How to Do Mobile Customer Service (With Videos!)

Yes.  I gave in to the dark side… the title is a little link-baitish… I will admit that.

But, there is good content (and they are videos) associated with it.

Here is the scoop…

A couple of years ago I started working with a large number of brands on their approach to mobile customer service.  We tried, experimented, tested different things and in the process I came up with a nifty little model for adoption of mobile customer service which I have been improving ever since.

It’s a generational approach, each generation building on the previous one, and it has proven successful time and again.  You start simple and grow in complexity as you go along, learning and doing more.

Just like life – or school (just got back from my kid’s back to school night… always wondering how we did have fun before we had kids in school… I digress, sorry Sameer).

In the process, my friends at Salesforce asked me to do a few videos with advice on customer service and we all thought that this model (and its implications) were a good topic.

Now, just like in life – attention is limited and short.  My attention span these days is limited to… what was i saying?

Right, so we created the concept of customer service minute (more like between 1 and 2 minutes each) and crafted five awesome videos that answer the basic questions about mobile customer service.

I promise you, they are very much worthy if you are embarking on mobile customer service.  Trust me.  Years of experience condensed in 7-10 minutes of wisdom, examples, and statistics.

You are welcome, it’s what I do.

Click on this link (registration required, but its painless) and you can access the five videos.  Come back if you want to chat about them or leave some comments… or have a conversation.

If you want to get more on this, or anything related to customer service, come to my Dreamforce session:

Thought Leader: Keeping Your Customers Happy in Today’s Connected World, Tue, Sep 15, 3:00 PM-3:40 PM 
View Session Details

Or simple, leave your thoughts below.  Thanks.

note: if you have spare cycles and are in customer service, can you pretty please fill out my survey on usage and adoption? much appreciated…

disclaimer: as you can imagine, Salesforce.com is a client.  They are an active retainer client and have been for a few years.  I am grateful to their contribution to my vices (like mortgages, food for the kids, clothes, etc.) and as always they don’t get to tell me what to do  (yes, it does frustrate them – just ask them).  Content is entirely mine, final edit and veto power is mine, and what to talk about and what to say is my decision.  Call it what you may, I call it a cool relationship where we both get what we need: great content and fed kids.  And no obligations on either side. Win-win

Evangelizing Omni-Channel (Why It’s NOT the Answer)

One of the topics that we set out to discover during out surveys past two years (note: take our survey this year, please? was whether organizations and practitioners were already on board with the concept of omni-channel.  What we found out was pretty much in line with what we expected: it is too early for them to focus on it.

Alas, the main problem we found (both outside of this research project as well as those people we tapped for follow-up discussions) was the lack of definition of omni-channel.  Indeed, there is confusion between multi-channel and omni-channel – and this is the biggest hindrance to its adoption.

We all understand single-channel as it is the origin of all customer service.  Customer service was provided person-to-person, over the phone via call center, or (in the case of more modern companies) via email or chat or any other single-channel.  Even as we grew operations and added new channels (e.g. from call center to simple contact center supporting email) we continued to support the channels separately as single-channel.  This was done partly by lack of understanding by call centers of what a contact center did as well as by not having available methods to share resources and technologies.

As we began to evolve customer service and added more channels (and found ways to share the underlying technologies and solutions – like knowledge bases and rules servers) the concept of multi-channel began to emerge.  Either as a fully integrated solution where all common components are leveraged and shared or as a collection of single-channel solutions that share some components in different ways, multi-channel became the definition of a contact center that had more than one channel operating successfully, had some integration between them for supporting tools and components, but was not yet fully operational as a single solution for all channels.

The concept of operating all channels as one always lacked one component: a single, combined, all-encompassing data model that allowed a transaction to be tracked across all channels and all interactions. If, for example, a customer started at the web site to find marketing information about a product, continued with an email asking for clarification of pricing, a phone call to further clarify an obscure point in the literature, then purchased the product via a third-party eCommerce site and came to a physical store for technical support in their minds that is one interaction, one experience.  For the organization that would be a minimum of five interactions (and in some cases, a much scarier multiple of that).

Closing this gap between expectations and delivery is where the idea of omni-channel becomes attractive.  There are two parts to delivering to this model and the first one is the technology necessary to make it happen behind the scenes.  This has been solved by leveraging and aggregating common components before – but usually falling short at cross-channel tracking.  Implementing the ability to use a single, common data model that pulls in data from multiple systems and interaction and maintains them as a common interaction is the first challenge – omni-channel cannot happen before cross-channel integration exists in the contact center.  We are just beginning to see implementations of cross-channel tracking and the initial results are encouraging.

