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The mobile, cornerstone of the digital customer relationship

The mobile, cornerstone of the digital customer relationship

Photo Pierre FiolPhoto Emmanuelle Zerbib

Analysis by Pierre Fiol , CXM Practice Manager, Sofrecom and Emmanuelle Zerbib Boutata , Digital Innovation Practice Manager, Sofrecom.

In developed markets, the smartphone is now an intimate companion for almost everyone. A very personal object that calls for highly personalized and reactive digital interactions between the operator and the user while respecting privacy. New services must be developed quickly, although urgency should not mean precipitation.

The smartphone is the screen we consult first thing in the morning and just before going to sleep at night; it is omnipresent in our daily life and we interact with it everywhere and all the time. It is now the preferred interface for all the forms of communication (voice, social networks, messaging, SMS, video, etc.) and it is often the starting point of a multichannel relationship between operators and their subscribers. It has a central role in our digital ecosystem, at home and when on the move; it assists us before and after visiting a store or phoning customer service; it provides a hub for most of our connected objects. Today it even facilitates a digital customer relationship employing artificial intelligence: many phones now come with "intelligent" virtual assistant software (Apple's Siri, Google Home, Microsoft's Cortana). These tools initially perceived as gadgets have opened the way to natural language interaction. The "chatbot”, for example, is a program that mimics a real conversation with the user and marks an important step forward in revamping the customer relationship.

Desire for a more personalized and reactive digital relationship

Providing an open window on users' intimate habits, the smartphone has become for operators an inexhaustible source of valuable information about customers: their movements, data usages, web browsing, and much more.

In exchange for this transparency, consumers expect operators to exploit their information to interact digitally with them in highly personalized ways. They are fed up with mass communication: they want personalized dialogs and replies, as in face-to-face interchange.

People are no longer willing to wait 48 hours for a response. Although operators cope with processes that have become heavier, and therefore longer, we now expect them to align with the new norms of reactivity and agility set by the web giants (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon,...). It is vital for them to develop rapidly real-time (or almost) digital interactions and to offer multichannel customer care in order to extend the effective opening hours of their customer service. The "chatbot" able to give intelligent, personalized replies to frequently asked questions is a very promising channel, although the automation of this useful service must not be too apparent to the user.

Trust and respect of privacy are vital
Respecting users' privacy is another major challenge in the digital customer relationship. In this respect, consumers grant a measure of natural trust to incumbent operators. The cellphone gives them access to very rich ─ but very confidential ─ information such as calendars, contacts, family photos, and personal and banking details, and it could be perceived as a "spy". Orange and other legacy operators have adopted customer data protection policies which are not just marketing ploys but have major impact on their operations by imposing internal transformations. Protecting customers against intrusion, excessive solicitation and inappropriate use of their data provides the foundation for a trust-based, long-term digital relationship.

While it is urgent for operators to develop digital services rapidly, in particular for the mobile, they should avoid precipitation. Digital interactions that appear ultra-simple for the user are complex to implement. Nothing is more counterproductive than to propose a plethora of dull apps or to announce a "Wow! You must see this!" service that in the end leaves users totally underwhelmed.

Mobile usages
• Young British adults use their smartphone on average 5 hours a day, or about one third of their waking hours (source: PLOS ONE UK)
• 23% of Australians say they spend more time on their smartphone or tablet than talking with family and friends (Source: "Digital Australia: State of the Nation (2015-16)" report)
• 37% of website visits are via mobile devices
• 82% of smartphone users say they consult their phone when shopping in a physical location (Source: Google "Micro-moments" report)
• 68% of phone users say they check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up (Source: Google "Micro-moments" report)