By Sarah Rolfing
Today, when it comes to customer service, we all know who is calling the shots. Customers are loosing patience quicker and becoming less forgiving when they encounter a poor customer service experience. The 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer shows that “over half (55%) of consumers have intended to conduct a business transaction or make a purchase, but decided not to based on a poor service experience.” Deciding when, where, and how they want service, the average customer’s service expectations, compared to a decade ago, have skyrocketed.
We can attribute much of the shift in customer service expectations to the smartphone and its precious app offspring. Apps, apps, and more apps! They entertain, teach, narrate our lives, inform, and most importantly, help us. A 2012 study by ClickFox found that “over 78 percent of consumers surveyed use mobile apps for customer service purposes such as billing, account status/updates and interactive chat.” The same study revealed, “over 90 percent of respondents would replace some or all traditional customer service channels with a mobile app if available.”
So what can we take away from these findings? I think it’s pretty obvious; apps are a key customer service channel, not to mention their added coolness factor. And, the best part of it all… If an app is done right, we tell our friends about it!
I have a good friend who recently got her first iPhone. Being overwhelmed by the multitude of app options, she thought she’d consult fellow iPhoners to see what apps she “needs.” Note, she asked what apps she “needs”, not “wants”. As a modern age Rolling Stone might say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you might find” there’s an app for that!
Well, this experience got me thinking about apps and if there are any apps that are really need-worthy. I came to the conclusion that there are no essential apps, but there are convenience-enabling apps out there that the modern consumer’s expectations are causing them to think they need. These are apps that make our lives easier, saving us time and money. Transfer money seconds before you overdraft, book a flight on your way to the airport, request roadside assistance even when you have no idea where you are, pay bills last-minute, the list goes on and on. A study by Nuance revealed; “84% of consumers surveyed generally prefer to use a company’s mobile app for routine inquiries (checking balance, check flight status, etc.) rather than calling the company on the phone.”
Many of these convenience-enabling apps encourage self-service, and go as far as self-checkout. Take for instance, the apple store. Now, if you are going to make a significant purchase such as an ipad or new macbook, you’ll probably want some assistance making a decision. But if you are simply looking for some new software, a case, or a keyboard, apple has enabled iPhone users to complete a transaction themselves from start to finish. iPhone owners can literally scan a product, pay for it, and walk out the door all using their smartphone. Yet another app employing the coolness factor, I might buy something just to try it out! Nielsen conducted a survey in Q1 2012, finding “the vast majority (79%) of US smartphone and tablet owners have used their mobile devices for shopping-related activities.” Smartphones are literally changing our shopping behaviors.
However, there is a cold, hard truth that we must recognize when it comes to cool self-service apps; Sometimes we just need to talk to somebody. As the complexity of an inquiry escalates, the more we feel the need to talk to somebody. When faced with difficult or complicated question, nearly half of consumers (46%) prefer to speak on the phone with a ‘real’ customer service rep (2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer).
Now, after experiencing a great app, where the self-service is stellar, we despise searching for 800 numbers and waiting on hold. This old-school way of dialing in and listening to confusing menus, only to be put on hold with terrible music OR even advertisements, it’s got to go. Let’s get rid of these ancient practices and make the experience ‘app-easy’. Let’s make it so flawless for the customer that they deem your app need-worthy. Let’s create consistency by offering quality service across the board whether you’re in an app, on a website, or calling in. Let’s add the coolness factor and exceed those customer expectations!