Why the Next Big Marketing Opportunity is: In-App Customer Service

By Eric Vermillion, CEO, Helpshift

Too often, the customer service experience feels like companies are fighting against you. We’ve all seen this dynamic play out in our own lives as consumers: long hold times, slow responses from customer service reps, understaffing at call centers, and frustrating difficulties in trying to get answers to questions. The customer service bottleneck has become even more pronounced during the pandemic, as more companies have directed their customer interactions through digital channels, prompting more people to navigate automated menus and interact with chatbots.

Good news: Customer service doesn’t have to be a battle of customer vs. company. Instead of treating customer service like an afterthought or an overhead cost, your company has an opportunity to turn customer service into a revenue generator and a strategy to create a long-lasting competitive advantage.

Let’s look at a few reasons why in-app customer service can become the next big opportunity for your business to create deeper relationships with customers and boost your bottom-line results.

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Customer Service Can Be an Engine of Customer Loyalty

Customers often feel vulnerable about contacting customer support – they might be feeling confused or frustrated or stuck. If they then have to navigate a customer service experience that is also confusing and stressful, this might be the last straw. Your customer service experience might be the final decision point that makes your customers leave for a competitor. According to a recent Nextiva survey, after just one occurrence of bad customer service, one-third of customers are willing to consider taking their business to another company.

What to do instead? Turn your customer service experience into a generator of customer loyalty. Great customer service makes a difference: survey data from HubSpot shows that 93% of customers say that outstanding customer service makes them more likely to make repeat purchases.

Think about how much money your company spends on customer acquisition and marketing. Protect your investment by looking for proactive ways to convert your customer service experience into an engine of recurring revenue and long-term customer loyalty.

Where is the best place to deliver this revenue-generating, loyalty-building customer service? Your company’s mobile app.

Making Your Mobile App the Hub of Your Customer Service Experience

Customer service call centers still have a role to play, but most companies should embrace an “app-centered” strategy for customer service. Your company’s mobile app should serve as the “home base” for your customer service and customer support operations.

Here’s why: when customers take the step of downloading your app, that means they are passionate about your product or service, and they want to be engaged with your brand. Your company also should be able to access verifiable secure customer data via the app, making it easier to conduct interactions with the customer.

Providing customer service in-app also sends a signal to customers that you’re willing to meet them where they feel comfortable (in the app) and when they need you. By designing customer support to be available in the app, your company is ready when the user needs you, from any location, 24/7.

Got customers interested enough in your company to download your app? Good! Keep them engaged and interested by providing customer service within the app. Once customers are app users, the last thing you should want to do is to re-route your customer service inquiries to phone, email, website, or social channels. If you take the customer service interaction out of the app, you lose a lot of control and visibility – you lose context of that customer conversation, you undo the secure identity validation that was already completed in-app, you cause disruption and friction to the customer experience, and you might even end up with your customers seeing advertisements from competitors.

Having their customer service inquiry taken out of the app can cause your customers to feel frustrated and inconvenienced, especially if their data and details are not kept on record. People don’t like the feeling of being shuffled around to different departments or call centers; don’t inconvenience your customers by making them re-enter their details or explain their problem multiple times to different agents or teams.

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Want to Be Truly Customer Focused? Use In-App Customer Service

Customers want to solve their issues as fast as possible, especially if they can use self-service menus to get answers without having to wait on hold or request a call back. Here are a few ways that in-app customer service can provide a quicker, more customer-focused experience:

  • Connect customers directly to answers via self-service content and resources (like FAQs or Troubleshooting documentation)
  • Offer automated in-app chatbots that use AI and machine learning to intuitively understand customer inquiries and help them get resolved, without having to talk to a person
  • Minimize disruption to the customer experience by getting the issues solved seamlessly within the app

A well-designed mobile app will help your customers get the information and answers that they need, mostly via self-service or automated chatbots, and entirely within the app. In-app customer service makes your app into a vehicle for generating stronger customer loyalty, because it gives your customers convenience, easy access to resources, and empowerment to resolve their own issues. A well-designed in-app customer service experience will also help your company save your customer service agents’ bandwidth so they can deal with the most complicated, high-touch inquiries that can only be solved with person-to-person communication.

Bringing the Power of Automation to In-App Customer Service

Automation in itself is not a silver bullet. Getting better results is not just a matter of deploying algorithms or installing chatbots.

Instead, when adopting automated customer service solutions, be sure to think about the larger process of how customers are going to interface with these automated solutions. User experience matters. Be thoughtful about how automation can support the customer journey for each specific interaction, pain point, and solution, and why automation is the right fit for each customer situation.

Here is a framework for how to be strategic in deploying automation tools for customer service:

  • Begin at the customer’s starting point: What are your customers doing and what issues are they experiencing during each customer service journey? Automation can help you pinpoint the specific issues that customers are encountering, and then guide customers forward with step-by-step instructions.
  • Differentiate customer service based on different issues: Your customer service response should be different, depending on where your customers are experiencing issues. For example, issues with the customer account, payments, app performance, or gameplay will all need you to deliver different resolutions and responses.
  • Pick the right chatbots: Not all chatbots deliver the same caliber of interactions. The best chatbots should offer AI-driven intents and advanced machine learning capabilities that can truly “listen” to customers, understand the customers’ needs, and deliver an effortless, intuitive experience for self-service.

Think expansively about how to make your resolution services and customer service responses align with each customer’s pain points.

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What to Do Next: Put customer service at the center of your mobile app. The right approach to in-app support can turn customer service from an overlooked or neglected “overhead cost” into an engine of revenue and customer loyalty. Be thoughtful about designing customer service journeys that are specific to each customer’s unique questions and pain points. Deploy automated customer service features not as a magic wand, but as a well-integrated component of your person-to-person communication. Above all: provide a frictionless experience. Keep the conversation going with your customers within the app to help support their needs and solve their issues as quickly as possible in a way that meets your customers where they are.


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