Shaky mobile apps kill customer engagement

Have you launched smartphone and tablet apps that generated more customer complaints than sales? Has your call center been inundated by customer irritation rather than excitement?

Such unhappy outcomes occur when companies fail to realize that developing and operating apps for smartphones and tablets is radically different from developing software and operating systems for green screens or laptops.
The Old World
Once upon a time, most systems were back-office systems. A few employees used green screens to access mainframe data. Navigation consisted of the tab key and the function keys. Data and cryptic explanations were all presented as simple, boring text. These systems were so much better than their all-manual predecessors no one complained about clunkiness or anything else.

More recently, front-office systems appeared for all employees. They ran on Windows clients and accessed UNIX database servers. Navigation relied on a mouse. Lots of prompts and data were presented in a variety of font sizes and colors. Menus, pull-down lists and glide-overs provided much better explanations. Using a mouse was such a big improvement. Employees were happy.

Today ubiquitous customer-centric systems, now called apps, run on smartphones and tablets that access vast databases through the Web. Navigation relies on fingers and gestures on a touch-sensitive screen. Data is presented compactly in bite-sized chunks with lots of attention to presentation and organization. Customers are only happy when apps operate intuitively and deliver snappy performance.
The New World
New customer-centric apps are much more complicated to develop than the systems of previous generations of technology. Great energy is expended to produce displays of data that are highly tuned to deliver just what customers expect to see. Huge effort is allocated to anticipating where customers want to navigate next. Here’s a set of guidelines to achieve this demanding design goal.

Effective business apps are more demanding to operate. One big problem is that business apps must access proprietary operational systems that weren’t designed to support high volumes of data requests from legions of customers running apps on smartphones and tablets. Another challenge is that customers expect 24/7 availability. By contrast most employee-oriented systems require much lower availability.

To build customer engagement through your business apps, expect to strengthen the computing infrastructure of your operational systems. In many cases you will need to build new databases specifically to support the data requests generated by your customers. Often your network will need an upgrade to handle the much higher data volumes.

All this software development attention and infrastructure investment for apps is worth it in terms of customer attraction, retention and engagement. What are some hurdles and challenges that you’ve experienced on the road to the blockbuster app that generates customer buzz?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

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