It has been said that where Google goes these days, people follow. So when Ian Carrington, Google’s director of mobile marketing, told an audience during the Changing Media Summit in London last year, “If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a future strategy,” marketers paid attention.
Fast-forward the clock to 2012 and a Marketing Magazine interview and it is clear his opinion has not wavered: “Advertisers … have to grow up and realize the mobile Web is just as important to their business [as apps] and should very much be a consideration for what their mobile strategy should be.”
Mr. Carrington’s recent comments come at a time where mobile, specifically smartphones and tablets, are enjoying high adoption rates and even higher popularity.
Media research firm Nielsen may have called 2011 “The Year of the Mobile,” but in only a few short months, it is amazing how antiquated that label seems.
Considering that the company’s latest research shows that smarphones made up nearly half of all United States mobile phones in February 2012 suggests that going forward, christening years with tech titles might be a bit premature.
Like no other marketing tool before it mobile is the ideal medium to improve customer service and, through heightened customer feedback and shopper metrics, instill greater loyalty.
Today’s North American Internet-using population stands at 273,067,546 and smartphones already comprise around 30 percent of worldwide mobile phone subscribers and is rising daily.
More than half of the U.S. mobile market is already dominated by customers relying on 3G access, while globally one in five mobile subscribers are running on 3G speeds and faster.
With data indicating that today’s Web-accessible mobile phone users spend nearly three hours per day on their wireless devices, there is a continuing incentive for companies to ramp up their mobile customer services.
In other words: relying solely on traditional short message services (SMS – or what has long been considered the backbone of mobile strategy) will shortchange both you and your customer.
Instead, expanding into new wireless channels such as QR codes, advanced augmented reality apps or multichannel techniques, for instance, is another way to make the rest of 2012 and beyond more mobile still while improving customer service and driving loyalty.
And speaking of multichannel techniques, there is also the burgeoning arena of digital signage and its mobile phone importance.
Unlike static standalone signs, digital signs are increasingly linked to mobile devices via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity and can deliver a wealth of customer-specific promotions, coupons and redemptions, and all of it based in real-time and location-aware.
When it comes to driving loyalty, nothing is more valuable than delivering to customers relevant and timely messages and information that they can act on immediately.
For the marketer, instant feedback helps paint a metrics picture that can be used to create an even more tailored experience during the next engagement.
Room for improvement
To be sure, for all the excitement and “mobile has reached a tipping point” chatter in the first quarter of 2012, it is important to remember that 2011 was already very mobile. And so was 2012.
After essentially putting the power of mobile on the map, companies continue expanding their mobile efforts and have taken them far beyond a basic SMS blitz incorporating location-aware campaigns and engaging rich media experiences.
Despite that momentum, many companies have yet to jump on board the mobile bandwagon or have yet to use it to its full potential.
In a 2011 survey from King Fish Media for instance we learned that 62 percent of survey respondents planned to launch a mobile marketing campaign within the next year, while only a third of companies already had a mobile communications strategy in place.
And since 2012 still has a long way to go, it is likely that many marketers still have not gotten the mobile message. And like any New Year’s resolution, they are easy to make and even easier to break – either by not following through on their mobile campaign plans or by launching those plans incorrectly.
But many of the ones that succeed will do so in part because they established loyalty using great customer service.
Think of loyalty and mobile customer service like an equation. Improved customer service, plus improved customer feedback equals greater loyalty.
Focusing on the positive, what follows is a look at ways in which businesses can build brand loyalty through the fusion of mobile and customer service.
Streamlining customer experience with mobile
Think that your customer service practices and your mobile customer service programs are fully integrated with one another? You might be mistaken.
Last year, a TeaLeaf study called mobile “the worst channel for customer experience,” stated that 83 percent of customers surveyed in Britain reported that they have encountered a problem when using mobile checkout.
While no comparable study was completed in the U.S., the results are telling.
Mobile has far to go in providing high quality customer service, particularly with many company mobile initiatives struggling to take shape in such a fast-paced environment.
Marketers responding to rising consumer smartphone adoption, however, have an opportunity to deliver tailored programs and technology that ultimately drive loyalty.
What makes up the ideal customer experience?
The best mobile experiences are the ones that use best practice and keep important demographics in mind. These are the areas most important to fine-tuning an agreeable customer experience via mobile, the type that builds loyalty through ease of use and intelligent design.
Letting the customer guide the experience. Before making changes, ask yourself how each change affects customer interaction with your company. How will the changes you make to your customer service affect the customer experience?
Maximize the multichannel map. Customer service levels should be consistent across all channels, with the ability for customers to easily interact with representatives as needed. The customer should be able to transition between channels without difficulty.
In an SMS or mobile app message, for instance, include a link to your company Web site and phone number for customers to speak with live help.
Nothing speaks like the voice of authenticity, so the saying goes, and sometimes even the most mobile-savvy customers welcome the opportunity to sort out a problem with a real person.
Even if a consumer is left dissatisfied by a specific experience, quality customer service, both traditional and mobile, increase the odds of loyalty purchases at a later date.
Offering valuable mobile additions. Listening to customer response is a vital part in the creation or revamping of the mobile medium.
Since reviews and feedback shape the customer and repeat customer experience, this data can be used to formulate mobile strategy. This is particularly important in healthcare and service providers’ cases, as they often provide lower-rated customer service experiences.
Making service a priority. Quality customer service benefits companies greatly, and as its importance is realized more widely, this should become a top priority.
In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace it is hard enough finding customers, let alone keeping them. All it takes is one ill-timed message before a potential buyer tunes your message out and goes elsewhere.
But once you have gained that loyalty, the strategies above can be used to boost your competitive advantage.
Loyal customers buy more and shop more often, making them more profitable than new ones.
If we can simply use appropriate customer service strategies to attract and retain the customers we want – the ones who are most valuable to us – then we will soon see retention numbers rise accordingly.
THE BOTTOM LINE: be aware of your customers’ needs. By understanding what they want, you can arm new mobile services with plans for top support and consistency.
As we continue through the rest of 2012 there is no doubt that many companies – even the majority – are at least in some formative stage of building and expanding their mobile outreach.
Others have gone well beyond their beta versions.
Mary Meeker, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, told us back in October 2011 that the number of Fortune 1000 companies that are launching mobile ad campaigns grew from 203 in July 2011 to 250 this past September, a 23 percent increase – and the trend is upward.
Regardless of what stage they are in, however, there is always some aspect of mobile marketing and customer service that can be improved upon to attract and retain customers.
Loyalty boosted by mobile is an ideal way to forge ahead, because with mobile use growing and changing, we can expect grand returns – and soon.
If Nielsen termed 2011 “The Year of the Mobile,” and a Google Guru continued to hammer home the importance of mobile this year, it is clear that any business without a mobile strategy, and certainly one that integrates with building customer loyalty, is going to be left behind.