Businesses that improve upon their customer experience through technological advances, while also prioritizing what the customer wants ahead of other considerations, will gain a competitive advantage. Let's break down what businesses are doing going into 2018 to prioritize the customer experience.
1. AI and virtual assistants
AI is playing a significant role in the business world in just about every single aspect. Where it seems to particularly shine is in customer experience. AI-backed customer experience solutions offer businesses powerful analytics and insights for each individual customer while personalizing every interaction with customers. AI is used for many important customer experience features, like automations and powering virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa are an emerging technology that takes advantage of AI and can now be found outside our homes and smartphones. Businesses are taking advantage of these assistants because they can help automate and handle low-level tasks that don’t require a sales agent. These assistants can also provide representatives with suggested solutions for customer problems.
Zendesk’s Answer Bot is a virtual assistant that uses AI suggest answers to low-touch, high frequency tickets that take agents away from more complex issues that require a personal touch. If they can’t focus on those bigger issues, the odds of the customer having a positive experience decreases.
People want fast answers to their problems -- especially when they know their problems aren’t big enough to either go to the store or to waste their day on hold. Traditional chatbots used to have extremely generic responses and had the tendency to provide customers with useless solutions to their problems. AI lets conversations with chatbots become more personal.
Ultimately, customers are looking for fast solutions to their easy problems, and responding to them almost immediately has proven to increase customer experience significantly.
Self-service options are a significant customer experience trend in 2018. Customers are always looking for ways to avoiding getting stuck on hold with customer support or having to ask for help in person. Knowledge bases, chatbots, and even texting solutions are available for customers looking for quick solutions.
More and more, B2C companies are providing self-service options. Not too long ago, McDonald’s introduced self-service technology into some of its restaurants. Customers with specific orders no longer have to worry about getting their orders wrong — especially if they’re in a rush with screaming kids in the back seat and any evidence of mayo on their McChicken will start World War III — by customizing their orders on a touch screen.
Giving customers the tools they need to fix their own problems empowers them. There are tons of people who, for whatever reason, love to take pride in not going to the manual, not following the directions, and nothing will convince them to change their ways. Even these people can be pleased by giving them the proper tools.
Some companies might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of offering self-service options, but chances are, you’re already doing it.
4. Expanded customer journeys
Businesses can already do so much for their customers, but some are looking to go above and beyond. Expanding the customer journey can help guarantee customers sign up for a service by enticing them with potential deals and less of a hassle.
Imagine booking a weekend at a hotel, but instead of just getting the hotel, you’re also hooked up with a deal at a nearby restaurant or bar. Or you can get tickets to a sports event, concert, or a show at a discount.
It seems counterintuitive for businesses to recommend customers to other places for deals and extended services, but if it’s clear that if the customer will have a better overall experience, it will keep them coming back time and time again.
5. Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) improves customer experience by letting the customer tell the business how they should run their company. This shows customers that the business is actively paying attention to the things they care about and, ideally, influences the products and services that cater to their needs.
American Apparel offers their customers clothes that aren't exactly out of the ordinary, except for the price and where they’re made. Many overseas clothing manufacturers offer unsafe work conditions and little-to-no-pay to their employees, which is a serious human rights issue. Customers who want to take a stand against these practices can by shopping at American Apparel.
There are also ways for small businesses to implement CSR and increase the number of positive customer experiences. One simple way is by playing an active role in the community: attending fairs, hosting or volunteering at events, or hiring locally. Being an active member of the community helps ensure that the community remains a steady foundation for the business.
Businesses can do a number of things to put their customer first, whether they do it through technological advancements and integrations, like Zendesk’s recent Dialpad integration, policy changes, or by taking a strong stance on important social issues.
Regardless of the path businesses decide to take, they have to choose a direction. In today’s technologically-advanced trust economy, customers have higher expectations than ever. These changes aren’t difficult for businesses to make, so there are no excuses for ignoring customer experience.