Note: This was originally posted on 5/21/13 via ICMI.com
The helpdesk and support team play very different roles within the contact center. As such, they approach and see things differently. We want to explore those differences. Each month, we’ll bring you the perspectives of two iContact employees on each side of the spectrum. Brooks Webb (Manager of the Premier Support team) and Jeremiah Methven (Team Lead for the Support Engineering team) will share their challenges, insights, ideas and successes. This month, Brooks and Jeremiah share their thoughts on mobile customer service.
ICMI: If your boss came to you today and said you had less than a month to implement a mobile SMS channel for customer support, what would be your initial reaction? Why?
Brooks: First of all, I know nothing about Mobile Support. My team handles the most common channels of support right now (Phone, Chat, and Email). This would be a big step in a new direction and I’m not sure how the team would react. I think they would be up for a new challenge, but their current workload is pretty heavy. On the other hand, this could be a good break from the norm, and it could certainly open up more opportunities for the team. Ultimately, I would have to research the details to have a better understanding of how many customers might utilize it, how we’ll need to staff/schedule, any new technology involved, etc.
Jeremiah: I have the benefit of having been involved with the implementation of social media support in our call center, which although it requires a different approach from mobile SMS support, shares the feature of being a fairly new channel where standard industry procedures and metrics are not as clearly defined as they are with phone, email and chat. Based on this experience, I would approach it in the same way that I would approach any new channel. This would involve answering key questions such as: How much volume do we anticipate? What is the average expected handle time? The answers might just be guesses but we would need to ensure we were staffed appropriately.
ICMI: What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) of implementing texting as a customer support channel?
Brooks: Getting complete buy-in from the team would be the biggest challenge. Within the past year, we’ve taken on several new products to support. It hasn’t been the easiest transition, but everyone is finally getting comfortable with the new software and the new processes associated with it. Giving them a new direction at this point could take a hit on morale. While some might embrace mobile support, others might see it as a hurdle.
Jeremiah: The biggest challenge can be how it fits in to the current contact center model. At our center, agents manage an inbound call queue which is their first priority. They already work emails in between calls so there wouldn’t necessarily be bandwidth for our core group of agents. As the lead for our ‘Tier 3’ team, we have been able to incorporate social support into our daily tasks. If texting could be handled in a similar manner, then it might be feasible for my agents. My concern would be that volume would be too high and that it wouldn’t be feasible to have the same agent managing several different channels. This might create the need to hire agents who would specifically manage the SMS channel.
ICMI: What do you see as the biggest advantage(s) of implementing texting as a customer support channel?
Brooks: Mobile Support will open up the support lines to a new group of customers who are more adaptive to modern technology and do absolutely everything on their mobile device. Giving more customers easier access is always going to be good for the customer experience, which means it should be good for the business as well.
Additionally, bringing in a new channel of support might encourage some of the team members to really step up in order to become experts. With something that’s as new as this, there is plenty of room to grow. We could be looking at future thought leaders and not even know it.
Jeremiah: The biggest advantage is adding increased flexibility for the customer. As more and more customers use phones as their primary means of going online, it is only natural that they will expect customer service to adapt with them.
ICMI: Other than SMS texting, what are some other ways you think contact centers can best use mobile as customer support channel?
Brooks: I think Text-to-Callback would be a great feature. It would give someone an easy option to get a call back instead of waiting in a queue for the next available agent. A Mobile app specific to your company’s Support Department would also be great. At that point, there are multiple directions to take. You could have a Search feature for your Knowledge Base, Twitter and Facebook integrations for Social Support, as well as the Click to Call or Click to Callback feature.
Jeremiah: Providing easy to navigate knowledge base and self-service options within a mobile app is a great place to start. There could also be click to call options so that users can easily place a call to Support for further assistance. Chat apps could be incorporated into mobile. Under our current call center model, these options strike me as being more easy wins than adding an entire channel for SMS texting where it didn’t exist before.
ICMI: Why do you think so many contact centers are hesitant to implement mobile support?
Brooks: It’s new and it’s extremely different from your common channels of support (Phone, Chat, Email). I don’t think a lot of companies give it a second thought. Those that do probably have a hard time justifying it if they’re already slammed or have a budget to consider. They also have to consider their customer base. Are their customers the type to consistently use Mobile support or will they continue to pick up the phone and dial a number instead?
Jeremiah: If a contact center doesn’t have multi-channel experience they may find it overwhelming to add a new channel, especially when that channel comes with a lot of unknowns. There are not really very many established metrics, and a lot of trial and error would be required. I would have a bit more confidence as my team was able to successfully add a social channel while also performing phone and email support. Another concern would be whether SMS texting will be a fad or a permanent part of supporting the customer.
About Brooks Webb:
Brooks Webb is the Manager of the Premier Support team at iContact, where his team handles all second level support inquiries, including Billing Support, Level 2 Technical Support, and Support for all Top Level Managed Accounts. Follow Brooks on Twitter @WBrooksWebb
About Jeremiah Methven:
Jeremiah Methven is the Team Lead for iContact’s Tier 3 Support team. The Tier 3 Support position at iContact is a specialized role requiring both technical expertise and outstanding customer service skills. We handle phone and email support for our API and iContact for Salesforce integration, manage an internal ‘hotline’ where Tier 2 agents can call for assistance, document software bugs and their impact on customers, and respond to any inquiries from customers on Facebook and Twitter.