“Need help or support?” product brochures used to say. “We’re only a phone call away!”
There are still plenty of numbers you can dial that will take you directly into a contact centre filled with expert agents who can solve customers’ biggest challenges.
Increasingly, though, those companies are also offering mobile apps as a way to keep in touch with customers. And not just for customer service, but for myriad parts of the journey.
Even before companies developed their own apps, they often used some that were already on most people’s smartphones. This included their email app, of course, where they could send everything from newsletters to important support updates.
There are also text messages, which continue to be a quick and efficient way to send customers alerts and even answer some basic questions. Social media apps such as Facebook or Twitter have become marketing, sales and service channels too.
The difference with offering your customers a proprietary mobile app is that you are immersing them directly into a digital experience that you control.
Depending on the features and design of the app, customers can explore your products and services, ask questions, compare prices, place orders, track shipments and engage directly with your team for troubleshooting.
If that weren’t incentive enough to create a mobile app, consider the fact that you can study the usage data to discover trends and patterns that improve your overall business performance.
The way customers use the search function in an app, for instance, can tell you a lot about which of your products are rising in demand. The most common payment methods could inform your e-commerce experience. If they spend a lot of time in the app, you may have an opportunity to cross-sell or upsell them to increase their lifetime value.
It used to be time-consuming and expensive for companies to develop their own app, especially if they were a small or medium-sized business. Low-code platforms such as Salesforce Lightning have changed all that.
As you create an app, be sure to think though how it will change the conversations you have with customers:
No one wants to waste their time schlepping to a store that isn’t carrying what they want. A mobile app can be a great way to quickly check inventory as well as details like size and colour.
Your app could also give customers a sense of any safety protocols you’ve put in place since the pandemic, updates on store hours, average crowd size and even tailored directions to the parking lot.
Customers appreciate being left to browse freely, but when they have questions they don’t want to be searching aisle after aisle for an associate.
A mobile app should act as a hotline for any and all questions about what they’re seeing (or not seeing) in the store. Think about how you might be able to let customers scan items with their phone and have your app suggest complementary items or accessories. Some companies are even letting people check out with their app instead of going to a cashier or kiosk.
What was once a novelty — a code or link to track an order — is now an expectation among most customers. The problem with a link is you have to keep looking it up in your email inbox to use it.
A mobile app can make this a lot easier with alerts or notifications when a product is getting closer to their homes.
For those who want to arrange curbside pickup, meanwhile, your app can help avoid confusion once they arrive by making it easy to communicate that you’re collecting their product and bringing it out.
There will be many companies, including B2B firms, where there isn’t a store experience to offer. And yet customers still want a sense of human connection.
Beyond text features, explore the opportunities to incorporate video, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in your app so customers can get expertise from your team no matter where they are.
Apps aren’t just for selling products — they can be used to provide all kinds of services, including consulting, by taking advantage of purely digital experiences through mobile devices like phones and tablets.
Apps don’t necessarily make our smartphones ring, but they can make them light up or even vibrate when brands have something important to say.
You could use your mobile app to make sure customers are satisfied with their most recent purchase, for instance. Assuming they are, you could then encourage them to write a review or testimonial.
A B2B firm could reach out via an app to alert customers when the time to renew their contract draws closer. A consumer brand might reach out with a special promotion or discount to get customers re-engaged with their brand.
Bear in mind that your app will only be valuable as long as you continue to give your customers reasons to continue opening it.
This means treating your app as an ongoing work in progress. Take the time to look at usage data to see what’s driving engagement and what’s not.
Ensure you have feedback mechanisms for customers to share what they like and what they don’t. Periodically offer surveys to get advice on new features or design changes.
You should also be prepared to market your mobile app as part of your customer experience based on what’s best for your customers. A guest might use a hotel’s app only while they’re staying there, for example, but it might take a reminder from staff (or an email before their trip) that the app is there to help them.
Finally, encourage your biggest fans to review your app on the app stores. It’s the best way to get more people to install your app, try it out, and make the most of the digital experience you’re trying to deliver.