For companies in the services industry – insurance, energy, telecoms and utilities – mobile apps are often a focal point of their interactions with customers, empowering customers to ‘self-manage’ their account and services. When designed thoughtfully, self-service customer apps are proven to increase customer satisfaction and the benefits to the companies themselves are numerous: reduced costs, faster payment collection, and improved retention.
The tagline of the My3 customer app “Your Account. Your Way. Anywhere” perfectly encapsulates the convenience factor for customers.
But when you consider the self-service information that may already be available online and the cost of developing and maintaining a high-grade app to provide pretty much the same information, you have to ask is it worth the investment?
To begin that thought process, let’s take a closer look at some of the features of native apps that could set them apart from a purely online offering.
The 4 Killer features of Native Apps:
With a mobile app you can tap into the built-in security features of your smartphone to provide your customers with secure access to services. With native 2-factor authentication tools like fingerprint scanning and facial recognition, there is a lesser chance of the user’s account being hacked or accidentally compromised, which is why banking apps have been adopting these technologies along with the more traditional online methods such as PIN codes being sent by SMS.
2. Camera access
A key inbuilt feature on smartphones is the camera, which provides some handy account management functionality for self-service mobile apps.
“Snap and send” is by far the quickest way to submit receipts or evidence as part of an insurance claim. Submitting ID when signing up for a new service can also be made much easier by integrating the phone’s camera in a sign-up form. You can also integrate OCR (optical character recognition) to enable customers to submit a meter reading more accurately and conveniently.
A more advanced feature is Augmented reality (AR) which utilizes the smartphone camera viewfinder to provide a ‘virtual’ layer of additional information to users. AR can be used in a variety of ways, for example to provide set up instructions or remote product assistance, reducing calls into the contact centre or service technician call-outs. To see it in action check out the property price feature in the GeoFindIT app.
Location-based features use the GPS functionality of a smartphone. For example, a business operating in the financial services sector could display map listings based on the customer’s location to help find the nearest branch to visit. In the automotive sector such as car share services, customers can use in-app location-based features to find a nearby vehicle to pick up or find the nearest drop off area once their journey is finished.
4. Offline access
The ability to work offline is a big advantage of native apps over websites, especially for self-service apps.
Content can still be accessed while offline and be updated as soon as you are back in internet coverage. This is a core feature of the Department of Foreign Affairs TravelWise app, which Irish citizens use to get updated travel advisories before and during their travels and also the Thorntons Recycling app where customers can top up their account and view their bin collection calendars.
The case for Self-service apps
So when you do a comparison, it’s clear that most self-service features can be provided online, but the extra capabilities of smartphones/native apps add a whole other dimension of interactivity, efficiency and convenience.
They are undoubtedly a serious investment, both in terms of time and budget, but the real question is: can your business afford not to have one?