Over the past 10 years in mobile, we have seen a distinct shift from a product mindset to a service one. In the mobile product model, it has traditionally been about transactions; e.g., how many downloads and how many purchases. A customer would purchase an application once and be on their way. Quite a few companies might try to obtain a new purchase with the introduction of a new version, but this wasn’t always so successful for a number of reasons. In the mobile service model the focus shifts from selling unique downloads to helping your customer accomplish their goal(s) through your service.
Whereas mobile products are often easily spotted by their lack of being networked, infrequent updates, and a one-time purchase, mobile services are typically highly connected, always updating, and often strive for a freemium to premium revenue model. Let’s take a couple examples to illustrate these concepts.
Evernote is the very popular note taking application that you can use across many different devices. Seemingly, every computer from the last 30 years and every smartphone from the last 10 have included a note taking application, with many hundreds or thousands of others offered by independent and enterprise application developers. What made Evernote unique in this space when it came out was its focus on connectivity and networking across different devices, as well as its very digital-first posture. Note taking apps have been a quintessential mobile “product” (it is one of the original launch apps for both iOS and Android)…but by transforming it into a service, as Evernote has, it becomes a wholly different thing.
Evernote removes the complexity of sharing information across different devices, of capturing and organising all kinds of different information, and is even now a platform for integrating specialised hardware (pens, notebooks, etc.). It is continuously updated and little improvements are being made all the time, and it is a de-facto cloud service that pretty much everybody integrates with in one way or another. Maybe the biggest differentiator though is how it integrates search and context across information saved inside Evernote as well as outside of it. Because of its APIs, when I’m doing research I can pull up information I’ve saved in Evernote even if I’m searching from Google. This adds a tremendous amount of value as I am able to leverage my existing notes in very targeted ways (I don’t have to switch “modes” into Evernote to specifically find those items…and I can even find information without necessarily knowing exactly what I’m looking for). When I am handed someone’s business card, I can take a photo of it with Evernote and it suddenly becomes searchable…much more useful than in a stack on my desk.
This cloud based task management service is the pulse of our CX team. With all of us distributed throughout the world, and traveling all the time, we have this great way of tracking tasks as well as supporting one another and fostering a global CX design community. As a service, it has extended the traditional project management tools into something highly conversational, easy to use, and continuously improving and evolving.
Another notable aspect of mobile services vs products are the back channels. Services tend to have very high-bandwidth, dynamic back channels to the development organization. Bugs and service improvements can be added to the backlog and released within a sprint or two (often just a few weeks). Contrast this with most products which may have quarterly (if they’re incredibly forward thinking and aggressive) or yearly releases. The downloadable application is simply an interface into the service, but there can be many such interfaces. It also provides hooks into many other complementary services to make it easy to share data, which makes it a more valuable resource.
With traditional project or team management applications, there’s a lot of energy spent on simple status reporting (often in the form of meetings where a manager will need to manually update the status based on reporting from each of the project members). The key service proposition Asana delivers is to remove this work and save time while providing more up-to-date information. I can simply look at my smartphone to get instant status on any of the dozens of projects we have running at the same time wherever I am in the world. As valuable, is the ability to update the team with new projects, new tasks as needed, and provide coaching in an asynchronous way that respects different time zones.
When looking at mobile services for industrial transformation we most commonly see bespoke solutions, since these are really getting close to the metal of an internal organisations peculiar and specific operating procedures, culture, and whatever IT environment has evolved over the decades.
One such service we have created is for the bread company Warburtons. With more than 20,000 stores across the UK carrying Warburtons products and over 4,500 employees, Warburtons’ challenge was to create a productivity app that would actually make daily tasks easier for its Retail Field Team, not simply add a layer of complexity to existing business processes.
DMI developed an Android tablet application that eliminated the need for their Retail Field Team to capture store-specific data on paper. This helped mobilize the business process of capturing in-store product data and equipped the team with real-time store card details, access to marketing and promotion collateral and an interactive product catalog. Not only did this help save time and create front line efficiency, but it also updated corporate backend systems automatically.
Prior to the Warburtons Red Insight service, each member of the Retail Field Team was spending one day per week inputting all the information captured on paper into the company’s internal systems. This data entry process was cut from one day per week to one day per month. Analysis of sales data also led to a significant increase in sales. Today, overall productivity has improved as the application has been adopted and valued by its users.
Reframing your company’s mobile strategy
Do you use your phone to call your mother, upload photos of your vacation to Instagram, or check your email? The answer, for most people, is all three. And all of them can happen regardless of which rectangular slab of glass we are using.
Creating and building mobile services is a uniquely different skill set than building a standalone application. Unlike mobile product downloads, which create transactions, services create continuous relationships between providers and customers. Services transform the meaning of value. A product-centric perspective treats value as something to be poured into a product, then given to a customer in exchange for money. If I buy a pair of jeans but leave them in my closet and never wear them, I don’t feel entitled to ask for my money back. Service value manifests completely when the customer uses the service, which means the customer co-creates value in concert with the service provider. The fact that a train operator owns a fleet of trains and sells you a ticket for a seat on one of them doesn’t by itself do you any good. The value of the service can’t be fully realised until you complete your journey. You and the train operator, and its ticket agents, engineers, ticket attendants, and other personnel, all have to work together in order for the journey to be successful. The goals, mood, situation, and surrounding experiences you bring with you all contribute to the success of the service experience.
A service changes the dynamic between vendor and consumer, and between marketer/salesperson and buyer. In order to help customers accomplish anything, you need to understand their goals and what they bring to the experience. In order to do that, you need to be able to listen, understand, and empathise. Service changes the marketing communication model from push to pull.
High-quality services address the larger contexts in which they co-create value with customers. Social media are accelerating the transformation of the marketing and sales model by upending the customer-vendor power structure. Customers now have easy access to as much, if not more, information about service offerings and customer needs than the vendors themselves. Facebook and Twitter instantly amplify positive and negative service experiences. Customer support is being forced out onto public forums. Companies no longer control customer satisfaction discussions about their products because they are simply becoming one voice among many.
When we help companies formulate their mobile strategy, and throughout execution, we bring in this larger context to help our partner consider how all of the different touch-points, across time, interact and reinforce one another. This runs the gamut from change management (what do the customer support people need to know now to be effective, or what new tools might they have at their disposal), operations (selecting the cloud partner that best fits their particular needs and goals, maintaining uptime, ensuring low latency performance), what is the go to market strategy (free, freemium, monthly subscription, hybrid, etc.), API strategy (public, private, hybrid), analytics (setting up UX KPIs, dashboard reporting, continuous development backlog based on real life performance), as well as what other interfaces exist into the service (smartwatch, kiosk, voice system, sensor, or many others). Whew…there’s a lot that goes into this stuff to make it successful!
Depending on which of the groups you fall in (consumer, enterprise, or industrial) you will have very different business goals in mind. While every business has the goal of making more money, we start by looking at how the business will make their customers more successful in accomplishing their goals. This, in-turn, creates sustainable success for our customers and partners.
DMI has a mature CX process we employ to deconstruct this and synthesise it into actionable mobile service requirements. We strive to go from start to a minimally viable product within 5 months, where we can then test the core value proposition and continue to develop the overall customer experience from real world performance and learnings.
Allen Smith, Vice President of CX & Head of Innovation, DMI International
Our CX (Customer Experience) team at DMI is made up of UX and service designers, business designers, and innovation specialists. These talented professionals bring a complementary mix of skills to bear on a spectrum of problems ranging from industrial transformation, enterprise operations, and branded consumer experiences.
Screenshots from Asana and Evernote.