Cutting the ties that bind
This week brought fresh evidence that the world is indisputably going mobile with news from Gartner that global personal computer (PC) sales have fallen for the fifth quarter in a row - the longest duration of decline in history.
The decline is linked to both a rise in tablet sales and also smartphones and while stock market pundits have highlighted an obvious link between the latest statistics and the future outlook for PC makers, there are also ramifications for the way organisations of every kind interact with the public on a daily basis, particularly in service delivery.
The way people seek and retrieve information is different via mobile devices than over desktop PCs or fixed phone lines and the logical extension of this is that the length of time customers are prepared to wait for information to be provided when they get in touch with a business of any kind are growing inexorably shorter. Effectively, we are all on ‘Google time’ now - expecting answers in seconds.
I had a personal reminder of this trend this week when driving in the early hours in the west coast of Scotland. I was stopped at a routine police road check and resigned to a lengthy wait but the officer quickly entered my details into a hand-held mobile device and was able to verify on the spot that all was well and send me on my way.
In the old days the whole process would have been so much more time-consuming and the encounter all the more frustrating. Joined-up thinking in IT system design and implementation as well as internal processes is needed for this kind of streamlined minimum hassle service experience.
Pronouncements over the ‘death of the PC’ and also the ‘death of the landline’ are commonplace - and while there is no certainty that we will see the total disappearance of these devices in the near future, it is safe to say that the landscape is already irrevocably changed and will change further.
The age of the contact centre really only began 30 years ago and centres were designed for fixed-to-fixed communications, with human beings attached to phones with curly wire to stop them moving and becoming distracted (not to mention the fact that even when mobile phones emerged on the scene in the 1990s, they were the size of bricks and only given to the privileged few - they are still rarely used in contact centres).
Historically, members of the public getting in touch were most likely to have documents at hand and to be giving their full attention to the call. Now callers can get in touch any time from anywhere but face multiple distractions. They may have all the data they need on their mobile phone but be unable to look at it and talk to you simultaneously.
So amidst talk of the death of the PC, spare a thought for the customers juggling with the mobile devices that have replaced it and the agents trying to serve them. Perhaps we need more 'undercover bosses' to see the pain that customers have to go through when seeking help when they are on the move and a very long way off from a fixed phone line and a PC.