How mobile customer service supports B2B firms

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Customer service remains the number one key to B2B business growth or business death. It’s the most important of business elements and it is going mobile.

According to a recent report by Gartner, weak mobile customer service harms customer engagement. To combat this trend, B2B firms are looking to institute more mobile components into their customer service operations.

“Most businesses place emphasis on marketing and sales but neglect customer service,” says Mike Oristian, co-founder of CALLPROMISE, provider of mobile callback technology. “Truth is, (bad) customer service can tarnish a company’s reputation and increase turnover.”

The Gartner report shows how some flyers are willing to pay extra to avoid American Airlines due to its terrible customer service.

“If new technologies are perceived by customers to simply deflect calls that these customers need handled by agents, they will backfire,” Oristian says. “However, neither case-initiation by devices nor video-chat with live agents fit into that category. Brands that understand this will prevail.”

Back to mobile basics
One way that B2B brands are re-engaging with their customers involves going back to the basics of mobile technology: text messages. “HeyWire recently conducted a series of surveys (of) 700-plus respondents on using a somewhat new but familiar medium for customer support—texting,” says Meredith Flynn-Ripley, CEO, HeyWire, an enterprise text messaging service provider. “The gist was that more than half prefer texting customer support over current methods, with 75 percent rather texting than using social media.”

Using HeyWire’s enterprise-class text solution, customers can send SMS messages to company landlines and connect with a live agent who can answer questions in real-time via text. “Prospects and customers don’t need to download anything and (can) communicate with sellers on their own time in their own mobile environment,” Flynn-Ripley says.

Through integration with Salesforce, HeyWire can also securely log and store B2B customer service texts for future retrieval if necessary.

Can’t get no customer satisfaction?
Old school B2B executives may think that mobile service is a “nice to have” option for customer support, but without mobile customer service, their B2B operations will face increased costs due to delay in serving their customers. They also have to consider the intangible cost of squandered goodwill when not enough customer agents are available to satisfy incoming customer calls.

“The peg here is the growing business practice of using ‘workers on tap’ for service fulfillment,” says Stephen Timms, president of Americas, ClickSoftware, provider of cloud and premises field service management solutions. According to the company’s survey, for things like deliveries, installations and service calls, as participation by third party workers increases , the more likely customers are to report poor performance.

“Technology, such as ClickSoftware’s Service Network for Contractors, is available to help manage workflows and transform the way businesses operate,” Timms says. “Our solution provides these businesses with the ability to view service activities and third-party resources in real-time to improve efficiency, more effectively serve customers, build brand reputation and avoid mistakes.”

Customer help thyself
While it is a step forward to manage customer service employees with B2B enterprise software, the classic problem of call center support remained largely unaddressed, until now.

“SimplyCalled makes those painful phone calls to customer service simple,” says Nik Kumar, CEO and co-founder, SimplyCalled, provider of mobile call center technology. “We save time and deliver an awesome experience for the caller by combining ‘voice with visuals’ on your smartphone.”

With SimplyCalled’s solution, customer and call center agent occupy the same visual space through mobile phone screen sharing.

Not only is this a more effective solution for the B2B customer, but also much more cost efficient for the B2B firm. “When you call an 800-number for a company and get connected to a call center agent it actually costs the company at least $5 per phone call!” Kumar says

Even as mobile screen sharing promises to reduce customer service costs with more efficient customer-rep service interaction, another approach goes to the opposite extreme. Virtual call agents take the human out of the customer service equation entirely.

“(Customers) are becoming more comfortable interacting with machines and have less motivation to speak with a customer service agent directly,” says Mike Hennessy, vice president, sales and marketing, IntelliResponse, provider of enterprise virtual agent technology. “Gone are the days when customers (dug) through FAQs or site search on a smartphone screen.” Customers expect consistent, accurate, easy-to-navigate experiences in every channel, as well as solve their problems in one interaction, according to IntelliResponse.

Mobile medium only part of message
With mobile making major inroads in improving the customer service experience, it is still only part of the solution. If B2B firms rely just on the information customers provide they can only partially fulfill customer service requests.

“Smartphones allow us to track customers, however, we have to be aware of offline interaction should the customer choose to ring the contact center and speak to a sales rep,” says Bhavesh Vaghela, chief marketing officer, ResponseTap, market leader in call-based marketing automation. “Call tracking software tracks data gained from online mobile interaction then feeds this information to the contact center rep prior to the phone call—a technique known as ‘call whispering.’”

Based on this data, a rep can anticipate questions and build rapport with B2B customers more quickly, according to the company. By using data it received from ResponseTap, one customer was able to reduce costs per call and increase investment return.

B2B can avoid mistakes of mobile B2C customer service
As more B2B companies implement mobile customer engagement,  they can avoid the pitfalls B2C companies have experienced over the years. According to a recent survey by Mblox, a large, independent application-to-person mobile messaging service, when looking at consumer satisfaction with mobile communications, in every category surveyed—SMS, email, phone, apps, push, social media, games—businesses predicted higher scores than consumers.

“There is no one best way to communicate via mobile,” says Stacy Adams, vice president of global marketing, Mblox, on the lessons B2B firms can draw from B2C. “Consumer preferences vary—not only from one person to the next—but also depending on time of day or type of business. The issues that businesses are most concerned about these days are issues that also affect consumers—privacy, security, etc.”

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).
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