As a result of these developments, there is very little reason for customers to settle for second best – businesses are realising that in order to compete they must provide nothing less than a first-rate customer experience. Many are now looking to technology, specifically mobile, to improve the service they provide. The retail sector, for example, provides numerous examples of the ways mobile can be incorporated to improve the customer experience. You may have noticed tablet computers becoming more prevalent on the shop floor, enabling instant stock checks and reducing the time assistants spend in the stockroom while shoppers are left unattended. Some are even providing customer-facing mobile technologies in-store. British luxury shirt maker Thomas Pink recently deployed a Microsoft Surface interactive table in its Gatwick Terminal two store, providing customer access to a range of services, including a made-to-order shirt service which allows customers to design their own shirt, with the choice of a wide range of fabrics, fits, collar and cuff styles and finished off with personal touches. This is just the start of a trend that will see sales assistants armed with devices used to provide the customer with specific information – earlier enquiries, previous purchases, any issues encountered – required to deliver a more personalised service. What’s more, they will increasingly be used in a two way conversation with the customer, enabling staff to show the entire product catalogue, provide in-depth product demos and close a sale, even if stock is not available at their location. This kind of next-generation customer service has obvious applications beyond the retail sector. It is especially suitable for purveyors of less tangible products, such as managed services, as it facilitates the visual demonstration of ideas and deliverables that can be tricky to articulate. Similarly, it can be very useful for businesses selling large or unwieldy physical products as it allows interactive onsite presentations without the need to transport demo units. By empowering salespeople with relevant real-time information delivered via mobile, they are in a far better position to understand each individual customer’s needs and, crucially, what it will take for them to buy. Likewise, from the employer’s perspective, using this type of technology provides the data required to assess which staff members perform best in these customer facing situations. This in turn facilitates more effective talent management and can also help to develop training exercises that are based on case studies from the sales floor. By integrating mobile technology with real-world customer experiences, businesses are provided with the opportunity to deliver the benefits of online commerce alongside relationship building human interactions. However, it is important to remember that this will be a cultural shift for staff – many will require additional training to ensure effective implementation. Businesses contemplating a move to this model will need to consider a host of factors, including compatibility with products and services, and customer expectations regarding service levels. Successful integration of mobile requires a full and proper understanding of the challenges and end goals if it is to deliver ROI. Dan Mortimer is CEO of Red Ant.
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