If you’re a consumer-facing organization hoping to use mobile to build a strong, long-lasting relationship with your customers, there’s some good news!  A new survey shows that smartphone owners are increasingly downloading not just games but customer service apps – especially from their mobile carrier, bank and favorite retailers. In fact, 84% of consumers surveyed generally prefer to use a company’s mobile app for routine inquiries (checking balance, check flight status, etc.) rather than calling the company on the phone.

Unsurprisingly, the appetite for apps correlates with age. Ages 55+ are less likely to prefer using the app, while the 25-34 demographic is most likely to prefer using the app.  However, regardless of age, people will tell others about a good app. When customer service apps provide a good experience, 81 percent of respondents use social media and word of mouth to tell other people about it.

Now this is all well and good, but just because they download your app, doesn’t mean they will use it. Flurry stats have highlighted this pain point: that most apps are quickly abandoned. Only 24 percent of respondents said they’re still using an app three months after downloading it, and after 12 months, 96 percent have given up.

Our most recent mobile consumer preference research confirms this pain point for customer service apps too.  There’s a delta between the percentage of apps downloaded and those that are actually used.  While customers like apps because they are convenient (45%) and always available (40%), one in three said they’d use a customer service app more frequently if it gave them the option of seamlessly transferring to a live agent.  This gives some insight into the mindset of the ‘now consumer’ who wants everything at their fingertips, but still wants a safety net as they transition from one channel to the next.  It also begs the question of how do you keep consumers coming back to your app for more?

But let’s hold that thought for a minute and consider another reason why customers like apps.  Twenty-five percent said apps beat waiting on hold to get to help (read: I like to serve myself quickly).  Another 20 percent find apps more personal than other channels.  This is great news for companies trying to increase personal connections with customers and sheds some light on focus areas – make the app personal, make it easy to use, make it as convenient as possible.

Mobile apps are a win-win for organizations and their customers. Companies love apps because they enable cost-effective alternatives to costly live agent interactions.  But it’s not all about cost savings.  Nuance research shows that 79 percent of consumers ‘feel’ a company is innovative following a good mobile app experience.  Meaning, there is a significant branding opportunity here – On the flip side, 55 percent of consumers will consider changing companies if they have a bad mobile app experience. That’s worth some serious attention. Designing your app to meet consumer preference is a major step toward ensuring that your app bucks the trend and becomes something that customers use on a regular basis, year after year.

Check out our new infographic for more details about the results from the latest Nuance mobile consumer survey.

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About Andrea Mocherman

This was a contributed post by Andrea Mocherman. To see more content like this, visit the Customer experience section of our blog.