How everyone’s pocket super-computer changed the face of customer care
According to comScore’s 2017 Cross-Platform Future in Focus report, the average American over 18-years-old spends 2 hours, 51 minutes on their smartphone every day.
That number has been steadily rising year after year. We are all becoming increasingly dependent on our pocket supercomputers. A few weeks ago I took a road trip from our office near Boston 100 miles out to Springfield in western Massachusetts for a business meeting. About halfway to my destination, I realized I had a problem. I was entirely dependent on my phone’s GPS to navigate the unfamiliar roads and I had forgotten my phone’s car charger. At some point, my phone was going to run out of battery and I would be lost in western Massachusetts. Luckily my phone lasted long enough for me to get my bearings for the return journey before it fully ran out of power, but my fear of being without a GPS in an unknown area made it clear: I am hopelessly dependent on my smartphone.
Directions aren’t the only feature tying us to our phones. When I’m not embarking on statewide car trips, I commute to our office from downtown Boston. Between early mornings and city traffic, I don’t have a lot of time to get going every day. To save time I order my daily coffee ahead of time from Dunkin Donuts on their mobile app. That way I can quickly run in, grab my coffee, and get back on the road to arrive at the office on time for the start of the day. Without my phone, I’d be stuck waking up earlier or attempting to make it through my busy morning without my coffee fix.
As more and more people become accustomed to smartphones, more and more companies are introducing features designed specifically for mobile. The power of the platform has made features and capabilities more accessible and convenient than ever before. Smartphones disrupted the GPS market, the digital camera industry, and the life of everyone trying to “remember what show they remember that actor from.” It seems there isn’t a single industry safe from the power of smartphone technology, including customer care.
The smartphone explosion has connected consumers to more people and companies than we could have ever dreamed. Chatting with a friend or family member halfway around the globe is as easy as sending a message with WeChat today. We use our smartphones to communicate with any person in our lives we may need to contact, coordinate, or cooperate with. Brands are no exception. Platforms like Twitter and other social messaging put customers in direct contact with companies. When people we care about message us with an issue, we get back to them quickly. Customers are eager for the same kind of care from customer service. Responsive service signals to consumers that a company really values them. In fact, according to an Aspect Consumer Experience Survey, 76% of customers say they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. Enterprises can’t afford to delay responding to customers. We aren’t put on hold when we message friends, so we don’t want to be put on hold when we contact customer service. If you wouldn’t do it to your friends, why would you do it to your customers?
Responses shouldn’t just be fast, they should be personal. Sending a broad, bland message to every customer signals a brand looks at consumers more as a number than as a person. Customers want to feel like an enterprise is responding to their specific issue, and simply adding their first name to the beginning of a prewritten message doesn’t cut it. Organizations need to actively offer information based on multiple variables. When a utility company learns power has gone out for a certain region an active, personalized customer service department should automatically send a notification to all accounts registered in that area, alerting them of the power outage and informing customers of a timeline to restoration. Just like a responsible friend would notify us of an issue and what they were doing to solve it, in today’s ever-connected society enterprises need to do the same.
“If you wouldn’t do it to your friends, why would you do it to your customers?”
When customers end up calling contact centers it isn’t out of the blue. Modern consumers often use their smartphones to research their issue first before reaching out to customer service. They only reach out when their problem necessitates interacting with an organization, or their Google searches returned untrustworthy or limited results. According to the 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report, three out of every four consumers have used a search engine to try and find the answer to a customer service question (that figure is 89% for ages 18-34). If they could have solved the issue without customer service, they would have. That’s why more and more enterprises are converting as many queries as possible into self-service solutions. According to the same report, 90% of customers in the USA expect a brand or organization to have an online self-service portal. With the demand for self-service that high, an inability to provide these capabilities could mean enterprises risk losing customers to competitors that can.
In 2007 the company Steve Jobs ran wrote a press release titled “Apple Reinvents the Phone with iPhone.” At the time the headline read as a bit overstated. Eleven years later, it reads as almost humble. Today the company might have written “Apple Reinvents The World with iPhone.” Smartphones have changed the way billions of people connect and communicate. Taking full advantage of that groundbreaking technology is the future of customer service. Personalized self-service capabilities are required for any enterprise that wants to fit into the era of the smartphone empowered consumer.