Smartphones are revolutionizing everything we do and how we do it, including the way people communicate. Today, people are doing much more than talking on these devices – they browse the Web, manage emails and send text messages. According to a survey conducted by CTIA-The Wireless Association, text messaging continues to grow at an unprecendented rate with almost 5 billion messages being sent and received per day at the end of 2009.
This evolution is not only changing the way people communicate with each other, but also how they communicate with the companies they do business with, directly impacting customer service strategies. Consumers don’t want to wait on hold to speak to an agent when they have a rich device at their disposal with text, touch and talk capabilities to access the answers they need whenever they need them. Attracting a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one, making it imperative for companies to make customer satisfaction a priority.*
According to a recent consumer report by Yankee Group, 13 percent of customers would leave their mobile service provider for better customer service. Wireless carriers need to provide adequate customer care and connect with mobile phone users how they prefer to be reached, or they will turn over profits to competitors that offer superior care features. Demand for connectivity is predicted to increase over the next few years, and mobile carriers are responding by providing highly capable, connected devices. With greater connectivity, comes greater need to reach customers on these powerful devices.
How can companies leverage the rich capabilities of the smartphone to provide greater customer service? Much more is needed than creating a “mobile version” of your website. Below are tips on how companies can evolve to take advantage of the smartphone revolution.
- Start with Customer Care – Post sale is the best time to create a persistent communication channel with your customers. Not only will it provide a great customer service experience, but will also be the foundation for building a new level of customer intimacy and loyalty and generating new revenue opportunities. At the same time, if you are thinking of proactively reaching out to your customers on this persistent channel, pay attention to your customer’s preferences. Give them a choice of when and how they want to be contacted.
- Build a Mobile Strategy, Not Just an App – Look long term by investing in solutions that will allow you to support multiple smartphone OSs instead of building a standalone app for iPhone or Android. It will make it much easier in the long run to enhance and add new features. Building a standalone app would be like taking the “finger in the dam” approach to dealing with this new pardigm for servicing customers.
- Give Attention to Usability – Websites converted to mobile often DO NOT provide a great user experience on the smaller screen on the smartphone. To break through the usability barrier, leverage natural language search along with the touch, text and talk capabilities of the smartphone to make it easier to find and access information and services.
- Consider the Cloud – With Amazon, Google and others, cloud deployment models have gone mainstream. If you have not looked at it recently, do so now. Many of the questions around scalability and security are no longer issues. This will allow you to quickly try out, refine and then ramp up your move to the smartphone while limiting the risk.
- Retire Your Old-Fashioned 800 Number for Smartphone Users – You may want to keep your800 number for customers who do not have a smartphone yet (although these people are becoming fewer by the day). For smartphone users who still need to talk to you, make sure the transition from the smartphone to voice-only service with an agent is seamless. At a minimum, make sure the agent has the information about what was done on the smartphone to ensure the best result for the customer.
There is no question that meeting your customers where they are is crucial for companies to ensure optimum customer serivce, drive customer retention and create brand advocates. And today, where they are, is the smartphone.
Roberto Pieraccini is chief technology officer at SpeechCycle