Whether you’re prepared for it or not, Apple’s iPad and the myriad of new tablet computers coming to market will change the way you do business. Not because there is a shiny new gadget available, but because that shiny new gadget is raising your customers’ expectations by a degree far greater than smartphones like the iPhone, Blackberry and Droid already have.
Regardless of the business you’re in – B2B, consumer direct or retail – the customer experience you provide is critical for long-term sustainability and growth. This is especially true for commodities that can be purchased at multiple retailers, online or direct from the manufacturer.
The impact of mobile on the enterprise, however, is being felt far beyond the point of sale. For example, at Eli Lilly and Co., advanced mobile devices and applications offer its pharmaceutical sales force the capability to be highly productive while they are presenting to physicians, as well as during the significant downtime waiting to see them.
For Lilly, mobile devices with longer battery life like the iPad that are always on and provide instant, secure access to any and all existing resources a physician may want to review about a drug are a must. Compared to the antiquated process of combing through hard copy brochures that may or may not have the very latest information or waiting for a laptop computer to start-up and open applications, this is a tremendous enhancement to the customer experience.
In deal-flow environments such as the one at Simon Property Group Inc., the sales force manages tens of thousands of active leases which have volumes of paperwork and space plans associated with them. Traditionally, the Simon sales force has had to travel with the associated paperwork or store it on discs, neither of which is easy to access quickly and seamlessly. Mobile devices like the iPad have helped Simon bring the largely paper-based leasing side of their business into a streamlined digital space that is much more customer friendly.
The important distinction between the way you may have done business in the past and the way you will have to do business in the future is the consumers’ expectation of access to what they want to see, how they want to see it and when they want to see it. Offering customers a technology-limited experience will be met with increasing frustration or abandonment as the tablet and smarter smartphones become ubiquitous.
For most companies, accessing e-mail via mobile devices is now common. This is great and it represents a big leap forward for many organizations. The new standard, however, is for your work force to be able to take everything they do in the office and do it whenever and wherever they need to, without disruption and without having to fundamentally alter the way they do business.
This means having secure access to all documents, software and other applications – multiple reservoirs of corporate information – and being able to interact with them in familiar environments that have the same interfaces as the office.
Though they are more than just incremental upgrades, mobile devices are still not replacing primary business computers in most workplaces. Today’s mobile devices are highly integrated into the work flow and they are excellent tools for displaying and communicating. However, mobile devices are not yet particularly conducive to content creation. Yes, portable keyboards and docks make mobile devices more like full capability desktop environments. But they are not the first choice when one needs to create a business plan or design a website.
The impact of mobile on the enterprise largely results in acknowledging that your customers (and your employees) expect more from you than they did before smartphones and tablets made their debut. Allowing customer expectations to drive the way you engage and interact with them should help you assess how to implement mobile throughout your business and match the right tools with the right people for deeper connections and a better overall brand experience.
James L. Jay is president and CEO of TechPoint, Indiana’s technology industry and entrepreneurship growth initiative. Jay also serves as president and CEO of TechPoint Ventures, which has invested more than $16 million in early-stage capital in twelve Indiana-based technology companies through HALO Capital Group since 2009. An Indianapolis native, Jay has a successful track record as an entrepreneur, business leader and public servant.