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Mobile must transform customer experience, not merely simplify communication: KPMG

While one of the biggest mandates before CEOs right now is transforming the customer experience, many companies have not progressed beyond leveraging mobile to streamline existing communications.  

A recent study by business consulting and auditing firm KPMG LLP found that CEOs expect their companies to be significantly more customer-focused over the next three years. While the study does not address mobile specifically, as companies strive to be more customer-centric, the most successful ones are likely to embrace mobile as an important strategy for more effectively delivering value and advancing their brands.

?Most companies that we work with have embarked on a series of initiatives around mobile but in a lot of cases, first generational,? said Alton Adams, national lead partner of customer strategy and growth at KPMG. 

?They are using mobile for purposes of communicating products and services, and making it easier to communicate with the company but in terms of truly changing, transforming the customer experience, I think most companies are still in the early stages of having it be something that is truly differentiated. 

?Certainly, in a lot of cases, the mobile interaction is looked at as an extension of the existing business model rather than an entirely different one that has changed the game in terms of their interaction with consumers.? 

In an interview with Mobile Marketer, Mr. Adams discusses the need to link together technology, marketing and communications departments, how to foster innovation and making sure that mobile does not simply bring customers to a bad experience faster. 

As companies make customer-centricity a strategic focus, where does mobile fit? 
There are a number of the priorities that they identify that have clear implications for all things social and digital but certainly mobile as well. And while not specifically articulated in a number of their responses, you could very easily look at several key themes and say that in prioritizing those, they were also prioritizing some of the things that have to happen to make those work. 

There are three concepts that jump out. 

One is the concept of implementing change to your business model. When you start talking about changes to your business model that would have a direct impact on your customers, it is hard to imagine not doing that with an eye toward this concept of mobile first. How do you communicate information to your customers, how do your customers increasingly communicate information to you. There were references in there to engagement and satisfaction clearly. Both of those have significant implications for a world where consumers are interacting with companies more and more in a mobile environment. 

The second one was this concept of interacting more with their clients and customers. In an environment where things are shifting from companies telling their clients and telling their customers things to asking and listening to them, the need to be able to use mobile to in fact do that is really, really critical and really important. Arguably, if you look at the most successful customers in terms of engaging consumers, it is easy to see that mobile is a key component.

The final one is the concept of fostering innovations. Fostering innovation by tapping into your customers, consumers and clients via online feedback, via establishing communities so that they are feeding in to new product development ideas, perhaps giving you feedback on products that you are getting ready to release. In some ways, the mobile online channel is today?s version of the focus group except that you are able to do it in a much broader way in a real-time way. 

The implications in terms of being able to foster innovation and deliver on that commitment requires a lot of mobile agility from companies that they perhaps didn?t have before and that I think is something a CEO would envision as part of their execution on that agenda. 

Are most companies executing in mobile in a way that delivers against the need to be more customer-centric? 
It is a challenge. As much as there has been discussion of mobile, I think it is fair to say, even with the proliferation of devices, most companies are still in the early stages of truly tapping into the power of mobile when it comes to raising the customer experience and raising the game with engagement. 

I think, quite frankly, consumers have raised their level of expectations about how mobile should fit into that  and, as a result, the ability to truly delight does requires you to operate at a different level. 

What are the implications if companies do not progress quickly enough in mobile? 

Yes, you need to make sure you have an improved experience and continue to enhance the mobile experience itself. But you also need to make sure you make the appropriate fundamental improvements to your customer engagement model. You need to make sure that mobile is not getting your customers to a bad experience faster. 

What I have found, in a lot of cases, if you are interacting via mobile, you can get to a live chat site, but that gets you to, please wait for half an hour or it has actually been shut down and no one is available. That doesn?t help you just because you have a mobile capability. 

So I think the companies that are doing this right are realizing that mobile, in and of itself, is not the panacea. It is part of a general improvement in the customer experience that starts with fundamental things like being able to get your product to your customer faster, making sure that your service organization can change and respond to your customer and then having mobile be part of that overall experience. 

Is a company?s ability to embrace mobile going to be the difference between surviving and not surviving going forward? 
It is part of it. But part of the difference is understanding the overall customer experience, where mobile fits into that and complements it and realizing that mobile, in and of itself, is not going to be the answer if you don?t fix the other things as well. 

Mobile is a key component of this concept of omnichannel, where consumers have the ability to very easily move between bricks-and-mortar and online and mobile in a seamless way. And doing it in a way that improves the experience and makes each one of those individual experiences better as well as giving the opportunity to have a totally different experience with that company or institution. 

What near-term steps should companies be taking to leverage mobile to enhance the customer experience? 
One is the overall change in the culture of the organization and certainly the marketing and the communications functions. Moving away from the concept of the push communication to a bit of a pull. In other words, listening to your customers/consumers as well as you tell and talk to them. That means social listening tools, communities; the kind of response environment that really good companies have. This concept of do we listen as well as we talk when it comes to engaging with our consumers, and how does mobile, which is a critical part of that, fit into it. 

The second thing would be the concept of transparency around products, plans, issues with products and services, around when you made a mistake, when you apologize and when you pull a product. And realizing that mobile can get that message out very quickly and very effectively if done right. 

The third thing I would say to a CEO is there needs to be stronger linkage between the technology, the marketing and the customer service functions in organizations. 

Despite the desires of a lot of companies to have the structure of these organizations be very separate, it gets in the way of being able to utilize mobile to the maximum. I would advise CEOs of finding ways to make that happen, whether it be establishing a horizontal capability across those functions that are focused on mobile, across those functions that are focused on customer experience so that they are in fact linked together in a way that they should that are going to be required to be able to raise their game in terms of customer experience. 

What challenges and opportunities does mobile data present companies? 
Mobile interactions generate a tremendous amount of data, a tremendous amount of information in terms of which products are being used, what people are saying about them, which products are being scheduled for returns. 

Companies that do a really good job of tapping into the data, applying the right analytics, to understand what is going on in their marketplace by looking at that data and creating insight, have a real advantage and have the ability to take advantage of this channel in a very unique way.  

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York