Will Mobile Apps Lead to the Death of the Virtual Call Center?
January 20, 2012
By Susan J. Campbell
, TMCnet Contributing Editor
The advancements in mobile technologies suggest the useful life of the call center is limited. This assumption may be true if you consider the call center to be a room of several agents simply talking on the phone. Today’s call center, however, is virtual, flexible and operating multiple channels to satisfy the customer’s craving for personalized care. Is the death of the virtual call center eminent?
If you rely solely on this Business 2 Community report, the need for the virtual call center will steadily decline. The age of the always connected consumer has ushered in a new approach to interaction and service, making the standard approach to the call center archaic and sub-optimal. Call centers have done well to evolve with the market – have their reached the end of their useful life?
Scott Kolman (News - Alert), the Business 2 Community writer weighing in on the subject, suggests that it isn’t yet instinctive for people to think in terms of customer service when using a mobile app. The main focus is commerce, not customer care. Users tend to “Google (News - Alert)” a customer service issue and are expected to increasingly rely on mobile apps for the same purpose. With low to no investments in these apps for the consumer, abandonment doesn’t leave quite the same sting.
According to Morgan Stanley, smartphone traffic traversing wireless networks is expected to increase 700 percent over the next five years. As such, customers will increasingly look to this channel as the primary communication portal. In a survey from SpeechCycle (News - Alert) and Echo Research, 56 percent of smartphone users indicated they would prefer to use the mobile app over contacting the virtual call center.
The assumption that a mobile app can simply replace the call center begs the question – what happens when the app fails to satisfy the customer need or resolve the customer problem? Even with self-service channels currently in place, customers still expect they can instantly reach a live person when they hit the end of the road.
Mobile apps may be able to offer tailored solutions and promotions, but they can’t interact with the emotions and inflection of the individual. Will customer churn ensue, or will customer expectations decrease?
Kolman points to the rich screens available on smartphones that offer visual indicators when troubleshooting as a key differentiator. While the virtual call center may not be able to offer this type of integration, what’s to stop the company from launching its own app that allows a personalized approach if the app can’t meet the need? The technology exists – will customer care expectations demand it?
The reality in today’s market is that the customer is becoming more educated and at times, may have more information that the rep on the phone. Companies are aware of this information shift and providing agents with the same access to information. At the same time, IVR solutions can respond intelligently to requests, whether it’s always needed or not.
As we watch the proliferation of mobile apps and the adoption of enhanced smartphone technologies, the virtual call center industry will definitely change and only those able to anticipate and respond to trends will survive. The need for quality care will still exist, however, even if there’s an app for that. Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Chris DiMarco