Improving customer service is the top priority for businesses building mobile apps today, according to a new survey of mid-sized and large companies.

smartphones, tabletsIt’s about time.

Five years ago, everyone wanted to have an app because … well, it was the cool thing to do. Today, every business needs an app in order to get closer to their customers and deliver effective, immediate customer service.

Today, businesses are much more practical — and realistic — according to a survey by mobile marketing automation vendor FollowAnalytics.

38 percent of the survey’s 451 respondents said their primarily purpose in creating an app was improving customer service. Another 12 percent said it was to foster customer loyalty, and slightly more than a quarter wanted to extend their customer experiences beyond the Web.

“Customer service is the primary purpose of brands’ mobile presence,” said FollowAnalytics’ CEO Samir Addamine. “Especially in banking, insurance, retail, ecommerce, travel, hospitality, and automotive.”

Interestingly, less than a quarter of marketers viewed their app primarily as a means to increase revenue.

Why bulid a mobile app for your business?

Above: Why build a mobile app for your business?

Image Credit: FollowAnalytics

That’s smart.

As our Brands and Mobile Advertising report states, the fact that 2.6 billion people now have a powerful conduit to the world’s information — including social networking, video, and communication — that is seldom more than three feet away is so revolutionary it’s hard to know all that it will bring.

Mobile is just that much of a game-changer.

But while most of the early apps used by mid-sized and large businesses were much like their early websites — brochureware — smart companies are now building connected experiences for their customers that enable instant access to account information, customer service resources, live support, and, of course, the very services and products that customers have purchased.

“Branding apps are more an extension of websites,” said Addamine. “But the value created is low, frequency of use is low, these apps need large marketing investments to generate downloads, and are rarely successful.”

On the other hand, the consumer benefits of customer service-oriented apps are clear — when they’re connected to their insurance agency, for instance, consumers can quickly report incidents, add photos, include location data, and track the ongoing progress of a claim. Allianz, for example, an insurance agency that provides policies for 85 million global customers, boosted customer engagement on mobile by 60 percent.

And while clients get better customer service, Allianz gets better data on customers: What they do, where they are, and what they might need, which is critical to more contextual and relevant customer service.

Better customer service can also boost sales, which is why FollowAnalytics’ survey, which was filled out by marketers from companies with 500 or more employees, shows that companies consider it critical to connect mobile app usage data with their in-house CRM or business intelligence platforms.

update crm or bi with mobile data

In fact, a full 97 percent of marketers consider it to be either “somewhat” or “extremely” important to update their customer management systems with mobile data.

It’s so important, according to the study, that a full third of companies are allocating between a quarter and a half of their entire marketing budget to mobile app marketing initiatives.

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