Once cross-channel tracking is present, organizations can then focus on using that data and technology model to deliver to customers’ expectation of a single, cross-channel, and cross-interaction experience based on intent (the second of the portions of omni-channel).

If you think that omni-channel is as simple as delivering across channels, go back and read the paragraph above: it needs to be based on intent (thus, changing at each experience), based on previous and future predicted interactions (while keeping them together as one – whether it is a new one or a continuation of a previous one), and play equally across all channels (while realizing there are differences between channels that may not allow for equal delivery of all interactions across all channels).

The complexity of an omni-channel delivery is just barely starting to be addressed by organizations, and it is mostly the lack of understanding on their side of the myriad complexities associated with it that makes it slow going.  As one of the respondents of the survey told us when we followed up, just the idea of understanding what differentiates one interaction from the other based on intent causes a migraine.

Technology is available (hint: it requires multiple vendors from different technology sections) and desire is there – the lack of tangible methodologies and use cases (or even better, case studies and lessons learned) is what is causing it to not be fully adopted in real life.  Even if the organization can get past the lack of information and the complex technical aspects, political considerations and infighting are the next challenge to overcome – how to make different departments or business units work together towards a common goal.

Our surveys (2013, 2014) showed that only a handful of people are working on implementing omni-channel, while a large number (still short of mainstream adoption at one-third of the market) is doing something about it.  This is a good start.  The next best step is to evangelize and agree on a common concept of what omni-channel means so we can focus on growing adoption, finding lessons learned, and write the case studies that will help push adoption to higher levels.

At the end, the message to get across is that by implementing a two-stage omni-channel solution (infrastructure for the organization and software solutions to deliver to customers’ expectations) is getting the organization closer to the three R’s that encompass the organization-customer relationship in this age of the customer:

Right answer; Right channel; Right time.

SHAMELESS PLUG – While this was written in 2013 (but never published before) as a result of findings to the survey that year – it is still applicable today (and going forward).  If you want to help me find more insights like this, please take our survey this year… many thanks.

Customer Service Research – One More Time!

Yes, its that time of the year.

The (now) fourth version of this wonderful research on Customer Service Usage and Adoption report is coming back!

I know, I know.  Hard to contain your excitement… me too.

Here’s the scoop.  I have been running this report for the past three years under the sponsorship of KANA (née Sword Ciboodle) but the new leadership at Verint decided against creating fresh, unique content and instead wanted to focus their energy somewhere else.

I wished them well, and set out to find another sponsor.  As you know, I ask people to pay for my vices (doing research) in exchange for access to fresh content.  Works quite well, and helps me do the research I want to do (everything is my choice, including final veto).  You benefit by getting data that is not available elsewhere.

Among the many interested vendors I talked to, there was one that was the most interesting given our relationship and their status in the market.  After a short back-and-forth the Salesforce Service Cloud team has become the new sponsor.  Thanks, many, again.

Everything else remains the same: questions about usage, adoption, trends, and new things.  In addition to continuing asking about traditional contact center channels and technologies (including social) we are adding this year questions on mobile, communities, and even — nah, you will have to take it to find out…

As you know we discovered in past years the data that backed up the assertions that:

There were others, like when we first reported massive adoption of Facebook and Twitter – before anyone else, and many more.  But I don’t want to repeat the past findings – rather find the new ones.

Here is the link.  You will spend 20-25 minutes of your time answering the 21 questions (plus a few demographics) and you will get a copy of the results in return.  Also, invited to a webinar to share all results – and if you happen to attend Dreamforce 2015 in a few weeks you get access to the original, fresh, new content that will come from this research.

Nothing to lose, all to win – what do you say?

Take the survey?

Don’t Listen to Me. Listen to MIT. Get Out of Facebook.

Short post from my phone while I get the oil changed in my car. 

Yesterday I tweeted this. 

I did some work and research on neural networks, artificial intelligence, machine learning and such back in my youth (early to mid 1980s).  Thankfully nothing that would cause the world to come to an end or machine intelligence to derail.

This article explains quite well the evolution since those early neural networks to today. And the reason why Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawkins among others are sounding the bell about AI. 

It’s getting spooky. 

The reason I linked to that article is the same reason I’m staying out of Facebook. I don’t want to feed the machine. The calmness with which LeCun explains deep learning and the implications of it makes it sound like an engineering problem is being solved. 

It is.

The problem is that the engineering problem being solved is how imprecise humans are. And it will be solved in the next decade. 

I doubt that me staying out of Facebook will stop this. And I also doubt that Google (with whom I share limited information) is not doing the same. I am not stopping the evolution by doing this. 

But hopefully you get the threat a littler better. 

And stay out of Facebook.