• Have you seen the latest fantastic, must-have app for your mobile phone, yet? Whatever it does, I wonder how often you’ll use it once you’ve installed it? I just had a quick count and there are 83 apps on my mobile phone at the moment, but I only ever seem to use the ones on the first page of my phone display.

    The fact is that every business these days seems to have an app that’s part of their “mobile strategy” and we’re so bombarded with the latest and greatest that, to be honest, I’m getting a little bored of it all. The frisson of excitement I felt a year or so ago when e.g. my health insurance company informed me that they had a shiny new app has long since evaporated. That was then, and this is now.

    It’s not all about the app, stupid

    The reality of most corporate apps is that they’re simply a scaled-down (dumbed-down?) version of their website. So few companies seem to have realised that it’s not just about having an app, but about making life easier for their customers.

    Think about it. Ask yourself which apps you return to over and over again, for example:

    Why do you use Facebook?

    Because it makes it easier to stay in touch with friends.

    Why do you use Twitter?

    Because it makes it easier to digest lots of information quickly.

    Why do you use messaging apps?

    Because it’s easier than a voice call for quick conversations.

    Now think about how life could be easier with the right app to, for example:

    • Apply for jobs and manage your details with a recruitment agency
    • Complete the process of opening a new bank account or applying for a loan
    • Register and receive approval for an insurance claim, or a doctor’s sick note
    • Pay a bill without tedious data entry

    All of the above can often be done using a PC connected to the Internet. But the mobile phone is now a “connected PC in your pocket”, so why are there currently so few ways to engage in a full mobile dialog with companies without dialing a call centre?

    Bild Chat KundeIn with the old and out with the new

    It’s only just over 8 years ago that the iPhone was launched and while it wasn’t the cause of the explosion in mass mobile computing we’ve all witnessed over the last few years, it certainly helped light the fuse.

    “The New” is now ubiquitous –2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally as of June 2015, forecast to grow to 6.1 billion by 2020.

    “The Old” is those legacy business processes and technology that efficiently process non-digital customer dialogs, such as paper.

    Could it be that long-established companies don’t understand that they can cost-effectively extend their “old” technology out to the “new”?

    The mistake that’s all too easy to make is to think that because the mobile platform is new, all of the technology has to be new as well. But, this isn’t the case for one simple reason:

     - The customer’s needs are unchanged. What’s changed is the tool that the customer chooses to use -

    • Paper will still be converted to digital images, but the customer operates the imaging tool (i.e. the smartphone camera) and validates the metadata
    • Customer dialogs still need logging in a CRM, but they’re text-based as opposed to voice (i.e. using instant messaging on the smartphone)
    • Documents will still be sent to the customer, but they’re transmitted and signed electronically (i.e. as PDFs and e-signatures)
    • Customer master records will still be kept, but they can be managed & updated directly by the customer (i.e. using secure data channels and mobile document readers)

    Companies don’t need to, and shouldn’t, reinvent the wheel; the legacy business processes that efficiently processed the old style of customer dialog can be simply extended out to the mobile platform through a secure, bi-directional customer dialog channel.

    By implementing a centralized framework that has multiple interfaces to both internal legacy systems and the mobile platform, a single communication channel to the framework enables a mobile device to securely access and utilize the powerful business processes that a company has put in place to support their customer dialogs.

    Not only does this approach maximize a company’s existing technology, but it also removes the need to build and support an app that tries to replicate on a mobile platform much of the functionality that already exists in-house. Instead, app functionality is simply “switched-on” by opening an interface from the central framework to the relevant business process.

    Talkin’ ‘bout my generation

    A whole generation of people have grown up with mobile phones and understand how these devices make their lives easier, but there seem to be another generation running long-established companies who don’t understand how to exploit the competitive opportunities that mobile technology brings.

    To paraphrase Pete Townshend from The Who, let’s hope these companies don’t die before they get old.

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