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Case study: How firms are going mobile to improve the customer experience

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20th Apr 2009
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As the number of companies employing mobile technology increases, so too does the range of applications. Verity Gough looks at three companies that have ‘gone mobile’ in very different ways.

By Verity Gough, deputy editor

Mobile technology can be the missing link when it comes to making your business truly multi-channel. MyCustomer.com looks at three firms which have successfully used mobile communications to improve their services and, ultimately, the customer experience.

1. A Suit That Fits.com
Founded three years ago by engineer Warren Bennett and his business partner, computer scientist David Hathiramani, A Suit That Fits.com markets itself as the world's first online tailor. In its short history, the company has already won numerous awards including Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Online Business of the Year 2008 at the Start Ups Awards, and BT Business Essence of The Entrepreneur award 2008.

However, despite having 11 branches across the UK where customers can get fitted for their suits, the company has achieved much of its success through its 'one-stop shop' website and the innovative use of mobile technology for both internal communications and external marketing.

Google love

As soon as the company was up and running online, Bennett and Hathiramani decided that they wanted to implement some form of mobile technology and set about looking for a mobile phone that could render the full website without having to offer a WAP alternative. They settled on the G1 – Google's first mobile phone. "It is perfect for us as we can use the Google application suite so everything is pushed to your phone, which then links in with our business services directly without the need for any servers," says Bennett. "It is all supported by Google and is totally free. It also links into our calendars so I can see what our sales manager is doing at any given time."

"The real power of mobile marketing is the ability it has to spread a buzz. It's right there in the customer's pocket so when they get it, they can talk about it with their friends and word spreads."

Warren Bennett, A Suit That Fits.com.

In addition, they wanted to improve internal communications which was possible thanks to Google Instant Message. This provides a real-time chat facility between colleagues. "It's just like MSN Messenger but it's on our phones so I can chat with the programme manager in France, one of our programmers in China, our tailors in Nepal or our operations manager in Bermondsey off the back of my phone. It helps the business run more smoothly," says Bennett.

And their use of mobile technology doesn't end there. A Suit That Fits.com also offers text updates to customers for the entire tailoring process, from the initial confirmation text when an order is made to the point at which the completed suit is dispatched. "3G and mobile technology is very relevant to us," adds Bennett. "Not only do we send out reminders to customers telling them when their suit is being made, cut and stitched via text but we also see it as a chance to be a bit remarkable and generate a buzz."

Suits you

Their unique use of mobile phones to communicate internally has seen the company selected to feature in a campaign for T-Mobile, which has included a national radio campaign. In addition, they plan to use mobile marketing in future promotions and have already forged a number of successful partnerships with well-known, classic British brands such as Tanqueray Gin, Pimms Winter and Walkers Crisps.

"We have developed our own bespoke text marketing platform and have a lot of data about our customer, such as their inside leg measurements as well as their age and where they live," says Bennett. However, he adds that they are still sensitive about approaching customers with additional marketing texts. "At the end of the day, they have signed up for a suit and not a load of marketing from us, so what we try to do is create partnerships with really good companies and offer competition prizes. It's about making sure it's relevant," he says.

So far, they have also found that this subtle approach has meant that very few customers opt out of their email newsletters. "Rather than force products on our customers, we provide either style advice or some kind of benefit that they can have in conjunction with someone else or a competition to win something. It's very important to gain that trust – it’s not about pushing product, it's about developing their style. It's all geared towards helping them live and look better," he says.

"The real power of mobile marketing is the ability it has to spread a buzz," concludes Warren. "It’s right there in the customer’s pocket so when they get it, they can talk about it with their friends and word spreads. That's why we do it all by text rather than email."

2. Clayton CC Heaters
Coventry-based Clayton Heaters is a manufacturer and provider of spare parts for the heating and air conditioning industry for public vehicles. It also manufactures heating and air conditioning systems for classic cars and marine craft, employing 35 people including 15 engineers working around the country and engineering and office staff in Coventry.

Seven years ago, the company realised that the changing needs of the customers meant that they had to adjust their own working methods. Not only did they need to effectively monitor the work of the engineers but also company directors, Stuart Insley and Dean Allsop, found that their existing system failed to inform them about staff absences or traffic delays until customers let them know. They decided to introduce a simple mobile tracking system which was fitted to the company vehicles. This means that they can now pinpoint the engineers' exact locations by logging on to the internet, seeing what work has been carried out and quickly email a report to their customers.

"The GPS system is linked to the ignition so as soon as the vans are switched on, it feeds to a data centre," explains Insley. "We log on to the Masternaut website, which brings up a screen that shows where the engineers are, how long has been spent on the site and whether they are being held up in traffic - which is often the case in London."

The company is now set to trial PDAs to improve the efficiency of collecting paperwork from its engineers. Previously, the information had been posted every Friday, meaning it didn't arrive in Coventry until Monday or Tuesday. With the PDAs, the engineers can quickly email over the paperwork for every single job that they carry out, which will then be forwarded to customers.

In addition, staff will no longer have to fill in mileage and timesheets because it is logged by the online tracker system. This speeds up the process and cuts down on the amount of paperwork, which in turn helps reduce the companys carbon footprint.

3. Lasan Restaurant
Lasan restaurant and takeaway was launched in Birmingham in 2002 by director Jabbar Khan. While it has gained a reputation for high-quality food, attracting positive reviews from the local and national media, Khan wanted to make the restaurant stand apart from others. "The fact that you are successful does not mean you can stand still," he explains. "We realised that it was vitally important to use new technology to ensure that our customers get the best service and that the business continues to move forward."

"It’s just so much more efficient for the customer and almost everyone has their mobile phone with them at all times. Yes, we all use emails – but not as many people are looking at them constantly in the same way that they are with text messages."

Jabbar Khan, Lasan Restaurant

While he already had a website which listed the menu and could record bookings, he wanted to take things further and decided to launch an SMS ordering service for either deliveries or takeaways. A customer simply texts ‘lasan’ to 80800 and, almost instantly, gets a response offering a link to the restaurant's menu. The customer can then scroll through the menu and add as many meals and side dishes as they like before sending their order direct to the restaurant. They will then receive a message back to say that their order will be delivered or can be picked up in a certain amount of time.

"It’s just so much more efficient for the customer and almost everyone has their mobile phone with them at all times," says Khan. "We all use emails but not as many people are looking at them constantly in the same way that they are with text messages."

The system is relatively inexpensive to operate but brings a whole new world of potential customers, who are all registered with the restaurant once they have ordered through the system. "Lots of customers are already using it and the feedback is excellent," says Khan. "They are saying to us that they find it a very convenient way of ordering food and we have seen a rise in takeaway and delivery orders because of it. It has also attracted awareness of the restaurant because people are hearing about the new technology through media interest. It is definitely something we want to expand as a service to customers."

And while staff are already taking orders from customers via mobile phones, it will increasingly become a major marketing tool. Whenever the menu is updated or they want to run an offer, they can send a text to their existing database.

Benefits of mobile marketing:

  • Well designed mobile applications can help field staff provide a better, more efficient service and improve customer service levels.
  • Real-time access to inventory level, product specifications, client data and other vital information directly from the business management system. This eliminates waiting on the phone whilst someone at the office gets the information.
  • Update the customer database instantly – there is no need for the field person to write information on the form to be entered into the system at the end of the day.
  • Excellent for keeping internal communications flowing and improve field team efficiency.
  • Sending out text messages can generate excitement and interest in your brand; it helps build rapport with the customer.

Source: Gareth Edwards, National B2B Centre

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