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Who is getting mobile customer service right?

Customer service is the centerpiece of retailers’ strategy, and they need to keep in mind that when it comes to mobile, consumers still expect the same level of customer service that they can get in-store or online. Here, find out which brands are getting in right and which need to up their customer service game.

From SMS, mobile Web and applications, retailers are using all kinds of bells and whistles to lure consumers to their mobile offerings. However, sometimes keeping it simple can benefit a retailer looking to create the best user experience via mobile.

“The biggest issue we see is that many retailers are not taking advantage of the mobile channel for customer service,” said Eric Harber, chief operating officer at Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA.

“If a retailer already has a loyalty program, adding a mobile element should be a no-brainer,” he said.

“By adding mobile calls to action to in-store and traditional ads such as TV, radio and print, retailers can easily create a re-marketable database of loyal customers. Once the list is built, it can be used to send useful information and deals for which the customer is interested.”

Personalized messages
One way that brands can leverage customer service is through SMS programs.

However, in order for the program to be successful, it must give users relevant offers and products based on their past purchases.

Macy’s recently used its text alert program to let consumers know about a one-day sale on the company’s mobile site (see story).

Macy’s is smart to tell users about the sale, but the marketing effort would be more effective if it was linked to an individual user’s shopping history.

For example, if Macy’s was able to tie its loyalty program to a consumer’s store credit card, it could send out offers that match past purchases.

Additionally, to increase its customer service, the retailer could send out an offer for a pair of shoes that matched a dress that a shopper recently bought.

Added bonus
For many retailers, the purpose of using mobile Web sites and apps is to drive sales either online or in-store. Therefore, providing the same level of customer service that consumers expect in-store is vital to a retailer’s strategy.

Sephora is an example of a retailer that is aiming to replicate the in-store experience across its mobile Web site and apps.

Because the retailer sells makeup, part of the challenge of selling via mobile is showing consumers what it looks and feels like.

To help consumers find the perfect product, Sephora is betting on user-based reviews that help shoppers learn more about the product.

Additionally, Sephora is an example of a retailer who is getting customer service right because it uses product recommendations that match consumer’s behavior to drive sales.

For example, if a consumer is viewing a product from skincare line Bare Escentuals, Sephora will recommend other products from the brand that are similar. Makeup is often bought in bundles of several products, and Sephora is smart to jump at the opportunity to help consumers find relevant items.

Related products is also especially important for mass merchandisers with demographics of users who buy things in bulk.

Target has multiple mobile initiatives including mobile Web, apps, advertising and SMS.

On both Target’s mobile site and iPhone app, the retailer promotes deals and weekly specials on the homepage.

Users can browse reviews and view if products are available online or at a nearby store.

However, for a retailer such as Target to not include related products, the company is missing a huge opportunity to increase customer service.

Target would also benefit from adding deals directly to product pages since it is a mass merchandiser and its consumers are most likely looking for the best deal.

Mobile standard
Traditionally, mobile apps are associated with higher consumer loyalty because they keep prime real estate on a consumer’s mobile device.

Therefore, apps should live up to a high level of customer service since retailers have already gotten a consumer to download it.

Best Buy is an example of a retailer that has banked on mobile marketing to help consumers in-store and online.

On the retailer’s iPhone app, users can set up their account to be notified when particular types of products they are interested in go on sale.

Part of establishing mobile customer service with a consumer is giving them the option to call the company if they have a question. Best Buy’s mobile site has a click-to-call feature across the bottom of every page, which helps users order products directly over the phone.

However, a call-to-order number is not prominently promoted inside Best Buy’s mobile app. Some items including the company’s line of mobile phones feature a click-to-call feature, but many items can only be bought via online or in-store.

The app does have a section where users can find phone numbers and locations of nearby stores, but making a click-to-order phone number available inside the product pages would be a smart move for Best Buy since apps tend to have stronger loyalty with consumers.

For retailers, it is important to split up their mobile resources and recognize which ones have the strongest loyalty attached with them to increase customer service.

Multichannel approach
Giving consumers options to use mobile to increase customer service across multiple channels including social media and mobile bar codes is also crucial for any retailer.

“Customers want to use their mobile devices to have the exact same customer service experiences they wanted on landline phones or desktop computers in the past,” said Jason Goldberg, vice president of strategy and customer experience at CrossView, Portland, OR.

“But they also want to have new customer service experiences that were not possible before mobile,” he said.

For example, it is important for brands with a strong social media effort to be available for quick help if a consumer has a problem while on the go and using their mobile device to contact the retailer.

Additionally, a retailer could use QR codes to register or order new products.

To speed up the in-store experience, brands could let consumers enter their information when they are ready to buy something. Instead of making a consumer wait in line, the company could send a SMS message when it is their turn.

“Smartphones continue to outsell computers, and for an increasingly large segment of the world the smartphone is their only computing device,” Mr. Goldberg said.

“Simply copying the old desktop and landline experiences and pasting them onto a smartphone is not going to cut it,” he said. “Consumers expect faster and more streamlined customer service wherever and whenever they need it.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York