This is a guest contribution from Joanna Jones. Jones is the Marketing Manager at Impact Learning Systems, an organization that provides customer service, sales, and call center training.  There is no doubt that technology has disrupted the way business is conducted and customer service is delivered. From Quick Response (QR) codes to mobile-payment systems, technology is changing how customers get information and interact with businesses. Fortunately, such changes aren’t limited to just organizations with large budgets and well-established IT departments. Even businesses with little-to-no marketing budget can affordably integrate many of these technology-based customer service options into their operations. Mobile apps have garnered a lot of attention for good reason. They are an effective way to:
  • Improve customer service
  • Create new streams of revenue
  • Attract new customers, and
  • Allow customers to serve themselves
There’s a good business case to be made as well. Flurry, a mobile analytics company, released a report earlier this year that showed native app usage on smartphones has continued to grow, while mobile web usage has declined. The report claims that as of March 2014, users now spend two hours and 42 minutes per day on mobile devices, an increase of three minutes from 2013. What this means for businesses is that to stay competitive and relevant, integrating mobile apps into their customer service strategy is essential.

Improve Customer Service

Customers increasingly expect to be an active participant in a company and an easy way to allow for this exchange is through in-app feedback forms. In-app feedback allows the user to provide feedback via the app, which gives companies an opportunity to have a more personal exchange with the customer. For those companies new to the idea of mobile apps, think of in-app feedback as the equivalent to live-chat on your website. It allows you to gather feedback, solve problems, and develop meaningful relationships. A big benefit to providing in-app feedback is giving the customer a private way to make a complaint to the company, rather than publicly sharing their problem across social media.

Create New Streams of Revenue

In the same report by Flurry, mentioned above, revenue from mobile apps was estimated to be $25 billion in 2013. Apps can help increase sales by alerting customers to products they weren’t previously aware of and maintaining connections with customers, which ultimately drives sales. A study published by research firm Deloitte found that customers use smartphones before and during shopping trips. Twenty-two percent of customers surveyed said they spend more money in stores as a result of information provided by retailers via mobile platforms. When a business’s apps are integrated with social media applications like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, the amplifier effect has the potential to reach new customers.

Attract New Customers

Integrating mobile apps into your existing platforms allows you to meet customers on channels they already use. Mobile users spend a lot of time on social networking sites, so interfacing your company’s mobile app with social media outlets has the potential to reach a large audience. By creating mobile apps for your organization you can control the environment and how the user interacts and learns about your product.

Allow Customers to Serve Themselves

Providing useful information and empowering customers to interact and engage with your company via mobile apps can free up labor to focus on other aspects of your business. Because customers expect to be able to actively participate in companies, it’s important to make sure your organization’s web-based and mobile apps give them the opportunity to engage in the ways they expect. Providing customers with easy-to-find answers and information allows them to find the information they desire on their own time-frame. From a business standpoint it also frees up time with customer-facing employees, allowing them to better engage with customers. Many businesses already have self-service features on their websites, but those same features don’t necessarily translate over to mobile devices. In order for these features to be seamless across platforms, it may necessary to develop custom mobile apps. Technology plays an important role in how customer care is delivered. Businesses that offer numerous, up-to-date ways for customers to engage will outperform their competition. As consumers continue to migrate from desktops to laptops to tablets to smartphones, it is important that businesses remain nimble and evolve with changing technology. Ignoring how customers engage with your brand or product won’t make it go away, it will only drive your customers to your competition. Embracing mobile apps doesn’t necessarily require a large investment. There are myriad third-party developers that can help build apps that are appropriate for your business and customer base. If the predictions laid out in the Flurry and Deloitte reports come true, then businesses can expect customers to spend more time on smartphones than any other device in the foreseeable future. The time is now to embrace where the industry is headed and where your customers are.