2018: Can Brands Survive the Post-App Economy on a Mobile First Planet?

The following is a guest contributed post by Oisin Lunny, Chief Evangelist at OpenMarket.

We often hear companies describe themselves as ‘customer centric’ and ‘obsessed with customer satisfaction’, but when delving deeper into what this actually means to them–the reality deserves a much different description. Most are stuck in a customer experience (CX) rut, doing the bare minimum to avoid upsetting their customers and calling it good service.

The reality is, customers are no longer willing to accept mediocre experiences. In fact, overall tolerance for bad CX is fast approaching zero. Eight years ago, Harris Interactive polled customers to find out how many would be willing to go back to a company after a bad experience, the answer was a fairly forgiving 41 percent. Just four short years later, that figure plummeted to 14 percent. Want to take a stab at what it is today? All signs point towards zero tolerance. This means that brands don’t get a second chance after delivering a bad CX. And what does good CX mean today, from a customer’s perspective? It’s the last best experience they had, with any company.

The Anatomy of Phono-Sapiens

Customers have evolved with the times and now maintain an entirely new set of expectations from businesses. The best way to understand the modern customer is as an evolution of our species to “phono-sapiens.” This means they live and breath by their mobile device, and expect to be able to interact with any business on it. In fact, that’s the main expectation of the  phono-sapiens, for businesses to meet their needs wherever they are, and give them the same experience unilaterally as they go from their mobile, to their tablet, to their laptop. They want to be able to browse on one, and seamlessly complete their purchase later on another.

It has been a slow climb for brands to evolve with the modern consumer’s expectations, and technology has moved faster than many brands using it. Eight years ago web traffic from mobile devices was a fraction of one percent, while today most web traffic is from mobiles. Accordingly, between 2010-2015 there was a massive dip in customer satisfaction, as brands initially ported their online experiences to mobile web and apps, but luckily brands are recovering by designing their CX from the customer’s needs outwards, rather then their own business agendas. Customer satisfaction has increased in the last couple of years as brands begin to understand what a planet of phono-sapiens truly means to their business philosophy and processes.

Empathy in Action

The ability to have a one-on-one relationship with all of your customers on a global scale is still new to most brands, but it’s easier than it seems. It all comes down to one thing: empathy.

These days, businesses can know a lot about their customers, thanks to the sheer quantity and quality of data collected, analysed, and turned into business insights. This makes it entirely possible to anticipate what will make a customer happy, and how to meet their needs at exactly the right moment —which is empathy in action.

A problem frequently encountered today is brands confusing empathy with personalization. Using a customer’s name in an email isn’t the same as having a personal interaction. The difference lies in understanding their needs, and preempting what will make them happy.

CX Tools for Success 

Many businesses can’t do personalized marketing because their existing lines of communication are broken – they’re simply not using the right tools in the right way.

Let’s take email as an example. While businesses tend to flood customers’ inboxes with all forms of messages, the reality is that email has a very weak open rate of just 20 percent, on a good day. Furthermore, its click through rate is a mere two percent, meaning that almost nobody is interacting with it. As for mobile apps? Their numbers aren’t much better. Twenty-five percent of all apps are never used, and a further 26 percent are only used once. Phono Sapiens is also exhibiting distinct signs of app-fatigue, with 17 of the top 20 apps in the US declining in installs. And what about the notorious call center? Does the following interaction sound like good CX? ‘Your call is very important to us, please enjoy this 40 minute flute solo.’

Email, apps and voice channels all have their moment to shine, but in terms of delivering empathetic moments, one needs to use a communication tool with an open rate you can depend on, and a timescale you can accurately predict. For example, 83 percent of millennials surveyed stated that they open text messages within 90 seconds. This means that enterprise CX journeys built around intelligent automated mobile messaging are reliable and predictable in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere else. With the global ubiquity of mobile devices, text is opening up new vectors for customer engagement. A brand can know when its message will be opened by a customer, and how quickly. From there, they can design a CX that preempts and give customers value at precise times and in exact places. Today, SMS is essentially the sleeping giant of business to consumer interactions. Tomorrow, Rich Communication Services (RCS) will replace most of the brand to consumer interactions currently within apps. There has never been a greater imperative for brands to establish meaningful connections with their customers using the mobile text channel, in preparation for our shift to a post-app economy, empowered by RCS. Investigating this stunning technology should be at the forefront of every company’s new year’s resolutions.

The key to empathy is all about businesses seizing these countless invisible opportunities to proactively provide value and thus stand out from the crowd. According to Forrester, in five years time the only differentiator for any business will be their customer experience, meaning there’s no time to waste. We are approaching a Golden Age for phono-sapiens, where customers demand greater levels of satisfaction and seamless omnichannel interaction with the brands they love, and will tolerate nothing less.

Where does your brand stand on this evolutionary timeline?