The mobile channel: The time is now
Agencies no doubt realize that more and more of their constituents are access their contact centers through mobile devices, such as smart phones, but so far few have paid any especial attention to it. For most, it’s just one more way that people will be trying to get information among the spectrum of other channels that already exist and are developing.
But mobile is becoming a major issue that needs to be addressed, and soon, according to Keith Dawson, contract center analyst at Ovum Research. For one thing, some 30 to 40 percent of the inbound traffic at contact centers now originates from mobile devices “and that’s already ahead of our forecast from just a couple of years ago,” he said.
Unfortunately, many contact centers don’t appreciate the importance of the mobile channel. Instead, many of them are betting that social media, for example, will be the big change in the way contact centers do business, Dawson said.
“My view is that is a mistake,” he said. “Mobile is where things rub shoulders with each other and you can short circuit people venting to contact centers, and improve customer satisfaction, by making the mobile experience even marginally better.”
Government contact centers are starting to deal with at least some of the implications of the growing mobile constituency.
For example, GSA is implementing what it call a “responsive design” for USA.gov, the primary portal through which citizens and businesses can access information about government services and agencies.
“In the future, it won’t matter whether you came in using an Android device or an iPhone, you’ll be seeing information presented in a very similar way,” said Tonya Beres, contact center specialist at the GSA, and co-chair of the Government Contact Center Council.
But it’s not just a matter of presentation. The content itself needs to be packaged with mobile users in mind.
Given the lack of physical constraints, Web pages often run quite long, requiring users to scroll for information. That might not be a problem on a desktop or laptop PC. But when it comes to mobile users, people prefer information their information in “short, discrete chunks,” said MaryAnn Monroe, director of GSA’s contact center services.
“That changes the whole paradigm of how you deliver content across your channels,” she said.
Even agencies that have been wrestling with these issues for some time are still learning about the challenges and opportunities. For example, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has had mobile channels to its contact center up for the past year and a half, for example, but was caught off guard by the interest in the Spanish language mobile channel.
“We were surprised at how robust it was for that group,” said Diane Ruesch, the Program Manager for the NCI’s Cancer Information Center. “So we are now really trying to make ourselves as involved as we can, in as many ways as we can, to get the information out about cancer to as many people as possible.”
Mobile also changes the dynamics of the interaction between the customer and the contact center.
With many mobile apps, users are authenticating their identity even before a live agent gets involved, said Dawson. Customers are likely to assume that agents have access to that information. If that’s not the case, friction can result.
Agencies definitely should explore ways to leverage the information provided by mobile apps, Dawson said. The only catch is that this might require agencies to integrate different parts of their information infrastructure.
“This needs to be examined by organizations because it means a complete change in how they do things in the contact center is about to roll over them,” he said. “However, most organizations haven’t begun to grapple with that integration yet.”