Mobile Customer Care Comes of Age

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Mobile Engagement
Marketing
Mobile customer care is rapidly becoming an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive economy. But, as Bruce Bales, vice president of product management at mBlox, notes, companies must look beyond marketing and advertising to include care as a means to engage consumers. The direct nature of mobile messaging remains the most effective way to grab consumers' attention. Therefore, brands that can take a care-centric approach to their mobile strategy will drive customer loyalty and long-term value.

Mobile customer care is rapidly becoming an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive economy. But, as Bruce Bales, vice president of product management at mBlox, notes, companies must look beyond marketing and advertising to include care as a means to engage consumers. The direct nature of mobile messaging remains the most effective way to grab consumers' attention. Therefore, brands that can take a care-centric approach to their mobile strategy will drive customer loyalty and long-term value.Here, we speak with Bales to explore the current mobile customer care landscape and how honing such strategies can drive customer satisfaction and engagement:

1to1 Media: What has triggered the increase in mobile customer care? How can companies use this channel to extend and strengthen customer relationships?

Bruce Bales: As consumers are increasingly connected through smartphones, tablets and the Internet, they are more willing to communicate with brands while on the go. In fact, a 2013 survey conducted by Millward Brown Digital on behalf of mBlox found that 73 percent of respondents reported they have received a text or push message from a company, and 68 percent found it valuable. Further, 80 percent of consumers are willing to share information with brands to receive a text message. Today's mobile consumers are willing to have a relationship with brands if it's personal and relevant to them. In response to this, savvy brands are engaging in ways that appeal to consumers to create deeper, stronger relationships.

1to1: What role will marketing automation play within the mobile customer care context in 2014? How can location-based and behavior-based data build customer loyalty and satisfaction?

BB: During the last five years, marketing automation has emerged as a darling for marketers, but the majority of tools are focused on email. There's a real opportunity to expand these solutions with SMS. SMS has higher open rates, better ROI than email, and a more immediate engagement with the consumer. There are many applications for automation in a mobile care model. For example, automation allows a cable service provider to send, via SMS, appointment reminders, technician arrival times, and even a customer satisfaction survey as soon as a technician leaves the customer's home. The immediacy of sending and opening the SMS messages reduces costs, keeps the consumer informed, and collects feedback while the experience is fresh in the minds of consumers, all of which illustrates the brand's commitment to providing great service.

Location- and behavior-based data can also help companies reach the goal of targeting consumers at the right place and the right time through their preferred channel. This has become somewhat of a cliché among mobile marketers, but when you insert the care component it takes on a slightly different meaning. Instead of a retailer just texting a coupon when someone is in a mall to drive another sale, a care approach would make an offer to the consumer with no sale required. While only a minor shift, this surprise-and-delight approach can improve satisfaction and build loyalty.

1to1: How will companies go about integrating mobile technologies to create marketing campaigns that focus on generating customer value and ROI?

BB: To be successful, care practices must extend across all channels to create a complete, personal and unique experience for consumers. Mobile is an essential component for brands to engage customers and create a memorable experience. Companies must move beyond simply inundating consumers with outbound marketing; instead, they should prioritize two-way communication with consumers to build long-term brand enthusiasts who provide lifetime value, not a fleeting, one-time sale.

It's also important that mobile is not delivered "in a bubble" or independent of other marketing and care initiatives. Truly integrated campaigns that rely on behavioral and preference data allow enterprises to get a more complete picture of the customer, and thus deliver messages and offers of value. To that end, trust is a critical component to generating lifetime customer value and ROI. Consumers are far more likely to share information with brands they trust--brands that provide relevant and valuable information. Thirty four percent of the U.S. population defines themselves as "brand loyalists" and consumers are increasingly accepting of prolonged engagement with brands they like and trust.

1to1: In what ways will mobile facilitate two-way communications between consumers and companies? How will this dialogue alter the B2C landscape?

BB: Today, most means of communicating with consumers inherently converges on a mobile device. Brands recognize this and are responding. Cellphones and smartphones are often within arm's reach, meaning mobile gives brands a direct line to the consumer.

The B2C landscape continues to become more personal as deeper relationships grow between consumers and brands. It will follow the model forged by social media where consumers share and receive information across multiple channels throughout the day. The shift in culture and immediacy that the mobile device provides means many brands will need to scale their care programs and automate some of the process, including the use of location and behavior data.

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