As someone born and raised in the 70’s and 80’s, let’s face it – this generation, commonly known as “Generation X,” has lived through a revolution. While the previous generation saw the invention of both radio and television, Gen X was really about the explosion of technology in ways no one had ever seen it before. Those of us who grew up during that time still recall being astounded by the home version of Pong; mesmerized by the launch of MTV – someone’s ‘crazy’ idea to create a television station that played music videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week (remember when they actually played music?); and absolutely blown away when the Commodore 64 was released – with over 1 MHz of raw processing power (yes, today’s processors have around 30 Ghz, but back then 1 MHz was virtually unheard of).
Then came the introduction of mobile phones, and all bets were off. I think I speak for most of us from the era when I say never did I imagine that someday a small, handheld device would enable us do everything from stay in touch with friends on the other side of the world to play games to banking. And so much more. As a company that works in the mobile space, we’ve had numerous discussions about what uses for mobile technology are our favorites. Below are the top five that we think have made the most impact on modern society:
1. Buy a Coke
Mobile payment used to mean carrying coins in your pocket. Today, it’s enabling a whole new world of payment options. From Near-field Communication (NFC) to mobile wallet, today’s mobile phones mean that you don’t have to carry something bulky purse or wallet – or, worse yet, risk losing money if your wallet gets lost. If only someone could emulate that satisfying jingle of pocket change…
2. Turn on the air conditioner
Aside from the fact that, for our generation, “air conditioner” often meant a piece of paper folded into a fan – when we came of age you still had to flip a physical switch to operate any electrical appliance.
Now, products like smart thermostats allow you to remotely control heating and cooling from your smartphone. Smart security systems monitor your home inside and out and automatically alert if something’s wrong. Smart pet feeders mean that no one ever forgets to feed Fido, and smart lighting means you don’t have to yell at your kids to turn off the lights. You can even clean your house remotely using your mobile phone with the new iRobot app.
3. Chat with a service agent
Forget calling, when we wanted to get customer service from any organization, we had to physically go to an office and stand in line. The things you could do via phone were still fairly limited, and all of them involved interacting with an actual human.
With smartphones, standing in line for the insurance company or even government agencies has largely become a thing of the past. And now, talking to an actual human is often just as passé.
Service Bots offer proactive interactions on websites and social media channels, and can initiate customer engagement, offer services, or, based on learning algorithms and AI, anticipate what customers are looking for and offer it to them before they even ask.
However, even this level of automation may soon be a thing of the past. With advanced solutions like Visual IVR, for example, customers enjoy simple, intuitive, and completely digital resolutions of issues – while still benefitting from the human-staffed call center experience.
4. Become a super navigator
Getting lost used to be a very common thing. You’d realize you had no idea where you were, stop by the side of the road and wrestle with a ginormous paper map that would never re-fold itself correctly no matter how hard you tried. You might even have to – gasp! – stop and ask a fellow human for directions.
Today, with apps like Waze and Google Maps, there is no “lost.” Mom and dad no longer fight about missed turns. Kids don’t wait patiently in the car while their parents ask for directions. And driving in circles or sitting in unnecessary traffic doesn’t waste expensive tanks of gas. We’ve all become super-navigators, thanks to our smartphones.
5. Replace your bank branch
Your local bank branch may well be a thing of the past, and your smartphone may be to blame.
Across the US and Europe, “banking deserts” – simply put, an area without adequate banking services – are growing. For example, in the US, more brick-and-mortar bank branches closed in the first half of 2017 than in any other year prior.
Because of this, more and more banks are providing full-service remote banking using collaboration and co-browsing techniques and creating actual “virtual branches.” These virtual branches offer all the services physical branches used to, including document signature, entirely online.
The Bottom Line
Wonders never cease, and smartphones seem to be the most wonderous of recent technological leaps forward. While so much has been done already, today’s organizations are still just beginning to leverage the power of these handheld supercomputers to provide new and increasingly satisfying levels of customer service. The possibilities are truly endless, and I, for one, am looking forward to being part of the “what’s next.”