Survey: smartphone users want to avoid customer service

by Bruce Kasanoff on October 24, 2011

Smartphone owners are trying to use apps to avoid placing phone calls to the customer care departments of large companies. The problem is that customer care apps are hard to fiind, and are seldom accessible when you really need them.

This is just one of the insights revealed in my conversation this morning with Scott Kolman, Senior VP of Marketing for Speechcycle, which offers customer self-service solutions for service providers such as cable companies. Speechcycle commissioned Echo Research to conduct the survey, which found:

  • Nine in 10 consumers have tried at some point to try to avoid calling customer service, especially 18-34 year olds (95%).
  • 50% of smartphone users would prefer to use a mobile customer service app to try to resolve their customer service issue before calling into the contact center.
  • Four out of five (79%) smartphone users would view their mobile, cable/satellite or Internet provider more positively if they offered a mobile customer service app.

The problem, admits Kolman, is that few people will download a customer care app designed solely for that purpose. “Downloading a customer care app in advance would require the customer to anticipate having a problem.”

Customers are not very likely to do that, but he says, “Customers will download an app that adds value to them over time,” and it makes sense to embed customer care functionality into apps that customers install for other purposes… such as watching entertainment or playing games.

I asked whether Apple’s new iPhone personal assistant, Siri, will impact customer expectations.

Kolman thinks so, explaining, “Even if Siri doesn’t immediately fulfill its promise, it has raised expectations of consumers in terms of how they can interact. We are seeing that in discussions with media and analysts, although executives are taking a little longer to recognize this.

“Siri is trying to be everything to everyone, at a broad consumer level. We see an opportunity to take similar technology to the more specific environment of customer care.”

Personally, I’m waiting as long as it takes for the Talking Company: when you can call a large company, get one automated voice who knows everything and can solve your problems in a single interaction.

I’m not being flippant. The missing link is gathering all the information from within each company into one reliable database. If Google can index the world, it’s not too much to ask companies that they index themselves.

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