Meet the demands of the new breed of consumer
BUSINESS| Sept. 3, 2012, 12:04 p.m.
By Ian Goss-Ross, CEO at Elingo
Social media and mobility have irrevocably changed the customer service playing field, delivering new modes of communication that consumers now expect across the board – both socially and when interacting with brands. They want easy access to information, instant answers, and a choice in how they communicate with brands. And rightly so – after all, if they can communicate with a world of contacts from a mobile device, they should be able to do so with the companies they support too.
Forward-thinking enterprises are moving to meet this demand by delivering applications that make it possible for customers to interact with companies anywhere, in any way they choose.
With the world fast moving to smartphones, interaction between enterprises and customers must be available in a smartphone-friendly format.
But delivering on these expectations has not been easy for enterprises. Rolling out mobile applications that allow customers to access information instantly and interact in a range of ways - from video chat to texting - and to do so in a way that enhances customer experience rather than frustrates them, has been challenging.
There have been issues such as the cost and quality of bandwidth. The bandwidth situation may have changed, but complexity remains in developing a mobile application that meets a company’s needs to enable mobile customer interactions, in a way the customer finds convenient to use.
Traditionally, if you wanted a mobile application that could be downloaded to a customer’s handset and used for interaction with your enterprise, you had to partner with a development house. The downside of this is that it can prove costly, time-consuming and the company commissioning the application seldom has full control over the application. In addition, integrating the app with existing enterprise and contact centre systems can prove to be a headache.
Once these hurdles are past, the benefits for the enterprise are unlimited. Mobile interfaces with customers deliver more than 24/7 interaction and a better customer experience – they also deliver valuable information about customers in a way that has never been possible before.
Enterprises can run snap surveys, track what channels customers prefer, which features they prefer, endpoints they commonly use and even gather geographical information about customers that ultimately translates into better customer experience and a healthier bottom line for the business.
While integrating geolocation features into the overall customer service system could raise privacy issues, it’s likely that the potential benefits would outweigh concerns among customers that they are ‘being followed’. Imagine, for example, an insurance company has a mobile app for interfacing with its clients. Should the customer have an accident and want to file a claim, an effective mobile app would not only allow them to access their policy information and contact a claims representative in a simple step or two; it would also allow the insurance firm to determine exactly where the client was at the time of the accident. Photos of the scene could also be uploaded to the insurance company from the mobile device. And all of the information gathered could be automatically integrated into the enterprise systems, delivering a complete picture for the insurance firm.
This paves the way for a new breed of solution that meets both the demands of the new breed of consumer and the enterprise’s need for ease of use, full integration, security and ever-more information about customers.
What the customer should see is an easy-to-use app that does not require frequent updates and bandwidth-hungry downloads. The customer should have to download an app just once. If updates take place, they should be on the server, and simply be visible next time the customer uses the app. Logging in needs to be kept simple too.
A positive customer experience is becoming the key differentiator in business – and this applies to the way interaction tools are supplied too. If you make it difficult for customers to interact with you – they won’t.
The next generation of server-based customer interaction solutions will deliver agility, full integration with enterprise systems, allow reporting on all forms of multimedia and put control back into the hands of the enterprise. They will allow enterprises to react quickly to market changes; and will complement existing contact centre interaction tools to help deliver a complete picture of the customer base and its interaction with the enterprise.
In South Africa, many companies are still missing opportunities to deliver new user experiences and gather a goldmine of valuable customer information. It’s time to move forward and deliver on new expectations.
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