Ulla Hiekkanen-Mäkelä: SOME revolutionises sales, marketing and customer service

5/2/2013

Mobile devices have become an extension of the hand. At the University of Warwick, researchers have already studied how mobile evolution affects the mobility of people's thumbs.

The majority of people under the age of 35 are digital natives for whom print is a relic. They turn to various new services and social media for information. Nowadays, I also check bus schedules on a mobile device (my favourite service is Tässä.fi). I read newsletters and messages from friends online. My teenage children watch their favourite programmes via online services provided by TV channels when it suits them. Games are a world of their own, of course.

Companies should rethink their processes

Electronic services are changing consumers' purchasing behaviour, the role of customer services and operating models for work. In today's world, is there anyone who doesn't compare products online and read assessments from other users (for example, TripAdvisor) or use helpdesk and chat services to support online services?

Corporate customers have access to tailored portals and ordering systems. E-invoicing has already changed financial administration routines. Pricing systems react on a real-time basis. The role of Contact Centers is growing and becoming more varied, with service being provided simultaneously by phone, chat and e-mail. Tekes customers have been able to hold remote customer negotiations by means of the Video Visit service for several years already.

Electronic services also open up completely new business opportunities. One of the biggest success stories in the Finnish online business is DealDash, which was founded by William Wolfram. This penny auction website has broken into the US market, where it now has 1.6 million registered users. DealDash has increased its turnover from 6.3 million euros in 2011 to 34 million euros in 2012. Along with shopping, DealDash offers entertainment and networking. A user group mainly comprising middle-aged women comes back to the service again and again – and may spend several hours a day on the site.

The Tekes PK.NET activation project encourages SMEs in particular to consider how they could benefit from online service development in their business.

Even a small company can attract a global customer base. There are many methods of accomplishing this: online shopping, order portals, product configurators, electronic pricelists, user instructions on video – on YouTube, for example – providing customer service and advice over the internet, and so on.

Social media can contribute a lot to the customer experience by:

  • increasing company sales and profitability
  • developing customer service
  • serving as a communications channel
  • brand building
  • collecting customer ideas and feedback

"Likes" don't mean much – it's more important to activate readers, users and customers.

For example, Starbucks collects customer ideas for new products or service concepts via social media. The ideas that other customers vote for first become a product of the month and, if successful, are later added to the regular product list. Anyone can follow the testing and launch of ideas on the website (mystarbucksidea.com).

I took a vacation in London with my daughter. When the plane landed, I got a text message confirming that our driver would be waiting in the agreed location. The message also included the driver's name, the car's registration number and tracking information. When arriving late at night, it was a relief to be met by a reliable driver, who took care of our luggage and dropped us at the hotel entrance. It took me less than 10 minutes to pre-book the taxi with a familiar online service a few days before departure.

A Finnish growth company called Cabforce also has an international taxi booking service. This service is already available in Europe and is going global via the booking portals of travel agencies.

I can't wait to hear about more new success stories from the mobile world!

Ulla Hiekkanen-Mäkelä
Executive Director, Marketing and communications
Tekes

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