The customer experience is everything in today's world. In fact, many say we are now firmly entrenched in what is known as 'the customer era'. Today, the ability to offer excellent customer service is a defining factor of business success and serves as a long-term competitive differentiator in a crowded marketplace. Yet delivering superior customer service today is a very different ball game to what it used to be. The rise of what is known as the hyper-connected generation - typically those people born after 1980 - has unleashed an army of tech-savvy individuals who have never known life without the Internet, mobile devices and social networking. They now represent about 25 percent of the world's population and in turn a huge technology-hungry customer base across many different industries.
The proliferation of smartphones and the mobile Internet during recent years has helped to fuel this trend. People are not just working on the move, but are increasingly shopping and banking using sophisticated mobile devices. This social phenomenon has had massive implications for the customer service industry, seeding the idea for the mobile app that is now, in many ways, the gateway to many businesses' customer service and communications functions. And the industry is flourishing. The Apple App Store today, for example, has more than half a million apps available for download, recently surpassing the 25 billion download milestone. While many of these apps are designed for entertainment, businesses are increasingly looking to apps not just as an interface for information and important contact numbers but as a one-stop-shop customer service portal.
To give an example of how apps are transforming the customer experience today, we can look at how a customer might process a motor insurance claim through their smartphone or tablet. Imagine you have a car crash and you need to contact your insurance company. Previously you would have rifled through the glove compartment to find the customer claims number and called the insurance company from the scene. After reeling off your details and describing the situation and the damage, you'd have asked them to send you the paperwork in the post.
Today, sophisticated technologies mean you can access and process everything through the company's app. Having registered for it, the company will already have all your personal details and policy documentation when you log in. You can click through to the claims paperwork, input the details of the crash directly, capture photo evidence and upload it through the app. You can click to call a customer service agent who will already be aware of the situation and your location, and can talk you through any additional information the company might need. They can even pull in an expert in that particular area of claims to answer any specific questions. This is an excellent example of how apps can be used to turn what used to be a very siloed form of communication with a customer service agent into a holistic customer service experience that interacts with the customer through multiple end points using the customer's various preferred methods of contact.
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