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Customer care via mobile web gaining traction

E business professionals in developed markets are now extending online customer service channels to mobiles for driving sales, deflecting call center costs, and improving customer satisfaction.

E business companies have started using mobile commerce, apps, and self service features, which now form a major part of their mobile strategy.
These companies have also started providing customer service from within a mobile website or app. However, it is still in nascent stages, but picking up fast.
Such a service is very important as customers need immediate and contextual assistance, as per a report by Forrester Research.
Compared to customer service on a web site, mobile customer service is accompanied by urgency. The capability to quickly answer customer service questions via a mobile device can support consumers, who will not need to be in front of their computers.
Moreover, as mobile internet and customer service technology continues to grow, mobile customer service will become a more pressing priority.

Mobile internet usage risesBy mid 2009, 17 per cent of USA cell phone owners, representing nearly 40 million American consumers, accessed the mobile web once a month or more often.
In India, the number of people hooked to mobile internet, according to Google, has now more than doubled, from about 8-10 million in the beginning of the year 2009.
This is driving several changes in the mobile internet landscape.
Firstly, mobile phone users are now accessing m commerce web sites and apps.
Secondly, upgraded networks and handset technologies have further driven the adoption of mobile internet.
Thirdly, consumers’ expectations of mobile internet functionality are moving up. Simple pages are increasingly being replaced by more sophisticated mobile web sites. These sites offer relevant and immediate content and services, frequently replicating the functionality of online web sites.

Mobile customer care strategyMobile customer service is in its early stages, but there is considerable interest in it amongst e business professionals. However, there are certain things that need to be kept in mind to enable smooth functioning of this medium.
First is that mobile internet sites should make contact information accessible, and given the screen size limits, they should display contact numbers clearly.
Second, optimising help content such as FAQs or search can be complex across multiple platforms but this challenge will diminish as technology providers find innovative solutions. Also, mobile internet-help content will need to be formatted for a smaller screen.
Third, mobile internet sites should integrate web site service functions. Customers who are seeking information online about a potential or completed purchase may also seek this information on a mobile device.
The fourth point is that virtual agents are new on the mobile medium, and as they gain popularity, e business professionals will start considering the benefits of these software services. These agents provide automated assistance by simulating a two way conversation with customers through a mobile device.
Fifth, mobile chat can offer live help to consumers wherever they are. This enables the company to reduce waiting time. Moreover, SMS chat requires no device support. A key issue for SMS chat is that consumers without unlimited SMS plans will have to pay for the SMS messages. Companies should consider free-to-end-user (FTEU) codes.
And last but not least, click-to-call is going mobile. There is increased interest in mobile click-to-call among e business professionals as there are notable advantages to this function. Mobile click-to-call can pull data from the session and match it to internal systems using identifiers such as an email address or telephone number to assist in the identification of the customer. Through this, the contact representative will have some context when beginning the telephone call.

Indian scenarioIn India, the use of mobiles in customer care is till now restricted to mobile operator companies. Operators are enabling self care for things such as balance enquiry via unstructured supplementary services data (USSD), change in plans etc.
According to Sangeet Chowfla, executive vice president of global market units, and chief strategy officer, of integrated VAS solutions company Comviva, “Mobile customer care is happening in India and it will be picked up quite widely by companies. Operators and direct to home (DTH) companies are already using it as it is very effective in taking the load away from call centres, as well as in reducing costs.”

The futureMobile customer service space will continue to evolve as technology becomes more sophisticated. The intersection of mobile and customer service will have far reaching implications. Regardless of the current mobile customer service strategy, e business professionals need to consider customer service capabilities on mobile internet and road maps of vendors, and continue to review the landscape regularly.

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