The immediacy culture
It’s quite difficult to find people on the street that don’t have their smartphones clutched in their hands. Over the last 8 years, we’ve become accustomed to getting immediate results from our mobile tools. Whether it’s a Google search about a topic or a product search on Amazon or eBay. We want the exact answer now… not 5 minutes later.
Mobile-first business models bring immediacy to outcomes
Silvercar, the car rental upstart that provides customers with silver Audi A4 cars instead of run-of-the-mill stalwarts, has created the only mobile-first car rental experience (note to mid-week business travelers – you’re probably paying almost the same price to rent a low-end econobox than you would for an A4). The car rental experience can start and end inside the mobile app. And questions and service requests can be made by initiating a text or a phone call.. to the local office.
Have you EVER tried to call a Hertz, Avis, National… let an alone text them? I have, and neither of these three provides an experience I’d prefer to repeat. They all take the national (or international) call center approach. It’s corporate, impersonal, and vastly time-consuming.
Part of the car rental experience is returning the car with the same amount of gas, or get heavily penalized. I always found these policies to be confusing (and not by accident). So during a recent Silvecar rental I decided to text a question to the local Silvercar office (they provide you with their text number as part of the rental pickup).
I was able to text my question about their policy and within 3 minutes I got a reply. No elaborate IVR menus, no account number verification – it was like texting a question to a friend. And this question was important because it affected how I planned the next morning.
Messaging capabilities in apps
There are various ways to implement messaging inside apps. In Silvercar’s example, they don’t provide messing with the app. The texting happens in the native texting app your smartphone uses. But they could’ve implemented it in the app if they wanted to. It’s a little more involved and would provide a more centralized user experience. Regardless, the ability to send a message to a service provider and receive an immediate answer is a very valuable experience. I’d pay more to have that ability in other services and products I buy. Whether it’s a hotel, an airline, or a car rental agency – the ability to bypass the standard corporate call center experience with a quick message back and forth is hugely valuable.
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Here come the Bots
Messaging does have some challenges for the companies that choose to implement it. It’s always a 1:1 experience – for every message request a person has to answers it. Sure you can oversubscribe the people providing the answers but it’s difficult to scale and keep messaging a personal experience.
Slightly more efficient solutions are evolving using “web robots”, or simply Bots. These are essentially automated scripts that use natural language processing to understand the context of your words and formulate an automated response without human intervention.
On one hand, it may sound like it’s as impersonal as the calling a call center. However, if executed well, bots can be much more efficient. Technologies behind Bots are still evolving and really, it’s not a perfect technology yet. Microsoft has released its Bot Framework to help developers create Bots. It’s still in “preview” stage but is very promising. Facebook is also promoting its Bots capabilities with it’s Messenger platform.
People want answers quicker than ever
When developing your digital strategy consider the importance of communicating with your customers, especially if the mobile is part of it. Many industries are going through a digital transformation led by mobile tech, social media, and new business models these technologies make possible. Consider how much better the experience of using your product will be if you provide a fast and secure channel of communication for your customers or business partners.