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How 4 companies use mobile apps to court customers

Beth Stackpole | Oct. 29, 2013
Via the deployment of strategic apps, mobile presents businesses with a unique opportunity to engage customers with a product or service any time, anywhere, in a manner that is specifically tuned to their individual needs.

"We opened up eight [mobile] channels in two and half years, and they all have the same integration on the back end, but look different based on the brand of vehicle," Donate explains.

The greatest pain point: During the initial scoping of the Mobile Click to Pay project in mid-2009, the business side wasn't fully confident that IT could deliver on the vision to leverage mobile as a way to offer a higher level of service and open up new payment channels, Donate admits. The "aha moment" came when both sides were together in a room, with marketing brainstorming an innovative concept — enabling customers to get set up on mobile payments simply by having them swipe a barcode printed on their billing statement — and IT saying it could quickly prototype that setup. "This was the turning point in the relationship between IT and business," Donate explains. "It established trust and the sense that we could work together better."

The payoff: While declining to discuss project costs, Donate says the customer response has been huge — without any marketing, there have been 297,224 total downloads for the iPhone apps and 45,165 for the Android apps, which have only been out for five months, Donate says.

WSSC: Mobilizing customer self-service
Location: Laurel, Md.
Line of business: A water and wastewater utility serving suburban Washington, D.C.
IT staff: 94 employees

The mobile opportunity: With 1.8 million residents spread across 1,000 square miles of metropolitan and suburban Washington, D.C., and a customer service center fielding over 50,000 calls a month, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) was hungry for a way to let customers help themselves without sacrificing its levels of service. The rise of the mobile device provided just the right opportunity. "We wanted to have some sort of self-service option for customers in a post-PC era when everyone walks around with a smartphone or tablet," says Mujib Lodhi, WSSC's CIO. "We wanted customer intimacy, so why not connect directly to them?"

What they launched: WSSC Mobile made its debut in 2011, allowing customers to pay bills, report problems and monitor their water usage without having to wait for phone assistance. Using integrated GPS capabilities, WSSC Mobile also lets users track the status of their issue and view a map of any current problems in their area.

The app is also a way to enlist the public in identifying problems, helping the utility's small team of experts police the 1,000 square mile area. "It creates a partnership with customers so if they're out for a morning jog and see a leaky hydrant, they can pull out their smartphone, snap a picture and submit it and, based on the geographic coordinates, WSSC can immediately dispatch a crew to take care of it," Lodhi explains.


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