In a short period of time, mobile devices have become commonplace in all areas of our lives. Having the ability to perform a wide range of tasks with one simple device, from playing games to banking, has become the norm. Some briefing programs provide an e-tablet for guests to use during a briefing. Other briefing programs are developing applications for their customers and guests to use on their own devices. This article is an overview of how briefing programs are employing apps, mobile websites, social media, and other digital presence to engage customers. It also includes some EBP Tips to help programs get started and provide additional ways to enhance your customers’ experiences.

How Briefing Programs are Engaging Customers with Apps, Digital Presence, and Social Media

Many briefing programs first employed e-tablets as a way to collect survey data, both pre- and post- briefing. Briefing professionals realized there were other opportunities for interaction in addition to surveying. For example, BriefingEdge demonstrated at the 2011 BUG (BriefingEdge Users Group) meeting that agendas and either real-time or post briefing surveys could be accessed by customers during a briefing. The BriefingEdge application and its enhancements works on all tablets and in addition to “pushing” information to customers, it also allows for briefing professionals to adjust the agenda plus add or change speakers on the fly. Tom Matthews, President of BriefingEdge, announced that they will be demonstrating new Smartphone Scheduling and Approval Apps at the 2013 BUG meeting and ABPM Conference.

Sherrie Williams, Director, Global Customer Visit Centers and Engagements at Johnson Controls, shared how the Showcase team is now “using tablet technology to reinforce their sustainability values and increase customer engagement.” When guests arrive at the Showcase for Building Efficiency in Milwaukee they are greeted by tablets at their boardroom seats in place of the traditional tent card, thus demonstrating Johnson Controls commitment to technological leadership at the very onset of the customer experience. The Showcase team uses an integrated content management system (CMS) to streamline the process of creating, editing and displaying all content that is presented to customer attendees. All presentation materials, agendas and speaker biographies are loaded onto the tablet prior to the customers’ arrival.

The incorporation of tablet technology has not only improved the customer experience, but also streamlined Showcase team operations. Paper usage has been reduced considerably, content editing is instantaneous through the cloud and communication is more efficient than ever as customer selections are passed between the Showcase team and facilities through the tablets’ CMS.

AT&T is also providing iPads for customers to enhance their overall briefing experience. Susan Driscoll, AT&T Metrics Consultant shared that in addition to providing agendas and speakers’ bios, content such as white papers, videos and other collateral can be added for each briefing. The app is supported by an admin program that is integrated with AT&T’s briefing system, allowing real-time update capabilities and Internal or external feedback capture. Results are shared automatically with account teams, discussion leaders and other management stakeholders.

The ability to tailor the content on the app has allowed the AT&T team to utilize the platform to advance other key marketing initiatives. For example it has been leveraged to support voice of the customer surveys to help inform future product strategy and as a vehicle to promote the briefing program’s charitable contribution option in support of AT&T corporate philanthropic efforts.

There are many advantages to providing tablets for customers to use during a briefing. The briefing staff only has to work with one platform and the information can be easily customized for each customer.

Recently, research firms Gartner and Forrester heralded “bring-your-own-device,” or BYOD, as the most significant shift in business communications and predicts an explosion in enterprise wide apps. These mobile devices are your customers’ preferred method for receiving and communicating personal information, and increasingly, briefing programs are developing ways to engage customers via their own devices.

Esri is now engaging customers before they arrive at their headquarters. A new customer-centric website was designed for easy mobile device use. The icon buttons and text fonts are larger and can be easily managed from a small screen. The site was developed for Esri customers and guests to plan their visit to Esri’s headquarters in Redlands, CA. It was developed in-house and has many rich maps and a showcase for Esri‘s GIS (a mapping platform) technology. The site has been so successful that it is now available to all Esri visitors and not just briefing guests. Roxanne Cox-Drake, Manager of the Esri Briefing Program, says, “Guests often ask how they can build a similar site for their customers.” What started as a briefing guest tool is now used by all HQ visitors and it is generating leads for additional revenue. They will be adapting the application to serve their visitors at other center locations in DC, Dubai, and Miami.

