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Consumers like self-service apps when troubleshooting

Self-service applications let consumers troubleshoot, diagnose, and resolve their own telecommunications service issues – without having to call the help desk. Self-service applications are great alternatives for operators looking to provide an excellent customer experience, while simultaneously reducing the costs associated with traditional phone-based customer service.

Alcatel-Lucent recently completed a consumer mobility opportunity study that found – among other things – that self-service trouble-shooting really is appealing and that most consumers will go to great lengths to avoid calling the help desk.

So what do communications service providers (CSPs) need to think about when building these self-help tools? Here are 10 useful strategies that our research supports.

1. Recognize that users want to self serve
Many respondents indicated that they’d rather download an application (from their mobile service provider) that would help them fix a technical issue themselves than call the help desk. (Japan=45%; U.S.=44%; U.K.=51%; Brazil=59%.) There’s a strong appetite for a DIY approach to troubleshooting among communications services consumers in the markets we surveyed.

Figure 1. Many consumers would choose downloading an app versus calling the help desk

Recent discussions with some of the leading operators in Latin America indicate that these findings are somewhat surprising. Some of the Brazilian operators expected more people would prefer to call the help desk. There seems to be a certain “cathartic effect” that many people in this region only enjoy after making a call to complain. However, our survey also found that 45% of Brazilian mobile customers are likely (or very likely) to ignore a problem (or allow it to persist) just to avoid having to call their service provider’s help desk.

Similarly, these results were surprising to some of the leading operators in Japan that we met with recently. Only 14% of Japanese mobile consumers call the help desk when they experience an issue — preferring instead to solve the problem themselves by searching the Internet, using their own personal knowledge, or contacting friends and family members. So we might expect more than 45% of these same customers to prefer to download a self-service application.

2. Encourage late adopters to self serve
The help desk remains the 1st choice for many users looking to deal with technical issues, but customer service representatives (CSRs) can suggest relevant apps and encourage their use. Respondents were asked how they would feel if, when they called with an issue, they were asked to download an app before they could get help.

Many mobile users indicated that they would have a positive or neutral response to this approach. (Japan=51%; U.S.=55%; U.K.=55%; Brazil=56%.) Another way to increase usage is to offer users a fast track back to a CSR if the app doesn’t resolve their issue.

3. Know how often existing apps are used
Frequency of usage is universally low among the users surveyed. Only a few mobile users report using their CSP’s app at least once a week. (U.S.=16%; U.K.=17%; Japan=20%; Brazil=35%). In Japan, the U.K., and the U.S., 1 in 5 mobile users reported downloading the app but never using it. These results highlight the need to build more compelling functionality into existing applications.

4. Understand what consumers want — and then give it to them
Whether delivered through an app or otherwise, self-service tools must include features and functions that consumers deem useful. The survey results suggest that users are most interested in the following functions:

  • Billing issues for mobile, Internet and TV issues
  • Troubleshooting
  • Usage tracking
  • Security features — including alerts, detection and removal capabilities
  • Data and voice plan modification capabilities
  • Control over device settings to enhance service performance

5. Promote the app
The survey results show that many mobile users are not aware of CSP-provided self-service applications. (Brazil=32%; U.S.=38%; Japan=44%; U.K.=45%). High-speed Internet and TV users are significantly less aware of CSP apps than other users. When asked how they would want to hear about an app like this, responses varied: e-mail/web promotions, notifications in/on bills, or with traditional advertising.

6. Choose the right distribution platforms
Most respondents expect to download CSP apps from an app store such as Google Play™, iTunes®, Apple iOS App Store, or Amazon Appstore. However, many mobile users would prefer to get a CSP app directly from the CSP’s web site. (Brazil=38%; U.S.=43%; Japan=48%; U.K.=46%).

7. Don’t build multiple single-purpose applications
The research shows that consumers see their CSP as a source for information that helps them plan their daily activities. One way CSPs can encourage adoption is to include information that consumers need every day — such as weather, traffic, and accident alerts — alongside more traditional features like troubleshooting, usage tracking, voice plan feature changes, and security alerts  — in a single application.

8. Push the app to users automatically
A number of mobile users in each country indicated that they expect CSP apps to be downloaded to their device automatically. (Japan=12%; U.S.=17%; U.K.=17%; Brazil=22%).

9. Use analytics to track how, when and where apps are being used
In-application tracking can be used to collect contextual information and build a more complete picture of subscriber requirements. Use of in-app tracking requires permission from consumers. More details on this strategy can be found in the TechZine blog 4 ways to innovate: Mobile loyalty-based plans.

10. Learn from other industries
The banking industry has had great success with self service, with adoption rates for online interactions reaching 66.2% for the credit card industry and 73.1% for the overall financial services/banking industry. Consumers prefer to avoid the time and effort involved in going to physical branches and dealing with bank employees. They want to do their banking when and where it works best for them. It’s time for CSPs to embrace this growing desire to self serve by offering consumers convenient, effective, and powerful applications.

The consumer mobility opportunity study included 5,500 consumer smartphone users in Brazil, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Users were between the ages of 18 and 87 and all were decision makers or had strong input regarding communication purchases.

The study looked at a wide range of consumer trends in mobile communications, including:

  • How smartphone users prefer to interact with key enterprises
  • Voice over LTE
  • Voice over Wi-Fi®
  • Wearables
  • Communications of the future (e.g., connected vehicles)
  • Customer experience management

Stay tuned for more blogs about the study results.


Building an appealing self-service app: 10 strategies for communications service providers webinar replayToward self-service: Empowering connected consumers to help themselves report

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Greg Owens

About Greg Owens

Greg Owens brings 20 years of experience to his current role as Director of Marketing for the Motive portfolio of Customer Experience solutions. In this position Mr. Owens drives all aspects of marketing — from strategy, positioning and messaging development to market launch and campaign leadership. Since joining Alcatel-Lucent in 2001, Mr. Owens has also held positions in regional solutions marketing, customer marketing, media/analyst relations and marketing communications. Mr. Owens served three consecutive one-year terms — from 2008-2010 — on the Board of Directors for the Broadband Multimedia Marketing Association (BMMA), an international organization dedicated to advancing the adoption and use of broadband services. Greg Owens holds a Bachelor's degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario (Canada) and is currently based in Ottawa, Ontario.

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