by Brian Stacy, VP of Customer Experience at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @brian_stacy44
How do you order a pizza, buy a pair of sneakers, or rent a car? There’s a good chance a mobile app is your starting point, even if it’s not the whole journey. You might discover the sneakers on Instagram or Facebook, learn and explore more about them in the mobile app—even asking questions via chat or by reading online reviews and finally purchasing them online. This is the new normal. Today our consumer touch points are increasingly integrated—we expect a seamless omnichannel experience, but that often begins in a mobile app.
The vast majority of Americans now own smartphones. For millennials and Gen-X, ownership is almost ubiquitous. And thanks to the fast, reliable connectivity provided by 4G and in the future 5G, they’re using their mobile devices to consume media, organize their lives and research and make purchases. Consumers are turning to their mobiles to check reviews of products and prices when in store. And they’re not waiting until they’re back home to book that vacation—they’re doing it straight from their phone.
For many consumers, the first thing they’ll turn to when they’re thinking about making a purchase—be it new clothes or a new car—is a mobile app. Mobile is where the customer journey begins. And that’s why it’s something that every organization should be embracing.
Speed and convenience
On most occasions, consumers want speed and convenience. That’s what the best mobile apps offer—ecommerce on the go. They can help to streamline the entire buyer process, making your service more attractive to busy people seeking convenience and instant gratification.
Mobile apps can also help win new customers and encourage brand loyalty. Many customers’ view of your brand will be based on social recommendations. They’re more likely to trust a brand if they’ve seen good reviews online—and especially if it has been recommended by friends or family. From your mobile apps, customers can instantly share their purchases on Instagram, or send push notifications requesting a Facebook review. This can help you to build brand awareness quickly, and attract a wider audience.
The benefits don’t end there. Mobile apps can save your business time and money. Imagine you’re a busy hotelier or restaurant owner—a mobile booking app could mean your staff spends less time answering phones and taking manual reservations, freeing up time for other proactive guest activities to create experience differentiation.
The ecommerce landscape is rapidly evolving and there’s huge potential for innovation. New and upcoming trends include sophisticated AI chatbots, digital assistants and virtual reality shopping. If used wisely, these features can enhance the user experience, differentiate your organization and enable rich personalization.
Need inspiration? Keep an eye on larger brands that are leading the way in mobile customer experience (CX). Retail giant Sephora has released an app which scans your face and lets you try on makeup virtually. It matches your chosen look with real products you can purchase online or in-store, creating a tailored shopping experience.
Concierge apps like Pana are changing the way we travel. Book your sightseeing, flights and hotels within the app, or use the built-in chat support to instantly connect with travel agency professionals. Running late for a flight? Grab shows you the nearest restaurants in your airport. Order your food within the app, and grab it as you rush to the terminal. You can even forward on meal receipts for expense reporting.
Mobile CX is already harnessing the power of 4G. The arrival of 5G promises to enhance this even further, with predicted speeds of more than a gigabit per second. Customers will be able to quickly download videos on the go, vastly improving the mobile app experience. The future of mobile CX looks promising.
Where should you start?
Whether you’re planning to develop your own mobile app, or simply make your existing website mobile friendly, there are certain things you should keep in mind. Here are three key considerations for your mobile strategy.
Using content delivery networks (CDNs) can enhance your mobile app performance. CDNs help provide a smooth user experience by accelerating the speed of content downloads. This is especially important if your customer base is spread around the globe. Even a second-long delay can cause a drop off in your mobile conversions—so it’s important that your app is lightning fast, no matter where your users live.
One of the most crucial considerations is payment security. Consumers put their trust in you each time they make a purchase online, or within an app. To protect both your customers and your business, get up to speed with security requirements including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and The Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA DSS).
