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The Proof Mobile Apps Need Customer Service

Here at Helpshift we consider ourselves to be pretty lucky. Not only do we get to work with some of the biggest names in mobile, but, thanks to the 1.3 Billion devices the Helpshift SDK is installed on, we’re able to glean some pretty interesting patterns. With power comes responsibility, and we deemed it our duty to use this massive wealth of data at our fingertips to learn.

Over a period of six months, our team of data scientists tracked various metrics across devices and apps, in order to take stock of the ways in which consumers are interacting with mobile. The first, and most astounding thing we learned was: 1 in 5 mobile users actively seeks in-app help. In other words, almost a quarter of all app users have questions, issues, or problems that they are actively looking to get addressed.

Naturally, this is worrisome. Whether it’s a product of the app market’s relative youth, or simply a reflection of the user’s readiness to ask for help, it is clearly imperative that brands provide a channel to support that help.

Like humans, human-created apps are never perfect. And, in a crowded app economy in which churn is high, and users readily switch from one service provider to another, developing a rapport of phenomenal customer service when problems arise is a crucial part of generating loyalty. Amazon, for example, does a fantastic job of this: it’s been two years since they introduced the “Mayday Button” on the Kindle, which, when pressed, connects users to support representatives via video chat. A year ago, they expanded this feature to the Fire smartphone. Naturally, Salesforce jumped onto the instant-communication-mobile-support bandwagon, with an SOS button that could be integrated into any iOS or Android app. The services have been wildly successful, with 75% of customer contacts coming from the Mayday Button.

Like human relationships, it’s how one responds to one’s imperfections that determines whether or not the relationship will hold. Think about the blips you’ve had in friendships, romantic relationships, and business partnerships: the number of times you’ve had a relationship that needs help probably surpasses 1 in 5. But the ones that have survived these blips are the ones that responded with a very simple message: “I’m sorry, let’s fix it.”

Think back to 2009 when Amazon removed Animal Farm and 1984 from users’ kindles. Following the subsequent outcry and general fear that Amazon had become the next Big Brother, Bezos issued a heartfelt apology, saying “We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.” And they did, becoming one of the world’s most customer centric companies, and trailblazing the customer support industry.

This is the message that mobile apps need to learn to communicate. When essentially a quarter of users are actively seeking help, you know it’s imperative that your help be, not only sufficient, but driving loyalty. Note: this number doesn’t even account for the users who encounter a problem and simply leave the app.

Help can come in various ways on mobile: it can exist via in-app messaging, in-app FAQs, live video chat, or email. The latter is, of course, the least desirable of these options (who wants to get off their app and jump on a computer to get help), while the other three methods are burgeoning with some of the most customer-centric companies (hi, Amazon!).

A recent TechCrunch article explored the different possibilities for messaging, including driving sales and providing help. “You can augment and change the nature of your brand’s product or service. You can make your core service higher-touch, you can use chat as a companion to improve your in-store experience, you can make other peers and fans part of the experience — and more….There’s also more potential to create long-standing relationships with fans.”

American Eagle, a retailer that has long struggled with poor customer service, recently introduced in-app chat. Though not explicitly a venue for customer service, the in-app messaging feature provides a channel through which users can provide feedback, as well as seek shopping help. Essentially, mobile messaging has spawned a new arena in business; messaging is neither customer care, nor Sales, nor marketing. It is an idyllic combination of all three, in which customers may access at that particular moment of need.

Tushar Makhija, Helpshift’s Chief Customer Officer, put it this way: “Departments are going to shift according to this new way of communicating: marketing is going to approach communication in this mobile-first world with a 1-to-many strategy. It will require more education and awareness to get users to commit to using a product. But after that, converting an indifferent user into a paying user, into a loyal customer, into a long-term user, will all be in the hands of this new medium: customer marketing. Let’s not call it support. ‘Support’ turns that entire department into a reactive mindset. We’re talking about this new customer department that already champions one-to-one communication. They’re getting actionable insight and directly connecting with their customers.”

That 1 in 5 customers is seeking help on mobile apps opens an entire host of doors for businesses. We have a new avenue to reach customers, and a fresh medium for driving engagement and loyalty. If mobile app users are already trying to interact with us, the first part of driving loyalty is already done; we just have to answer.

Published January 24, 2016
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