Like driving on the interstate, you can cross boundaries without noticing but after a while you just know you aren’t in Kansas anymore. I had one of those moments the other day talking about mobile technology. It occurred to me that calling what we do on devices “mobile computing” was just wrong, at least linguistically, but also I think conceptually and that’s important.
Mobile has always meant a few things but mostly it implied some user at the periphery of a wireless network tied into a central server/database/hub. It was more of a master-slave relationship where the mobile user could use some but not all of the functionality available because it wouldn’t all fit on the small screen or small device. The implication was that the mobile app was a subset of the app that ran on desktops and laptops.
Gradually, mobile came to mean whatever you did on a mobile device with the understanding that devices were wireless and the apps you were using resided in a browser. It was cool stuff but over a short time, browsers have been pushed aside in favor of apps specific to a task. At some point, and I think it was when we went from web browser to app, we left Kansas and invented yet another kind of computing, which I am calling mouseless until something really sexy comes along.
A good example of mouseless computing can be found in the Salesforce Service for Apps announced this week. Powered by the Service Cloud, Service for Apps enables companies to embed customer service into apps running on mobile devices. The new designation does not come from where the apps run but what they facilitate and, to be clear, this mouseless computing is really about the ability to escape the confines of an office and a desk even if you never leave the building—perhaps especially if you never leave the building. An executive or manager with a device has the ability to run the business from the device, full stop.
There are five customer service channels or bits of functionality in the Salesforce Mobile SDK for Service for Apps that bridge computing, telephony, media, and social media and bring us to mouseless computing including: Chat; Tap to call; Knowledgebase; Case management; and a concierge service that the company continues to insist on linking with some form of disaster by associating the term SOS with it (Salesforce SOS for Apps).
A business can either build business-specific apps and embed Service for Apps into its larger CRM instances on mobile devices or it can add the Service for Apps SDK to existing business-specific mobile apps. How will this be used? Here’s what I think.
We call them apps, but they are also the business ends—or customer ends—of specific processes designed to make life easier for customers. These embedded apps enable a vendor to let the customer decide when it might be necessary to step out of a more common service or support process and ask for specific assistance from a live agent or get content such as video.
Anyone worried that this technology will create a moral hazard by enabling customers to over-use live help should relax, no one (okay, no sane people) elects to get help for fun. Letting the customer decide when to jump out of an automated process is highly enabling, it tells customers that the vendor trusts them enough to let them make the decision.
It also lets the vendor off the hook for trying to come up with, and program for, every conceivable service situation. Instead, it lets the vendor say, here are our service processes, which cover most of the contingencies for this company and its products. If you need something else, please use one of these modalities to get action. This offers the real possibility that no one (okay, no sane person) will ever sully your reputation in social media or a sentiment site again simply because they were unceremoniously kicked out of a service process because no one on your side ever considered that a customer could do something unheard of in your service app.
I can see this technology used every day though not for rote processes. Its utility might be best underscored in a highly technical situation where the customer might be up to elbows in complexity and needs to access deep expertise in a context sensitive moment. I can see customers using the video chat functionality to show a service person some kind of abnormality or failure, for instance. The concierge service (SOS) may be the best example because the idea implies a high-end service for a limited number of situations.
At any rate, this constellation of functions and how they are delivered has caused me to think that we’re in new waters, thinking differently again about the vendor-customer relationship and how to solve for the customer. Did you know I wrote a book about that? It’s now available in digital form at Amazon. I have to admit though, I never considered the mouseless angle, but there it is.
(Cross-posted @ Beagle Research Group)