In his article, Can Mobile and IVR Avoid a Fight?, Leonard Klie makes the point that needed to be made, that mobile apps are not going to displace IVR. It’s not going to be either or. IVR will neither fend off mobile, nor will mobile replace IVR, but they will grow together naturally based on customer needs and provider initiative. That’s not to say that every Contact Center needs a mobile component. Does yours? You tell me. Why do you think it does? Mobile devices and the applications they can run are giving users unprecedented power to do things. If you don’t have something specific in mind you want to help them do, you may not need an app. If you DO need an app, you need to start thinking about integration. Think of your family. Now imagine adding a sibling or two. What would change in your family?

Did you just add a character to Hamlet? Or did you put a moustache on the Mona Lisa?

Klie hits the nail on the head when he writes, “customers try other options first and only place a call to a contact center when they really need to speak to a live person.” This is the human nature part of customer service.  I’d prefer calling an live agent to waiting in line at the bank, I’d prefer the IVR to the live agent, and provided it’s easy to access, I’ll prefer clicking an app on my mobile device. As long as technology hits the sweetest spot of convenience vs effort, the customers will appreciate it.

But like anything else, it’s not one size fits all, and CRM managers will need to think this through. Know your customers, and you’ll have a better feel for what they need and what they want.

The article highlights the problem of trying to integrate mobile apps with an existing IVR:

“Just trying to port your IVR over to a mobile app is not going to work,” says John Basso, chief information officer of Amadeus Consulting, a mobile app development firm based in Boulder, Colo. The same also applies to the company Web site. “The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that you can shrink the whole thing down to fit on a mobile device,” Basso says.
Customers are looking for a different experience, Ristroph adds. “They’re not looking for a smaller version of the Web site. If that was what they wanted, they would have gone to the Web site.” In light of that, companies need to figure out what features make sense on a smartphone and will enhance their current offerings. In so doing, it’s important to note that a customer using a mobile app is likely to be on the move and can’t be burdened with a lot of clicks and button presses to get where she needs to be. And even though phone models are always improving, typing on a mobile phone is still difficult given the fact that many phones don’t have keyboards, or, if they do, they’re very small and hard to use.

Klie is writing an issue that’s one of the aspects we look at in our VoiceVision evaluations. Your applications need to be leveraged so that they complement each other, and work for the customer end to end. How will it affect your current deployment? How will you support it? What is the strategic fit for this app?

An IVR becomes successful – and stays that way – by design, and as the old adage goes, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.”  The same is true of mobile apps, and the same is true of integrating apps with an existing CRM deployment. Just creating an app to keep up with the Joneses (or the Johnson and Johnsons) is a good recipe for headaches, lost money, and lost customers.

Klie notes, “Just as any IVR constantly needs to be tested and tuned, continual maintenance and upgrades will be necessary with mobile apps as well, so budget and plan accordingly, the experts warn. Without the proper resources in place, a mobile app “can create supportability nightmares,” Ristroph says.”

This is excellent advice. Ultimately, mobile apps, IVR, even the ancient telephone are just tools. They are only ever as good as their ability to help customers do what they want. Before jumping into a mobile app development project, give the project the thought it deserves, or we’ll be asking you, “Do your customers hate your mobile app?”