Firms offering the best experience can beat competition

The biggest change in customer service is the sheer number of channels through which people can contact your business.

Instead of just phone calls and snail mail, consumers can now reach you by email, social media, text message, video call and live chat. Mobile technology has also enabled constant connectivity, giving customers 24/7 access to public forums in which they can talk – or complain – about your company. Only organisations that are willing to adapt and respond to this shift will survive.

Companies are already starting to address the desires of many consumers for improvements in automated self-service by evaluating their core systems, investing in knowledge management and exploring virtual assistants. Some innovations are already in place, such as connecting conversations with context where companies have removed the need for consumers to explain, sometimes repeatedly, why they need service. That goes a long way in making self-service easier.

Another initiative is when businesses make secure authentication easy, with some introducing voice biometrics instead of consumers having to use PINs and passwords to authenticate their identity.

And finally, businesses have understood the value of their websites and have taken steps to improve their website effectiveness. Customers are increasingly beginning their self-service journey on the web, calling the contact centre only when they can’t find an answer online. Websites today have employed virtual assistants that are powered by language understanding and conversational capabilities, streamlining and speeding up the digital service experience, minimising a customer’s time and frustration while saving the business money.

In many industries, self-service options that were once a nice-to-have or a competitive edge have simply become a ticket to play. Most consumers today wouldn’t even think about joining a bank that doesn’t have an ATM network and a solid internet banking platform. The industries at the forefront of making self-service easier are tourism, retail and banks.

A company that I can single out for its superb self-service is Careem. This Dubai company has pretty much transformed taxi service in the emirate. There was a time when a person had to go to the street and wait for a taxi, or telephone to book a taxi, when the cars and comfort were generally not very good and there was no clear information about waiting time with no payment options but hard cash.

Careem, like its global counterpart Uber, came into the market and changed the way things were done. Careem’s app-based service makes ordering cars reliable, safe, convenient, and affordable with a simple mission to make people’s lives simpler. With Careem you can constantly track the location of your “Captain”. Your pickup location is identified via GPS wherever you are. Another initiative that Careem brings is you can pay via cash or credit card, but it goes even a step further – if you have registered your credit card details the first time, all subsequent payments are directly debited to the credit card without you having to swipe every time.

No one likes to wait. By making self-service easier, businesses will empower customers to control their time. The recent Forrester report, Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service, found that 73 per cent of consumers say that valuing their time was the most important thing a company could do to provide them with good service.

Think about it, would you not prefer to wait for a delivery to arrive within a set time frame rather than listening to that annoying hold music that some businesses insist on playing as you wait? To this end, businesses continue to explore ways to offer self-service scheduling, providing an easy means of rescheduling appointments and actively seeking feedback on the service experience.

In the age of fierce competitiveness, companies that deliver a great end-to-end experience that makes them stand out from the clutter will attract and retain customers. This is a universal truth, no matter which industry a business is in and businesses that choose to make superior customer experience their core business strategy will thrive.

Nidal Kamouni is the chief executive of PCCI, which advises companies on customer relations

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