Integrating Customer Service in Mobile Apps

Marketing & Promotion
Posted 4/27/2016 12:07:11 PM by RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

Integrating Customer Service in Mobile Apps
We recently visited with Barry Coleman, CEO at UserCare, which provides customer service software specifically designed for mobile applications. Specifically, we were interested in learning about the value proposition for developers of integrating customer service in mobile apps.

Prior to UserCare, Barry served as CTO and VP of Support and Customer Optimization Products at ATG, which was acquired by Oracle for $1 billion. Barry is the author on several patents and applications in the areas of online customer support, including cross-channel data passing, dynamic customer invitation and customer privacy. He holds a B.A. in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Sussex.

ADM: Is customer service within mobile apps common today?

Coleman: In-app support is still inconsistently available even among the top grossing apps. In an app index we recently conducted, we saw that about 40% of iOS apps and 52% of Android apps have an in-app support section. Adding an FAQ section or linking to a support form are the most common solutions, while higher touch forms of support like in-app chat are used by just 8% of apps. There is definitely room for greater adoption industry wide.

ADM: Why should app publishers consider providing customer service?

Coleman: Apps should provide customer service because of the impact it has on customer experience and customer satisfaction. Make no mistake that consumers today have a number of options at their disposal when it comes to which apps to use. It’s a highly competitive landscape with extremely low switching costs. 

So when a consumer encounters an issue in an app that they can’t easily resolve, they’ll simply delete the app and move onto the next one. Customer service is a way to prevent this customer turnover, and also foster more loyalty and continued usage. 

Research shows that 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. It can have a very real, positive impact on customer retention and company value. In fact, a 10% increase in customer retention increases profits by up to 95%. Customer service should be a key priority for any serious business builder.

ADM: What are the most common mistakes app publishers are making when it comes to customer service?
Berry Coleman

Coleman: We see three big mistakes pop up time and time again: 

1. Trying to “check the box” on customer service. Too often customer service is treated as an afterthought or a nothought. Publishers think posting an email address or complaint form is enough, yet no one’s really on top of the customer service function and prioritizing customer support.

2. Treating all customers the same. Many app companies are subject to the 90/10 rule, where 90% of their revenues are being driven by just 10% of their customer base. Sometimes, it’s more like 95/5. Yet when it comes to customer service, they’re treating their VIP users the same way as the free users.

3. Making customers explain and repeat themselves. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, since we’ve all experienced it as customers. How many times have you had to explain and re-explain the issue you’re facing to multiple reps? 

Companies collect so much information these days, which they can be using to alleviate the burden they place to customers when issues crop up. The problem is that this data is often in the hands of folks that aren’t supporting the customers. For example, there are great tools for developers to track and analyze app crashes, but the support team probably never knows that the user they are talking to just experienced a crash.

ADM: For an app publisher with limited resources, what is the most important customer service investment they can make?

Coleman: At a bare minimum, your app needs an FAQ section. It’s a basic requirement, and 90% of consumers expect companies to offer this sort of self-service customer support. 

A really great set of FAQs can help address the majority of issues that arise, so it’s critical that apps spend time and attention to create a useful knowledge base. It’s also something that should be continually assessed and improved over time, and customized to different regions and languages as needed. 

If you get this right, you can drastically reduce the volume of inquiries that need to be handled by your team.

ADM: What should the best-in-class experiences look like?

Coleman: We believe there are five tenants of great customer service that every app should strive towards: 

1. Make it extremely easy to get help. The customer service section of the app should been easy to locate and navigate, versus hidden away somewhere obscure.

2. Let customers help themselves. Again, this is where a good set of FAQs comes in. Close to 75% of customers want the ability to solve product and service issues on their own, so allow them to do so.

3. Show customers you know who they are. Make use of the information you already collect to enable a more personalized support experience. 

4. Deliver differentiated experiences. Tier your support channels based on customer value to deliver a higher touch experience to your most important customers. 

5. Enable meaningful interactions. Don’t forget about the human aspect of customer service. Every interaction is an opportunity to either win over or lose a customer.

ADM: How is UserCare's solution unique?

Coleman: We built UserCare from the start with mobile apps in mind. Our aim was to make it seamless for the user by keeping the customer service experience contained within the app. 

With other solutions, customers are directed outside of the app to an email address or web form for support. With UserCare, everything including the FAQs, mobile messaging and ticket history is kept within the app. 

Another key differentiator is the amount of rich user and event data we’re surfacing to agents to enable them to get a holistic view of a customer and how they are engaging with an app, or even a suite of apps, across all their devices. 

We have a view called the Customer Chronicle, which is a running timeline of a user’s activities within the app. This has tremendous value in helping agents to expedite issue resolution and personalize the support experience.

Another unique feature is that we allow agents to perform actions within messaging sessions. They can use this for granting rewards, issuing credits, deep-linking users to a section of the app, or any other myriad of actions. 

Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is blend customer support, CRM and analytics to create a best of class customer experience for the end user.

ADM: What are UserCare's predictions for the future of in-app customer service?

Coleman: We anticipate that there will be a continued blurring of the lines between customer service, customer experience and marketing. All of these three things are highly interwoven and are made better when companies have access to high quality, actionable data. 

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About the author: RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

As the Publisher and Editor for App Developer Magazine, Richard has several industry recognitions and endorsements from tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google for accomplishments in the mobile market. He was part of the early Google AFMA program, and also involved in the foundation of Google TV. He has been developing for mobile since 2003 and serves as CEO of Moonbeam Development, a mobile app company with 200 published titles in various markets throughout the world. Richard is also the founder of LunarAds, a mobile cross-promotion and self-serv mediation network for developers. He has been a featured presenter at trade-shows and conferences, and stays active with new projects relating to mobile development.

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