Earlier this year, I predicted mobility would be one of the major trends for small businesses in 2014. The reason — there is a mobile app to do just about anything you can think of today. And if you don’t believe me, then get a load of this: There is a new mobile app for quitting your job. I’m not kidding. It’s called the “Quit Your Job App,” and it helps you compose a resignation text message to your boss. The app prompts you to select one of three reasons for your resignation: I’m sick of the corporate world, I want to get rich, or I found a new job. That’s all you have to do. Technology takes over from there, and the dirty work is done.
Now that mobile technology has invaded every single aspect of our lives, it’s time for small business owners to wake up and follow suit. You can’t ignore the facts — mobile technology is a way of doing business. The statistics from this past holiday season illustrate the growing importance of mobile commerce. CNBC reported the top 20 retailers experienced an increase of 55.4 percent in the number of online sales via mobile devices this holiday season. Forty-five percent of smartphone users and 69 percent of tablet users made online holiday purchases according to information released by Deloitte LLP.
Meeting customers where they are
Mobile technology is increasingly affecting all your business operations. Mobile apps can be used for managing your business, collaborating with employees who telecommute, and of course for marketing to and staying connected with your customers. Is your small business prepared?
“Your customers will expect, if not insist, on being able to buy your goods or services online,” notes Greg Nixon, co-founder and managing director of EzPSA. “You will need to consider how you manage that — and your business being open 24/7 — from a customer service perspective.”
David Hernandez, co-founder and managing partner of digital marketing firm lotus823, explains that mobility extends far beyond websites. “A mobile-friendly experience is not only what customers love, but is also what they’re expecting,” he says. “If your website isn’t mobile-optimized, you simply don’t exist to what will soon be the majority of users. It’s a harsh reality, but there’s also a huge opportunity to get ahead,” adds Wayne Flint, founder and director of Phenom Apps.
Becoming High-Touch with Customers
This emphasis on mobile technology creates an interesting conundrum in the marketplace for small businesses. You see, one of my other trends for 2014 is an increase in need for personalized service — high-touch. Customers become frustrated when your business phone is answered by an automated attendant who goes through a lengthy list of options in more than one language before they can speak to a real person. Then when they finally reach a “live” person, they speak in a monotone voice and are not interested not in the customer’s name, but in their ticket number. It doesn’t get much more impersonal than that.
Small businesses have a distinct advantage when it comes to providing high-touch customer service. Therefore, this year entrepreneurs should concentrate on providing highly personalized service in conjunction with user-friendly mobile applications. Make it easy for your customers to alert you to issues, and respond quickly when they do. You have a unique opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a raving fan if you manage it appropriately.
My friend, Shep Hyken, customer service expert and New York Times bestselling author, points out: “Not all customers are created equal. Some spend more than others, some are easier to deal with, etc. But that doesn’t mean that each and every one of them shouldn’t feel, at that moment, like they are the most important customer you have. Make every customer feel like a VIP.”
Whether it’s a face-to-face encounter or engaging with a customer via social media, remember to provide first-class customer service — that’s something with which the big guys have difficulty competing.
How are you engaging with and delighting customers in the age of high-tech and high-touch?
Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.