I recently did a long-overdue clean up of the apps on my phone. I blew away conference apps that never really did much more than offer up an unreadable PDF of the schedule. I nuked those games that are so fun but interrupt too often with pandas. I tossed the things that are supposed to crank my productivity, amp my karma and help me cry less. Then (it was a really long meeting) I reordered the survivors with my favourities on the first screen.
Interesting thing: most of my favourite apps do one of two things: they communicate (mail, phone, Twitter, Facebook) or they transact (bank, parking authority, Starbucks). But exactly none of them do both, and this is where I think B2B companies have a great opportunity.
First, hands up if you have an app. Now put your hand down if all that app does is link to your website. I thought so. When the fun world of mobile apps came along a few years ago, our agencies were lined up four deep to build us something. “Get on the handsets of all your customers,” they said. “Nobody will be using laptops in two years,” they said. “You’ll get so much more user insight,” they said.
The problem was, and still kind of is, that marketers and their agencies view mobile devices as real estate. Better claim your brand’s tiny patch on your customer’s screen before Words With Friends gets there first. That’s 20th Century thinking right there, and it’s ridiculous.
What we want to claim is not space or face time, we want to offer utility. The apps that will add value to you and your customer are the ones that are useful for both of you, and that, my friends is about transactions.
Why are my parking app and my coffee app on the first screen? Because I use them every day to buy stuff. I almost never use the parking app to learn about my city’s green initiatives, though it does that. I rarely use it to find a parking lot, though it does that too. I use it to rent a parking space for the day and to manage my stay in that space.
Same with the Starbucks app. I order coffee and pay for it. Ditto Uber.
Let’s look at the other top apps: they are all about communications. Now, just like the chocolate and the peanut butter, let’s bring them together and see what we get. Well look at that! We get a very tasty combination of a mobile service that conducts both economic and communication transactions. Let’s simplify and call that customer service.
You may recall that your customers want to talk to you. That’s why they sneak around your horrible toll-free number to send nasty tweets. What if we made it possible for our customers to communicate with us using that fancy app we paid so much for?
My parking app actually has a menu item that lets me call directly to someone in case I have a problem, and that is fantastic. But I can’t text the parking authority to let them know there is a toddler beauty pageant going on in my favourite lot, which is a bit weird because texting is mostly what I do with my phone. I’m not alone.
What’sApp has over a billion monthly users; Facebook Messenger is closing in on 900 million; even poor old Blackberry Messenger still has 100-million logged in users a month. QQ, Skype and WeChat are all in the 200-million plus club. Folks, the world (including your customers) communicates in short-form text messages.
So I propose that you find a bit of money in that budget you’re working on for next year, and you figure out how to give your customers a way to conduct their transactions with you. In B2B, admittedly, purchases may not be a mobile thing (yet) but delivery updates, account balances, invoices, version updates and more should all be accessible on a mobile device. And so should your people.
A call centre agent can generally handle one call at a time or around three chats at a time. Whether or not the customer is in their car or in their office matters not: the point is both they and your team are going to be way more productive if they are conducting the service transaction by text. It’s a great tool for issue triage, gives you both a written record of the conversation, and it’s pretty easy to jump on the phone if things get ugly or complicated. Plus, did I mention, you get a bunch of meta data that your poor old phone system just can’t cough up? Well it’s true.
Now go open up your agency’s app and text them to get right on that.
BizMarketer is written by Elizabeth Williams
I help companies have better conversations
Drop me a line at email@example.com