ARE WE Practising what we preach?
Ben King of WIN argues that we should lead from the front whenit comes to using mobile for customer communications.
Every day we talk with financial service providers, insurers, logistics companies, government agencies and utilities companies about the tremendous cost, operational and service benefits of communicating with their customers through mobile. The business cases speak for themselves. Companies who are embracing the opportunities of mobile communications are saving millions every year, enhancing customer service and improving efficiency.
I hardly need to emphasise that the mobile phone is fast becoming the remote control of modern life. Consumers expect to be able to contact and be contacted by anyone at any time, and they’re becoming more and more open to this extending beyond just their friends and family. Modern day consumers   are always-on, always-connected, always-informed – and as a result   they’re increasingly expecting their service providers to be capable of doing the same.
First Direct customers expect their bank balance on their mobile screen every morning without fail – they have come to live by it. Man U fans want to know when the signing of Michael Carrick goes through before the ink has dried on his contract, and, more importantly, before all their mates get to hear. X-Factor viewers expect to be able to vote for their favourite act through ten taps on their keypad.

This is where a great irony strikes me. Aside from a handful of banks; a few FMCG brands, football clubs and broadcasters, mobile is far from being exploited to its fullest potential by businesses – and that includes us, the mobile industry. How can we expect less technically-savvy sectors to realise this potential when we’re only scratching the surface of what can be done ourselves?
We’re sitting on massive potential. In most cases we know what handsets our customers have, what network they’re on, what tariffs they prefer and what content they like to consume – all   to a varying degree, obviously. Just think of the possibilities.
Firstly, how about texting confirmations of shipment and estimated delivery times of new or replacement handsets and SIM cards? Logistics companies are already trialling delivery reminder services that could eliminate the 20% of missed deliveries due to customers not being at home to sign for   their goods.
What about offering customers value-added services that differentiate you from the competition? Promotions such as java game or ringtone giveaways or voice-to-text mail services are available at relatively low cost to you but considered high value by customers. It may well swing the deal in your favour. By driving them to your own mobile content WAP store, you are also more likely to create your own ongoing revenue stream.
Then there’s sending targeted, personalised offers to customers to help improve their experience and increase your revenues. Insurance companies have reduced the churn of their policy holders by up to 20% by doing just this when a policy’s up for renewal.
And wouldn’t it be great to replace your expensive and ineffective direct mail shots with SMS or MMS broadcasts? They will be received two days quicker, have 50% more chance of being opened, and cost between a twentieth and a third the price of a piece of direct mail. Seems sensible to me. Oh, and we also save a lot of trees being cut down.

" We’re only scratching   the surface of   what can be done …"

The list goes on. What better way to keep your customers up to date with any problems they are experiencing? Contacting them by SMS to keep them informed of progress is far more cost-effective than having them call you for an update. The AA has succeeded in reducing inbound calls by 15% by texting customers with estimated arrival times of their roadside mechanics, and their customers are a lot happier too.
And finally there’s using SMS to get your customers to contact you at their convenience about account problems or contract renewals. Credit card providers find response rates increase by more than 12% by using SMS in this way, instead of bothering customers with a phone call.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching. For those of you who have implemented all of the above – congratulations, I would love to hear about the results. But writing this piece has made me realise that not even my own business is up to speed with much of this (cue meeting with operations director). And I suspect it’s the same for a lot of you. There’s so much we could be doing, and surely it’s our responsibility to lead by example. Our customers will be happier and our businesses and industry healthier as a result.

Ben King is Marketing Manager of WIN; a specialist in the delivery and billing of mobile entertainment and information services in Europe.
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