Customers are seeking technical support that is integrated with how they work every day, with the tools they use every day. Most of us are tied to our mobile device and see it as an essential instrument in how we get things done. The ability to leverage a mobile device for IT support is clearly important to our customers.
The ability to leverage a mobile device for IT support is clearly important to our customers.
At PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), we are hearing that our partners and staff—our customers—now want to be more in the know about the status of IT services and new IT functionality that can make their work lives easier. Interestingly enough, this represents a change from previous feedback that showed customers felt that there were too many communications being pushed from IT and they preferred to pull communications at their will. It seems the pendulum swings every few years from push to pull and then back to push. Perhaps because of the fast-paced lives we lead, there is no time to pull. Or perhaps because of all the technology advances of late, customers have grown accustomed to having everything at their fingertips.
Our IT support environment consists of four main support channels: phone support, chat support, office-based support, and self-service. Phone and chat are used for PC software and emobility app break fix support. Customers can access chat support on their laptops or on their mobile devices. We have local IT customer support centers in the majority of our offices for hardware break fix support as well as dispatch support services for our smaller offices. In addition, customers can create self-service tickets for non-urgent IT issues and requests.
We have an IT portal that provides a forum for community interactions and contains information about our IT services, including IT service alerts and how to get IT support. On this portal, we also provide a link to our internal database of knowledge documents for answers and a link to our how-to videos. We also make this information accessible via our mobile support app.
Enhancing Our Current App
In 2013, PwC US launched its first support mobile app that allowed customers to open a support ticket and search knowledge documents. The app interfaces with the firm’s core service management system and adds additional customer-friendly interface features.
With the mobile support app as the front end to the system, opening a case with IT is simpler. Plus, customers can easily check the status of an existing support request or close a request if support is no longer needed.
The app also contains functionality to let the customer call the help desk and auto enters the phone prompt for the customer, navigating them to the right queue. They can also initiate a chat support session right from their mobile device.
Unfortunately, as revealed by the number of times the app had been downloaded, the app wasn’t being fully utilized across the firm. Through discussions with our customers and assessing their needs, we learned that the functionality and look and feel of the app didn’t meet their current expectations, which had changed from the time we had launched the app. Therefore, we launched a project to enhance the look and feel of our mobile IT support app and its functionality, given the recent change in customer needs.
Delivering an App with Flash and Substance
When the original version of the app was created, significant effort was placed on the development, rather than on the aesthetics. To help the updated IT support app stand out, IT support collaborated with the firm’s internal creative team to optimize the customers’ digital experience. The creative team focused on the color theme, screen real estate, and the flow of navigation just as heavily as IT focused on content and functionality. The creative team provided the following guiding principles, which we incorporated:
- Focus on what problem needs to be solved and make sure an app is the right solution
- Design the app with flexibility in mind so you can easily upgrade its look and feel without a lot of development work
- Know that once you launch, it is hard to back pedal, so spend time up front on usability and design
- Take note that app development takes longer than you think; build in extra time
- Make a clean design that is easy to read on a device
- Keep navigation simple
- Design for touch, not click
- Realize that less color is usually better
- Minimize the number of forms, images, and pictures
- Remember that short and succinct is best
- Do not make it too wordy; people don’t want to read a lot
- Revisit the look and feel of the app after 18 months, as it likely will need to be refreshed
Delivering New Functionality
Twenty four months after our app originally launched, we redesigned the app to enhance functionality. We wanted to provide quicker answers and, most significantly, to offer notifications.
Providing Quicker Answers. We have seen an increase in use of our IT portal for simple IT-related questions. Originally designed as an online community for like-minded professionals to discuss new technology trends, we found that customers were posing questions in the portal rather than searching our internal database of knowledge documents for answers or using our other promoted support channels.
Wanting to help our customers, the IT support team began monitoring the portal for IT-related questions and responding to them within minutes. This behavior, although stemming from our desire to help our customers, had unintended consequences. More and more people began to use the portal to ask IT technical support questions in lieu of going through our promoted support channels (e.g., phone and chat).
Recognizing this, we started allowing the community members to answer each other’s questions, waiting a day or so before responding if a question has gone unanswered. Our goal was to transition the IT portal back to a community of interest rather than an IT support site.
To help with this effort, we incorporated quick answers into our mobile support app. These quick answers are based on our top support drivers and are updated regularly. The quick answers are very easy to read and less formal than FAQs. Our customers are finding our quick answers helpful in addressing common issues. Plus, this feature has reduced the need to contact IT support, saving our customers time and allowing IT support agents to focus on more complex issues.
Choosing to Be Notified. We implemented notification functionality in the app that allows customers to opt in to notifications. This is the same notification functionality that you see in many consumer apps today. We thought a lot about the best way to share information and how to balance the thirst for information without being obtrusive. We also engaged our internal IT communications team to help us develop our approach. We endeavored to create a balanced use of the notification feature. We came up with a plan to use this capability to update customers on hot IT news and major outages and estimate sending less than 10 updates per month. Hot IT news includes new tools or functions that would help a customer with their productivity and have meaningful impact on their work-life. Outage information includes both planned and unplanned outages.
To avoid being obtrusive, we plan to send notifications only from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern on business days, since our customers span the United States time zones. We are integrating the process for creating and sending notifications into our existing processes, including our major incident management and communications processes.
If, for any reason, a customer decides they no longer want to receive notifications, they can simply opt out and turn the feature on again if and when they wish for the notifications to resume. This might be a good practice for customers who are on vacation.
Deploying Our Solution
Given the importance of mobile support and information, we plan to push the enhanced app to all of our customers. This was a major decision, entailing consultation with leadership, as the majority of our applications are available for customers to install on their own, and only three other apps are pushed firm-wide. This showed our commitment to meeting customer needs and highlighted how important it is to have a robust mobile support app for our customers.
Measuring Our Success
We will consider our enhanced mobile support app successful if customers are more aware of our IT solutions, if customer feedback is positive, and if customers use the app to obtain support. To determine our success, we plan to monitor if there is a reduction in the number of system status inquiries through our phone and chat support channels and an increased awareness of IT solutions. To ascertain this, we will reach out to customers, both formally and informally, to solicit their feedback. We will hold customer experience forums, which allows us to reach a representative group of customers for input. Plus, we will send a subset of the users a formal feedback survey to get their input. We will also solicit informal feedback as we interact with our customers. In addition, we will monitor the number of support tickets created in the mobile app.
Sharing What We Learned
We learned several key things from our quest to address our customers’ requests for mobile support and information and to increase user adoption:
- Engage with the creative team early in the process to drive the look and feel of the app—flash matters
- Integrate the mobile support app with established processes to avoid creating another support channel that needs to be managed, monitored, and tracked
- Think carefully about the type of notifications you will send and when, and consult with the IT communications team to enable an approach that aligns with the overall corporate and IT communications strategy
Entering a New Era
While it may feel like the days of traditional IT support are gone, there will always be a need for a cost-effective and consistent way to help our customers with technology—always, that is, until we can build technology that just works all the time and is 100% intuitive. In the meantime, providing customers with mobile support and mobile information—in a visually appealing and usable format—helps resolve their issues and requests and gets them back to work quickly, hopefully more quickly than before.
Cheryl Fletterick is currently a director at PwC, overseeing the delivery of IT customer support services for the Northeast and Washington, D.C., metro area.