Solving Growing Pains As Smartphones Mingle the Business and the Personal


Gone are the days when BYOD was frowned upon by business executives and IT departments. Today, people are using their personal smartphones for myriad business applications at work, as well as to for shopping at home (OK, maybe on their lunch break).

Recent data shows that work and personal phone use have truly merged. About three-quarters of all smartphone owners now use their personal devices for business purposes, according to a recent IDG/Heymarket survey, which queried 1,000 personal and business smartphone users. Mobile customer contact is growing among business users, who find it fast and convenient.

Mobility is a sea change that goes well beyond the technology itself. People who use a personal device expect a fast, personalized experience at every touchpoint of interaction, whether it’s with a business, a colleague, or a customer.

It’s easy to understand the smartphone’s appeal for customers, who can do comparison shopping in the palm of their hands. Contacting a business to ask questions or get support has never been easier.

But phones by themselves are no panacea, especially when it comes to customer support. On mobile phones, customer support is done through voice, apps, and email, and results in all channels have been uneven at best.

In one survey, online shoppers said voice support was the worst channel for customer service. Responding to the dismay, some big brands have switched from phone and email support to Twitter.

While Twitter may be a good option for large companies with a dedicated staff to monitor the channel, it isn’t practical for smaller companies. It can also backfire when unhappy customers share their anger publicly.

Companies providing mobile service need to find a better way to catch up with customer expectations or they risk losing business. Forty-four percent of US consumers switch to a competitor following a poor customer service experience, and 89% have switched once or twice in the last year, according to a NewVoice survey.

 Texting might be the key to turning problems around. In a survey by Ovum, 44% of respondents said they preferred texting the customer service department because it was less time-consuming. Nearly a third said texting was less frustrating than calling. Texting has worked well for Nick Caputo, a store manager for HD Buttercup, a California company that sells home furnishings and design consulting.

 After a piece of furniture has been delivered, customers send Caputo photos by texting through Heymarket, which doesn’t require them to download an app. Caputo provides feedback about design and placement, saves the photos, and lets customers know when another piece that complements their living room lands in his store. He also uses texting to coordinate deliveries and schedule appointments, and reports that customer loyalty and engagement have increased.

Caputo is a pioneer. Few companies have tried texting for customer service—yet.  But 47% of people in the IDG/Heymarket survey said they were considering switching to SMS for customer support. In an age when customers expect their mobile phone to function as a personal assistant, it can’t happen soon enough.


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