In late October, Mother Nature slammed the Eastern Seaboard with one of the most ferocious storms on record. If you didn't experience it firsthand, you likely heard or read about Superstorm Sandy. The lucky ones in the New York tristate area were among the millions who only lost power. Residents in beach communities, however, were the hardest hit. Many were displaced as the storm's wrath turned their hometowns into disaster areas. My family was one of the displaced.
We live on a barrier island—one side faces the ocean, while the other faces the bay. The ocean met the bay and the island was engulfed. At the peak of the surge, our home was surrounded by about five feet of saltwater. No one in my community had ever seen anything like it.
Fortunately, my family evacuated before the storm hit, so we were safe. Our house, unfortunately, wasn't. It endured extensive flood damage and needs a lot of work.
Hopefully, you will never have to experience such a catastrophic event. There's the devastation, the damage, and then the waiting. And I don't mean waiting for gas to fill up your car, although that can take hours. I mean waiting for information. We couldn't get through to our homeowner's or flood insurance companies because they, too, lost power and couldn't process our claims. Plus, they were inundated with similar phone calls.
In situations such as this, many people are basically left to their own devices for days, possibly weeks. Fortunately, I had my smartphone, so I could connect to the Internet for information. I was particularly interested in finding as much information as possible from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Web site. While I eventually found a FEMA site that is mobile optimized, I was surprised to discover that one of the first sites I visited after the storm (www.fema.gov) was not. The links didn't work on my Android-powered phone.
I suppose this shouldn't have surprised me. According to our cover story, "Is Your Web Site Optimized for Mobile Devices?" by Associate Editor Kelly Liyakasa, this is an all-too-common problem in business. The feature maintains that "about 44 percent of retailers still have not optimized their mobile presence."
I suspect, though, that this will change pretty rapidly in the next couple of years. While my personal example is not a typical customer experience, many people are highly dependent on their mobile devices for everyday interactions, including mobile commerce, which will be a $31 billion industry in the United States by 2016, according to the cover story.
Naturally, this statistic alone should encourage organizations to broaden their multichannel support strategies, if they haven't already done so. There's a lot of buzz around multichannel and cross-channel support. However, the reality is that very few organizations are actually doing this, especially the cross-channel part, according to the feature story "Piecing Together Multichannel Support," by News Editor Leonard Klie.
Nonetheless, there's no escaping it—our society is becoming highly mobile and connected. Those organizations that can best serve the growing population of mobile customers will have a leg up on the competition. And companies that can take it a step further and enable customers to switch interaction channels seamlessly without losing any customer, product, or company information will, like my family, rebuild for a better tomorrow.