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      How to future-proof customer experience for 2019

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      If you want your business to rise above the rest in 2019, you need to provide the best possible customer service. In this article, we look at five ways you can take advantage of technology and innovation to boost your customer service.

      A study conducted this year by Accenture found that two-thirds of large companies currently face high levels of industry disruption. We’ve already seen supporting evidence for this finding: Toys R Us, Homebase, Maplin and Mothercare all went into administration in the last twelve months after struggling to compete with more innovative online companies.

      There are a number of reasons these companies found themselves in dire circumstances. Recent studies suggest that when it comes to making a purchase, 64 per cent of people find customer experience more important than price, and Millennials are willing to spend up to 21 per cent more to get great customer service.

      Make it easy for customers to get in touch:

      In 2018, businesses started taking notice of messaging services. It’s not hard to see why: Research shows that chat is by far the preferred support channel of Millennials, who are now the most important retail demographic. Facebook and Whatsapp even launched apps and integrations specifically designed to help businesses connect with their customers via instant messaging.

      In 2019, businesses that don’t offer live chat services will be in the minority. They face losing a significant number of their customers who don’t want to wait on hold or watch their inbox for a resolution to their problem. Many newer companies and start-ups even offer in-app messaging to make getting in touch as easy as possible.

      Use AI to ease congestion:

      In the last year, it became commonplace to hear businesses talk about how they use machine learning to provide personalised deals and experiences for customers. Going into the New Year, the next buzzword that’s on everyone’s lips is AI — and it’s going to become vital if you want to keep customers satisfied.

      AI is so advanced now that it can be used to converse with customers to help identify their problem and provide customer service representatives with the information they need. That way, every second of the customer’s time is used properly.

      Good news when you consider that the majority of people (66 per cent) feel that the most important thing a company can do to provide a good online customer experience is valuing the customer’s time.

      Gemma Harding, head of client services at CALLCARE, says:  “As Live Chat has become a more and more important service for our clients, we now use AI to alleviate pressure on our operators while using a customer’s time more efficiently. By addressing a customer’s enquiry straight away with our AI systems, all important information is gathered for when operators handle the enquiry at hand.”

      Focus on staff satisfaction:

      In the year when mindfulness apps and the four-day working week took centre stage, we learnt a lot about the importance of employee wellbeing.

      Despite fears about how Brexit might hit the job economy, unemployment rates in the UK were the lowest they had been since 1975. That’s created a competitive job market that means employers have to step up to retain their best staff.

      Peter Doczi, head of customer services at Rapid Formations, highlights: “Customer service can be a high-pressure environment for employees. Work-life balance, fresh-mindedness and good mental health are key to delivering excellent levels of customer service on a consistent basis… this leads to more positive reviews, which leads to more sales.”

      Remove rigid business structures:

      One of the key reasons that so many big businesses went under in 2018 was their lack of flexibility. Companies struggled to keep up with the online market, burdened rather than empowered by their long-established internal hierarchy.

      2019 will be the year where businesses that can’t adapt to evolving customer needs will be left behind. Successful businesses will be those that can seek customer feedback earlier rather than later and respond to it before a real problem arises. To stay flexible enough to try new things, businesses will need to make some bold decisions about internal structure — for larger companies, that could even mean a complete reshuffle.

      Markus Stripf, co-founder and CEO of Spoon Guru, said: “Consumer needs are constantly evolving, so, in turn, your product or service should develop alongside this. Keep informed with incoming trends and the changing lifestyles of your customers so you can anticipate the services or products they will want.”

      Co-innovate to improve customer experience:

      What’s been called the ‘sharing economy’ has continued to prosper in 2018 and shows no sign of stopping. By relinquishing the need to deliver all aspects of a product first-hand and opening up to third-party providers, apps like Uber, Airbnb have dominated the marketplace.

      In 2019, co-innovation — whether it’s with vendors, logistics companies or even with your own customers — will become more important than ever before. By outsourcing some parts of your customer service to specialised professionals, you can focus on the core part of your business you know you’re good at. This way, all parts of your business can innovate at a rapid pace without impeding on one another’s progress.

      Alister Esam, CEO of Process Bliss, explains: “Creating a great customer experience from the outset is essential to retaining that client longer term and that involves a smart and effective customer onboarding process.

      “Getting the onboarding process right at the outset creates the flexibility and freedom to delight that customer and give them a memorable experience.

      “Get it wrong and you will always be on the backfoot with that customer.”

      New technology is exciting, but it’ll be the businesses that use that technology to make customers’ lives easier that will really thrive in 2019. It’s about removing friction, using customer time efficiently, and going the extra mile to respond to customer needs.

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      AUTHOR

      Vincenzo Ferrara

      Vinny Ferrara, Staff Writer for PA Life

      All stories by: Vincenzo Ferrara