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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Customer Productivity. There is not an app for that.

The ubiquity of smart phones and supporting applications has made us ready for the next dramatic improvement in self service technology for service companies to increase customer productivity, but we haven’t seen it begin yet.

Part of the fault lies with application developers, but most lies with small service businesses themselves.

The logic behind developing customer productivity apps is simple. Yet while application developers may have taken on business productivity, they’ve missed what improving customer productivity could mean to small business productivity and profitability.

A list of best selling apps for small business have plenty of tools for small business productivity – accounting, travel, networking, HR, meetings, and even a “sloganizer” that helps managers create clever slogans for their businesses. But the list contains almost nothing that helps companies make customer interactions more efficient.

Then there are personal productivity tools, such as OmniFocus, which uses Wi-Fi or GPS to detect your location and creates lists of tasks for you to complete nearby, and OnePassword, which keeps all your online and personal passwords in one place. (For every time I’ve accessed banking / ecommerce sites through the “forgot password” side door, I NEED this.)

Still, small businesses that are not using the flood of newly created personal connectivity technology as an opportunity to review processes to make customers more productive are stepping over customer satisfiers and dollars.

Example: since many small businesses are appointment based, I would expect to see something as simple as a calendar reminder. Doesn’t need an app, just a change of process to ask for a regular customer’s email address, (once) and email them a meeting reminder for the service appointment.

This could be used in conjunction with the traditional appointment card. (I have two of these in my wallet right now, and a 90% chance that I will miss one of the appointments.)

Not sea change, but enough that a small business can improve the productivity of the customers that engage its services, and decrease the amount that they impact each other negatively.

Yesterday alone, it would have kept me from being 15 minutes late for my hair appointment, making the hairdresser late for her next customer and potentially every other for the rest of the day.

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