As consumers make more payments through mobile devices, the vendors who design mobile wallet apps are addressing any growing pains through in-app customer support.

"When [customers] get to the point where they want help or further assistance from a human…the right solution isn't one that stops what they're doing," said John Hibel, director of marketing at Contact Solutions. "The right solution is to continue that experience and augment that with live assistance that's not confusing."

Contact Solutions is a customer self-service provider building functionality for mobile apps, including those from financial services and payment companies. Contact Solutions integrates a help button into mobile apps, allowing users to access more information, a specific set of capabilities or a text-based chat with a live agent.

Without such capabilities, companies typically require distressed customers to close the mobile app and dial a phone number. This process "turns the smartphone into a dumb phone," said Mike McShea, senior vice president of marketing and product management at Contact Solutions.

Vendors are taking multiple approaches to this concept. SCVNGR's LevelUp mobile wallet has a Distress Signal button, empowering consumers to notify the company immediately if there are problems with the mobile app or checkout experience.

LevelUp also offers interactive digital receipts, which can provide similar feedback to the merchant. Square recently launched a similar service called Square Feedback.

Amazon.com's Mayday button, which opens a video chat with a service representative on its Kindle Fire HDX tablet, is also a feature of its new Amazon Local Register mobile card reader. Mayday provides a one-way video chat with a customer service representative, who can see the user's screen to help solve any issues.

Contact Solutions is working with Cachet Financial Solutions to implement its customer self-service technology into Cachet's mobile transaction enablement platform. Cachet is a third-party provider of financial services, including mobile banking and payment systems such as person-to-person, bill pay and remittance to financial institutions.

The instant messaging ability "can save a lot of time and effort for the end user," said Youri Bebic, senior vice president of mobile innovations at Cachet. "Plus calling customer service is extremely expensive [for the provider]…but the IM service is cheaper." 

Cachet also wants to be able to trigger a 'Can I help you?' pop-up if consumers have been on a certain page for too long or if they detect an issue, such as the rejection of a transaction, said Bebic. Cachet's integration with Contact Solutions should be live by the end of the year, he said.

The Boston Globe integrated Contact Solutions technology into its mobile app recently.

The Boston Globe doesn't have a 24/7 contact center, and about 29% of customer service requests through the app come after hours, said McShea.

Customers rest easy knowing they've started the process of getting their issue resolved and a Boston Globe customer service agent picks up the request in the morning, he said. Customers are sent a notification to the app when the request is picked up.

"Because the time pressure was taken away, the agents felt like they had the time to be more thorough and to provide better answers to the customer," said Hibel.

About 87% of Boston Globe app users remain active, which is a high percentage for mobile apps. "A very large percentage of consumers who download a mobile app use it once and then forget about it," Hibel said. But the enhanced customer service functions "remove the roadblocks and barriers in making that first interaction successful…so people get in the habit and continue using the app."

This retention is especially important for financial institutions as they encounter competition from non-bank startups.

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