Miscellaneous Forbes

Companies Don’t Get Mobile Ads (Yet). But Mobile Customer Service? Oh Yes.


Erika Morphy, Contributor

April 30, 2014

Salesforce.com, par for the course, is getting ahead of an emerging trend in the m-commerce world: providing the technology to support mobile service. For once, the CRM icon wasn’t actually the first to plant its flag on this particular patch of ground; the honors for that go to Amazon and its Mayday application.

Still, Salesforce.com can be counted on to refine and accelerate this trend. Last Thursday the company debuted its latest creation: Salesforce1 Service SOS, a mobile support button that has the same functionality that Mayday does. Customers need help with something, say they have a question about their service or about an item they want to buy, they click a button to be connected to a sales repo.

Salesforce.com is not the only choice on the market. OnSIP’s new product, InstaCall offers similar, if not as robust, functionality.  A WebRTC-based solution, it features video-capable support onto a user’s website or mobile app.

Both of these products are specifically targeting mobile apps, which makes sense. Not only are more people accessing the mobile Web through an app, as opposed to a browser, but the apps themselves are becoming more complicated and geared to higher-end transactions. Customer service is a natural next step for these apps, especially when it has live video support and on-screen guided assistance, as SOS does.

Unfortunately neither product is exactly ready for prime time at this point.

OnSIP’s InstaCall is available now, but later in the year a pay-as-you-go pricing model for voice and video calling, user registrations, and messages will roll out, a solution that is probably more suitable for larger enterprises.

SOS, for its part, is on track for private beta in the second half of 2014.

Waiting for the Market

Anyway, it could well take the rest of the year for the market—companies and their customers—to become accustomed to the idea of live mobile help. For some reason, CRM has only become widely “mobilized” in one of its three main functional areas, sales force automation.

The good news is that the market’s attitude about mobile service won’t reflect its ambiguous relationship with that other CRM stool leg–marketing.

The Frustrating Challenge of Mobile Ads

At first blush it would seem that mobile marketing is on a tear; to throw out one stat at random—in October of 2013 eMarketer noted that nearly two-thirds of U.S. advertisers surveyed by Advertiser Perceptions expected to increase their ad spending on mobile in the next year, while just more than half said they would do the same for digital overall.

But there is something about mobile ads that simply doesn’t sit well, or resonate, with marketers, and that disconnect shows up in a myriad of ways.

For instance, they don’t want to pay as much for mobile marketing as they do desktop ads even though mobile tech offers far better targeting capabilities.

So said Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora last week when discussing Google’s earnings. Arora also noted that retailers aren’t developing their mobile sites as much as they are their online sites, because they assume more purchases will be made from a desktop than a smartphone or tablet.

“The journey is just beginning for advertisers on the mobile side,” he said. He also said, less optimistically “right now we can lead the horse to water, but we can’t make it drink.”

Another very telling marker about mobile ads: “there is a clear gap between mobile use by consumers and ad dollars devoted to mobile,” according to Michael Boland, senior analyst and VP of content, BIA/Kelsey. He told me this during a recent discussion about the company’s prediction that location-based mobile advertising revenues will reach $4.5 billion in 2014, up from $2.9 billion in 2013.

That forecast is clearly good, if not long overdue, news. Even so Boland said, it is still disconcerting how long the industry is taking to get to this point.  “The advertising dollar share for mobile has been estimated to be only 2%.”

Customer service solutions, though, resonate with companies, which is ironic because they traditionally represent just a cost on the corporate balance sheet and not a potential revenue maker like marketing. That truism, though, gets turned upside in the mobile environment, largely because customers can use said mobile devices to complain about their poor service so quickly and so virally.

One study stands out in making this point: last year Dimensional Research and ZenDesk found that 95% of respondents surveyed who had had a bad customer experience told someone about it, compared to 87% who shared a good experience. Not only that but bad news travels further and wider, according to the survey, which found that 54% of respondents that shared a bad experience shared it more than 5 times, compared to 33% of those who shared a good interaction multiple times.

In that light, a giant SOS button flashing helpfully at a customer makes perfect sense.

Great ! Thanks for your subscription !

You will soon receive the first Content Loop Newsletter