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Smart-care

The impact that next generation smartphones and mobile applications will have on customer care.

A lot is said nowadays about the here and now, however, if anybody out there has yet to embrace this premise, you’d do well to start.

Communication is becoming more and more accessible everyday as well, any user can connect from his/her mobile device to do virtually anything they want, from buying concert tickets, setting up appointments at government offices, speak via skype, post on facebook, tweet, using their telephone as a virtual boarding pass, buying a latte at their neighborhood starbuck’s to watching HBO on their tablet just to name a few.  As life in big average-size cities grows ever-faster, people rely more and more on their mobile technology, more and more services are able to be done thru the internet. By that token, companies and to a degree, people in general should strive to remain visible and relevant online.

These mobile devices can be said are a technological extension of ourselves, by being a repository of our important dates, passwords, dates, photos and videos they’re a direct back-up of our lives. With this information at our permanent disposal we can virtually do anything. But, have you ever thought what would happen if our proverbial window to the world was denied to us for 1 day? Immediacy is the key….valuable time that more often than not, when those same tasks are approached any other way is lost.  That same immediacy, the here and now is the playground of the current generation, they’re defined by it, they expect their information to be in a constant flux, never static, the so-called “millenials” or Generation “Y” understand very well the viral and multidirectional interaction rules and dynamics of this new information frontier called Social Media, they have irrevocably changed the direction of the internet, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, among others.

The communication experienced in Social Media is a communal one, it’s users evaluate and disqualify their world with a “THUMBS UP” or a “THUMBS DOWN”, their community mindset is changing our world and our business, any attempt to connect has to be done on their terms. Together, they’re a global community and as such they shop, conduct business, grow intellectually within that community. And how will that affect Customer Care? How will it fit in?

Estimation or opinion of Customer Care for the most part has traditionally been thought of as over-the-phone interactions. These interactions where you can never know if the agent on the other line is unable or unwilling to provide the necessary service or the level to which they’re used to receive. If those customer care agents do not handle the interaction properly or don’ t follow thru with it, can lead to customer dissatisfaction, but when you add to this the Generation “Y” component,  with their communication immediacy and that customer dissatisfaction is expressed over a much wider range, with photos, videos and posts. This is the stage of interaction for the new generations, but in order to achieve successful interaction it has to be done with content they can relate to. In the near future, social media will be at the forefront of communication and business, those who wish to provide Customer Care thru this medium will have to have empathy, be assertive, sensitive to that community’s needs and be aware of current affairs and topics.

Another question mark is how will this affect Customer Care in Spanish? If you, as a business owner had discarded Spanish-speaking customer care, we would suggest you reconsider that decision, as more and more, children, born to Hispanic parents becomes ever more prevalent. The Hispanic community has grown by 15.2 million people between 2000 and 2010, this growth represents a total of 16% (50.5 million people of Hispanic descent) of the entire population of the U.S., according to the 2010 Census Bureau, these people are distributed throught the U.S. with the main concentration pockets in states like California (22.3 m.), Texas (13.7 m.) and New York (8.1 m.). This impressive growth speaks of a market segment too important to pass over.

We have seen a marked growth in the purchase of smartphones as well as the acquisition of various internet plans. A study by Frost & Sullivan shows that, by 2013, the subscriber network for these services will be 102% as the number of subscribers will mirror the entire population of the U.S. Growth is inevitable, but this fact should not intimidate us, we have to join in the dynamic and more importantly, develop and implement the necessary applications to make sure that their ability to share and view social media content will be as quick, efficient and reliable out of the office or home as inside it.

In a study from Gartner about mobile device applications since their introduction in 2008. To date, the number of downloads has doubled totaling $15.1 Billion dollars and the study also estimates that mobile device app downloads for the remainder of 2011 will reach $17.7 Billion dollars, that’s 117% over the estimate for 2010 with 8.2 billion downloads. By the end of 2014, Gartner forsees that more than 185 Billion apps will be downloaded from online app stores.

Business executives are the ones that benefit the most from the use of mobile devices, they can carry their entire office in the palm of their hand, writing or receiving a report, email, hold a videoconference, prepare a presentation, schedule a meeting, payroll, access to CRM software. Thru cloud-streaming we have unlimited access to our music library, e-stores keep track of our purchases and tastes and market to them accordingly.  Investing time going to the mall to buy products and services is taking a backseat to simply clicking a button and waiting a couple of days to receive it, should the product not meet the customer’s expectations, he/she can simply return it, get a refund and that’s it. This type of immediacy is a satisfaction factor for customers and motivates them to repeat business.

Social media should be an integral part of every company’s marketing and sales strategy, we’re witnessing the single most significant cultural and ideological revolution of the last 50 years, smartphones and the subsequent subculture they have spawned are a vital offshoot of that revolution.  This technology industry that has arisen provides everyone with not only a forum to reach anybody you want but to be reached as well, news, services, entertainment, we no longer have to seek these things out, they, will now find us.

The business opportunities afforded by this burgeoning subculture are virtually limitless, any product and service can be marketed and sold on, thru and around social media, but it will be up to those companies and brands that know when and how to communicate with their target audience that will benefit from this. But, the question remains…How? The answer to that question is as limitless as the possibilities of which I was referring to earlier. An insurance company holds a contest for the most creative tweet, a video game studio holds daily polls and questionnaires to get feedback from their customers. These are some off-hand examples of the type of content that people could expect from brands looking to turn them into either fans or avid customers.

The demands customer make of the brands and companies they support are always in direct proportion to the speed of the current technology that’s available to them, just as inconceivable as it was for somebody that was born after the lightbulb was invented to live their life by candlelight it’s beyond the scope of understanding of a millennial to waste time in lines or malls when the alternative is a million times more appealing, this however carries a double edge for businesses, that same immediacy can be used to spread a bad review or opinion in a heartbeat, immediacy is ultimate ally and the ultimate enemy.

The time-saving aspect of new technologies is probably their best quality, however, businesses need to be equally as efficient in adapting the constantly-changing marketplace and not overlook Customer Care, it has to develop on par with the technology. At the end of the day, we’re human beings and we want to be taken care of by human beings and obviously to be treated as such. The fact that on the other side of the screen whether it’s thru Facebook, Twitter or any other media a human being is paying attention provides an enormous added value. We no longer just have the world at our fingertips but human support as well to help us navigate thru it all.