How to Listen to Clients on Mobile

If you search for mobile tools for your small business, the majority of tools you’ll find, from software to app makers, are focused on one thing: marketing. No doubt marketing is important businesses of any size. And, among small businesses, retail venues and restaurants typically need to get their message out, promote deals and create enthusiasm in order to meet the scale needed to be profitable. But the sole focus on marketing is a huge mistake among any small business (even those with high volume) because it is only half the conversation. Marketing lets the business talk. Who lets them listen?

As someone who’s collaborated with teams globally and across industries, I’ve come to see how important it is to provide channels for client input. This is important on a practical level — you can actually get the work done — but is invaluable as a business level because the client knows when they are heard and they treasure you for it.

So, as clients move from desktop to mobile for communication and data sharing, how do we as business owners maintain genuine connection and resist the temptation to turn mobile communication into a one-way street? Here are 5 steps to help get you there:

Step 1: Ask how your clients like to communicate and remember to use their preferred channel. On a smartphone this might mean text, email, snap chat, skype, face time. Some may even use their phones to make calls! Be flexible, be available and be consistent. The worst thing as a client is when a business asks me how I want to communicate (email, it’s always email for me) and then within five minutes, they call me! Don’t do the bait and switch.

Step 2: Find out where your client is on social media. You don’t have to focus on every social media channel as a business owner, but you can certainly set up a free account in order to say hi to your clients. This is especially true if yours is a B to B business. Whether you are the accountant or the office cleaner, you should be focused on supporting your business clients to grow and promote their brand.

Step 3: Don’t send attachments. Ever. The fact is, attachments are awful on phones. Resist the temptation to attach anything that doesn’t need to be printed or signed. And while you’re at it, use something like Hellosign or Docusign so that you never send anything that needs to be printed and signed. Here’s the thing about attachments, whether a pdf form or an Excel report, they never work on mobile. But if we see that little paper clip we just have to click it. You need to find a work around, see Step 4…

Step 4: Use alternatives to attachments. For reports this will often involve cutting and pasting key tables and findings in the body of an email. For forms, you should consider mobile form builders like Typeform Lite or Wufoo. If you want a simple solution for generating mobile reports and forms for mobile, you should check out what we do at Augl, which converts spreadsheets and forms into client service apps.

Step 5: Only build an app if you need it. At some point you may find you need an app. This should not be when you read an article that tells you you need an app. Apps really need to provide applications, to do processes for your business. Otherwise they are just phone screen decorations. Do you use business processes every day? Do you report and collect data every day? Do most of your clients tell you they would install an app for your business? If the above is true, an app is a great idea. If an app doesn’t actually serve your core business, you should think carefully about making the investment.

Step 6: Forget all of this in five years. The fact is, the technology and the platforms will change. You’ll move your processes and your habits to smartphones and something else new will arrive. The solution is to embrace the change. To do this, you need to have a crystal clear vision of what your customers value and what you provide, so that you can find creative ways to provide this wherever and however they work.

Ultimately a mobile strategy is part of your overall business strategy, not a replacement. Do you know your clients? Do you listen to them now? Is your business built on providing true value to these customers? If so, the mobile solution is just a matter of choosing tools and processes. The mobile business is up to you.

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