To create their new tools, the Dell briefing team tapped into the corporate marketing development program for new talent. The recently-hired associates complete a three-year rotation across the organization to have firsthand experience with Dell’s many business units. Last year Penne Allen, Director of Dell’s Global Briefing Program, had a marketing associate develop visitor apps during her marketing rotation at HQ. The apps were tied to Dell’s rollout of their mobile adoption. Dell’s robust suite of apps is available across four operating systems and is tied to GPS. There is an overview of the Dell center, maps of the Dell campus plus a list of area restaurants, hotels and suggestions for sightseeing, cultural arts, and shopping. Dell guests are invited to sign the briefing center’s e-book, view Michael Dell’s YouTube videos, plus link to Dell’s enterprise strategies and the bios of the speakers. Three days before a briefing, a sign-in page is sent to customers inviting them to log in to the service. Penne explained, “This tool makes the experience at Dell’s HQ briefing center more of an immersive experience. Customers are engaged before the briefing instead of waiting until the customers walk through the doors”. A third party company developed and maintains the tool. The briefing center’s professional staff keeps the content updated.

Getting Started

Like other marketing initiatives in the briefing program, the development and implementation of apps and other digital presence needs to be aligned with the corporation’s branding and marketing strategy. It is easy to get excited about all the digital marketing possibilities. To get started you need a firm understanding of what it is you are trying to do, the expected results, and metric of success. The Gartner Group research shows that “70% of social implementations fail because they lack a business purpose.” It is a good practice to develop a business case to explore and define all facets of an enhanced digital presence.

When calculating the cost of a new tool you need to include development, implementation, usage, and maintenance costs. Some companies can use their own products and technologies; other companies have to outsource the development of their tools. To manage daily costs, it is a good idea to have the capability to update and keep the information current in-house.

Most discussions will include working with your corporation’s IT department. These departments are tasked with dueling objectives. They understand the need to position the company as a leader, support digital presence, and enhance the acquisition of information while, at the same time, they are also trying to protect company data and assets from hackers and other intruders.

Changing technology can increase the range and costs of supporting BYOD on multiple platforms. As we discussed in this article briefing professionals are taking different approaches. To control these variables some companies are providing a tablet for customers to use while visiting in the center. Other companies are making their existing websites mobile friendly with easy to use navigation and graphics, or developing dedicated mobile sites specifically for use with digital presence in the briefing program. Over half of F500 employees use their own devices at work in their companies and the trend is growing. The expectation is that they will want to use their own devices when visiting your centers for increased customization, interaction, and collaboration.

A Glossary of Terms Used in this Article

App - applications software for mobile devices. Companies are establishing internal “App Stores” so that employees can download approved enterprise Apps.

BYOD - stands for “Bring Your Own Device.” Personally owned mobile devices include laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Increasingly employees and customers are connecting with the workplace and enterprises to access company information and applications. Briefing programs are developing strategies and tools to engage customers through their personal devices.

Digital presence - An organization’s internet existence that can include traditional and mobile websites, mobile apps, and social media. For most programs and centers it includes the briefing pages on the internet and intranet. Increasingly programs and centers have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube. Once started, these sites have to be kept current or they will tarnish the image that the EBP is trying to enhance.

Mobile sites - websites optimized for use on portable devices like phones and tablets. They generally have larger buttons, larger font sizes, less text, and other features that make small screen navigation easier than on a traditional website. Briefing programs are adding links to their external web pages to engage customers before and after briefings.

Social media - Although the social world often seems to revolve around Facebook and its nearly one billion users, there are over 200 other social networking services in the world. Furthermore, “regular” websites are adopting more and more social features, so there’s hardly a corner of the web now where it isn’t possible to share, tag, comment, and like content.