and appropriate solutions, can help agents provide the most effective technology fixes. Also, the ability to access a full view of the customer, their previous purchases and recent technology support calls, helps agents offer customized solutions for that particular caller.
Telecom carriers, retailers, and device manufacturers can only drive adoption of mobile technology, if consumers know how to use the devices and related technologies. In order to grow the bottom line and remain competitive in increasingly competitive markets, these companies need to extend services that will strengthen customer relationships and increase loyalty.
Jordan Socran is Vice President of Business Development at Radialpoint