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Mobile 'Speed': Consumers' New Drug of Choice

By Special Guest
Abinash Tripathy, CEO and co-founder, Helpshift
April 21, 2016

Consumers today are speed junkies. Thirty-six percent of users credit slow loading time as a top reason for app abandonment; and considering that 56 percent of U.S. smartphone users abandoned a mobile app transaction in 2015, it’s clear that speed is paramount to creating positive user experiences.

Micah Solomon, Customer Service expert/journalist, coined the term “Cliff of Dissatisfaction” to describe the “point at which a customer loses faith in the timeliness of your company or your product.” Walgreens, for instance, has utilized this approach via their app: users can order refills, view in-store deals, live-chat with representatives, and get prescription reminders-- basically, they can reduce time and effort through using the app.

Mobile is a particularly useful tool for keeping customers from falling off the cliff of dissatisfaction. Through in-app messaging, reminders, the ability to access all aspects of the company on the go, and, in the case of Starbucks or Aloft Hotels, mobile’s ability to circumvent wait times when interacting with employees. In essence, mobile offers a cost-effective solution to speed.

Starbucks handles the speed problem in two ways: the first, was that when they hit certain wait times or capacities in-store, they would simply open up a new Starbucks down the street. Starbucks’ are rarely empty; but neither are they ever obnoxiously packed. The second, of course, was through their highly effective mobile app.

Hospitals, airlines, and casinos have all solved the speed problem in myriad ways. Hospitals have, in addition to nurse-request buttons, volunteers (usually high school aged kids looking for college credit) who routinely go around asking patients if they want magazines, water, or any other creature comforts. Airlines offer precisely the same service: call buttons and routine check-ins by flight attendants.  Casinos have even gone so far as to preempt customers’ needs: Caesars has turned to analytics on their servers’ speed, using radio frequency identification tags to track it. Desires, whether we admit it or not, often manifest on a timetable.

But high performing customer service teams are five times more likely to be using mobile apps than underperformers. Aloft Hotels, for instance, enables users to order room service or interact with the front desk for any needs via their mobile app. Or most airlines, at this point, allow you to access your boarding pass via the mobile app, so you can avoid excruciatingly long lines to check-in or print your boarding pass. All of this amounts to, not only saved time, but also allowing the customer to perform tasks on their own time.

As Solomon told us, “The fastest way to move beyond merely satisfying your customers is to serve them in an anticipatory manner. When they feel that you know what they're looking for even before they ask, it is powerful.”

Anticipating customers’ needs is, in fact, the ultimate form of providing speed: you offer your customer what they want before they’ve even asked for it. What could be faster than that? Be it airlines, hotels, Starbucks, or casinos, each of these businesses is, in various ways, both enabling customers to get speedy service, but also anticipating customers’ needs and desires for service. At the end of the day, customers are so addicted to speed, that if you don’t provide it, they’ll just find it somewhere else. 

Abinash Tripathy is the CEO and co-founder of Helpshift. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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