A new service model
People concerned about automation killing jobs might look at Helpshift and similar automation strategies. By enabling businesses to build help or support into mobile apps these automation approaches are getting the job done by re-inventing support. Sure, they provide support in lieu of conventional agents but they also do so at a level where it’s often uneconomic to position live agents. Moreover, the help these apps provide, which can be extensive, is still less attentive than speaking with a live person. But here’s the thing, sometimes, all customers want is a quick answer, not a drawn out service “experience.”
The “Just the facts, Ma’am” approach to service crystallized back in 2010 in an article in Harvard Business Review, “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.” In it we discovered that people living busy lives often desire a slimmed down approach. So the science combines with new technology to provide app level support for mobile apps and no jobs are harmed in the process, at least not directly.
Now, a research effort sponsored by company reveals how this new approach to service works. You can access an infographic here but let’s review some of the findings.
Almost half (45 percent) of consumers surveyed say they would be interested in trying mobile apps that offer live customer support. That’s important because it suggests a need that’s not being met at the moment. Too often the tendency with mobile apps is to assume they’re intuitive because, hey, they’re on a mobile device, right?
Well, um, the app might be intuitive and developers work hard to make them so, but that doesn’t mean the underlying business process that the app supports is intuitive. Business processes have a way of making the most obvious things murky, and that can be especially true with large bureaucratic organizations like airlines.
As it happens, airlines are a great candidate for inline online help. Back to the survey, 70 percent of people say they want to use in-app support in airline apps and 47 percent cite convenience as the primary driver. It makes perfect sense since traveling doesn’t present enough opportunities to stop and get help from airline employees. If you’re scrambling to make a connection for instance, there isn’t a lot of information you must have but you also don’t have time to find someone with all of it.
Again, according to the survey, 89 percent of travelers and loyalty members say they’d want to be able to use a customer support feature in an airline’s app while flying. Also, an almost identical number, 88 percent, say they would welcome and recommend being contacted proactively inside an app. This suggests that travelers both want to establish a closer working relationship with their vendors (regardless of whether or not there is a service agent involved) and they wish to be proactive and figure out their next move upon landing well ahead of time. That’s why 83 percent of airline app users and upwards of 95 percent of loyalty members feel that airline apps improve the travel experience.
So it’s clear that travelers want and need airline apps for what they can do for the flying public. But it’s also clear that the apps themselves don’t provide all of the help that customers might wish for from them. The easy and obvious fix is to build support into these apps and there’s nothing that says a business has to do all that heavy lifting by itself.
In fact, we can see a new dynamic emerging in this survey. We’ve more or less figured out mobile apps and there are many vendors who can provide technology or assistance that will get these apps built and running. So the leading edge in support these days, at least mobile support, can be found in helping businesses better understand the rhythms of their business processes from the customer’s point of view and then to be there when needed. Of course this means that in some situations being there still means having a live agent but increasingly it means building support into the app with pre positioned content or any other technology that fits into the service matrix.
So it looks like we’re on the cusp of a new service model in which machines finally fulfill their promise to make things easier. Helpshift and its category provide a good example of how businesses can provide better service by supporting service where it’s needed rather than expecting customers to stop what they’re doing. In-app support—either live or pre-positioned—enables a business to project itself into a customer’s daily experience rather than having the customer get out of what’s in front of them just to get help. It also clearly shows how automation can be additive rather than reductive and that should please everyone.