Don’t fall into the trap of going mobile for the sake of it, or blindly following your competitors. Your mobile app must work for your customers—not frustrate or impede them. Begin by tapping into your existing consumer base. Conduct journey mapping research to find out what they want, and how you could improve their experience. Think about every possible touch point on your customer journey, and try to create a seamless omnichannel experience which makes their daily lives easier.
by Brian Stacy, VP of Customer Service Operations at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @brian_stacy44
A great customer experience (CX) can be the difference between a customer coming back to you again and again or them going with your competitor. It’s the compelling reason people buy your product or service and recommend your business to others. Today, CX is a key differentiator for most businesses, big and small. And many are looking to technology to deliver the kind of innovative experiences that will help retain and win new customers.
Take chat bots. At their best, these can help customers get answers to their questions quickly. They can even help train customer assistants to deliver a better service. One beauty brand launched a chat bot on the popular messaging app, Kik, to offer customers quizzes, personalized beauty tips and reviews — you can even buy the beauty products you’re chatting about without ever having to leave the app.
And there are plenty of other ways in which tech is driving better CX. There are the advanced collaboration tools that help call center staff handle queries and orders faster. And there’s the artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics that are enabling organizations to take the vast amounts of data they’re collecting on their customers — online, via social and in-store — and turn it into actionable intelligence.
That all sounds great. It also sounds expensive. If technology is providing an edge when it comes to CX, is it the large enterprises with equally large IT budgets that have the edge? How can small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like you hope to compete?
Tech is levelling the CX playing field
SMBs have a natural advantage when it comes to CX. They’re often closer to the local communities that they’re based in and understand their customers’ needs. But tech can take these experiences to the next level.
You might think tools like chat bots and AI will break the bank or require specialist knowledge. The reality is quite different. Take this tool that enables you to build your own Facebook chat bot in about seven minutes with no coding involved. The best bit is that if you think you’ll get less than 500,000 monthly active users, you can do it for free. Big businesses like Volkswagen and Uber are using this kind of solution to create additional channels for reaching customers. You can too.
Innovative CX solutions are becoming more and more available — no matter what the size of your business. Many of the advanced tools that large enterprise would have developed in-house are now available off the shelf. For example, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are readily available that enable real-time video conferencing from any device — no need for an expensively outfitted office. That means a better experience for business clients you can’t easily visit.
Many SaaS solutions provide more advanced functionality than you’ll find in large enterprises using in-house systems. They’re developed and maintained by experts. And SMBs are often better positioned to take advantage of them than big companies, typically being far less encumbered by legacy IT systems. That means you could actually be the one gaining an edge.
From advanced apps to cheaper cloud storage, from social media to more agile connectivity, technology is enabling great improvements in CX. And it’s not just for the big guys.
Avoid tech for tech’s sake
But technology isn’t the answer to all ills. You shouldn’t just implement new technology for the novelty factor or because someone else has it — this kind of decision could backfire and result in worse CX. You need to determine whether a particular piece of technology will improve experiences and help your customers reach their end goal sooner. You also need to think through whether it’s something your customers will be comfortable using. If they typically avoid social media, a Facebook chat bot won’t do your CX much good.
Start by mapping your customers’ journeys to get a clearer picture of how they interact with you. That means looking at key touch points and identifying any pain points. And not just those that come after you’ve made the sale. The customer journey starts from your very first contact with a customer — through a tweet or advert, say. Think about the experience delivered by the product, the marketing, the selling and the operations. Examine the whole journey and ask yourself, where can tech make a difference? Where can it really improve CX?
Some large organizations are using big data analytics to help them build digital profiles of their customers and understand customer pathways. But this is actually somewhere you could have an advantage. SMBs often have simpler customer propositions — based around one core product or service. And that could make it easier for you to identify where tech will have the biggest impact on CX. These don’t have to be huge changes, but they should be driven by the right motivators. Be led by CX, not by cost savings or novelty tech.
When you’ve identified where to make these improvements, the technology to make a difference is well within your reach. But this isn’t the case of once and done. Products, technology and customer expectations are changing all the time so you need to work with companies that understand the latest trends and can help keep you up to date.