The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s 2015-16 Communications report found that 31 per cent of Australians have no fixed landline at home – a big shift from 2009, when just 10 per cent managed without a landline.
The proliferation of mobile devices is also changing consumer expectations about how services are delivered online, as smartphones and tablets become far more ubiquitous than the personal computer.
Customers, employees and other stakeholders are not only bringing their own smartphones and tablets but using them everywhere, and this affects the way they perceive businesses online and how they interact with them, says Matthew Joyce, Country Manager, Australia, for dataxu, a software company that helps marketing professionals use data to improve their advertising, and works with some of Australia’s biggest retailers.
Mobile from the ground up
Joyce says companies launched in recent years could build in mobile offerings from the ground up, but older businesses have had to work out how to adapt existing processes to a mobile world.
Smartphones and tablets are a game-changer, he says, giving savvy brands more opportunities to interact with their customers. But the trend for people to purchase via mobile devices has been fairly recent – and one he expects will grow rapidly.
“It also took people quite a while to have the confidence to buy online via a desktop,” Joyce says.
“You might be able to engage with more interactive and high-tech features on a desktop than perhaps a mobile app, but making sure it’s seamless means thinking about making the most of any of those experiences for the customer.”Jo Kelly, Chief Marketing Officer, UBank
Consider the customer
Joyce says marketers need to put themselves in their customer’s position to understand what works across different devices.
“It’s not a question of ‘how do I switch everything to mobile?’” he says, adding that businesses need to consider how to communicate with customers across a range of channels at the right moment.
That’s an argument very familiar to Jo Kelly, Chief Marketing Officer for UBank, a digital only bank. Kelly says the key to building a successful multi-channel customer journey is to focus on the customer rather than the technology.
Acknowledging that many businesses offer different levels of service on a web browser to what they offer on a mobile, she says decisions are often based on legacy issues that are technology-driven.
“At UBank, we have our customer value proposition – simpler, better, smarter – and that’s what drives decisions about service,” she says, adding that the customer experience must be seamless between desktop, tablet and mobile.
“You might be able to engage with more interactive and high-tech features on a desktop than perhaps a mobile app, but making sure it’s seamless means thinking about making the most of any of those experiences for the customer,” she says.
UBank has now simplified its home loan application so customers can complete it on mobile or desktop easily, reducing the standard process from 144 questions down to 28. “We realised you couldn’t expect someone to do 144 questions on a mobile, so we went from there,” Kelly says.
The exercise delivered all sorts of other advantages, she adds. For well-prepared customers who have all necessary information and documents at the ready, the whole application can be completed in as few as four minutes.
Automating the help function
For similar reasons, UBank’s new artificially intelligent chatbot, RoboChat, is a first-response tool designed to give real-time help to customers by answering the simple questions that repeatedly crop up in most online home loan applications.
“Customers always have the option of being diverted to a real person or to opt out of RoboChat,” says Kelly. “The AI frees up our human advisers to help people with the more complex questions.”
Customer experience and a focus on instant help is a company priority for fast-growing, cloud-based accounting software firm Xero, too.
Xero’s General Manager - Customer Success, Nigel Piper, says the company, founded in 2006, was designed for the cloud right from the start.
Mobile offerings have evolved along the way, Piper says. While not all functionality is available via mobile, the reasons are less about the limitations of the technology and more about the ways customers have indicated they want to use the software.
Xero prioritises customer support, responding to customer demands by offering a range of product help options.
“Our customers say that when they interact with the software, they want to find the answer easily themselves,” he says. “So we provide great content that is easy to find and use.”
The company also puts a lot of resources into its support team which deals with queries ranging from the most basic to the very complex.
“If they contact us to get help, our aim is to make sure they can get through fast and we can solve their issue quickly,” Piper says.
Xero’s online resources include a range of how-to videos and short, free, online courses. Piper says there’s a strong focus on getting new users up and running.
“If we offer a lot of help in the first month, we find that, increasingly, people don't actually need to contact us too much after that,” he says.
Smart customers want self-serve answers
Kelly says the UBank customer base typically comprises digitally savvy financial self-starters who want control of their own finances. Perhaps unexpectedly, the UBank client base skews to the older range rather than younger, she adds.
“We think about our customers more ‘psychographically’ than demographically, so they typically choose us because they don’t want to interact with a bricks-and-mortar bank and don’t need face-to-face contact,” Kelly says.
The mobile-first strategy was developed in response to consumer demand, rather than because organisations decided to put mobile at the forefront, Joyce says. He says customer feedback has driven many businesses to redesign their websites to be more mobile friendly.
Joyce says brands are looking for ways to continue a “customer conversation” and understand how people are engaging with the brand.
While the marketing function is useful, recognising customers across multi-channel journeys also allows a business to provide a better customer experience.
“That’s what will bring them back to your service,” Joyce says.