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2018 Customer Experience Trends

Updated: May 8

Most executives talk about improving the customer experience—even of creating the quintessential customer experience—but too few walk the talk when it comes to developing and implementing strategies, policies, and training initiatives that can truly make a difference. Some exceptional firms are going all-out and competition dictates others will either catch up or fade away. Review these 2018 Customer Experience Trends for what’s fresh, viable, and essential to staying in the game.

The On-Demand Economy Expands

We’re all working longer hours, and we can use a little specialized assistance to make our lives easier. Sittercity is your Saturday-night hero. The company connects babysitters and parents, and its Chime service offers well-reviewed sitters who are nearby and available immediately. Meanwhile, Glamsquad delivers professional hair stylists and makeup artists to your door, with appointments booked via app or online. Uber is partnering with the likes of GoGoGrandparent to create hotlines seniors can call if they can’t or prefer not to use a smartphone to hail a ride. Whether you call it the Gig, Shared, or On-Demand Economy, customers are embracing these services, and a bottomless pool of independent workers are earning money on their own schedules while serving consumers who have no time left in theirs.

Voice Assistant Technology Is Here to Stay

Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo are fighting to be Voice Assistant King. Marriott is testing both devices to determine which works more effectively in helping guests turn on lights, close drapes, control the temperature, change television channels, and order room service. The winning company will have a head start in promoting their devices and penetrating the smart home technology market. One key facet of the test evaluates how easy it is for guests to log into their various personal accounts, allowing them to get the content they want rather than find themselves stuck with whatever the hotel offers. Regardless of which device wins the Marriott competition, voice assistants that listen and respond effectively are here to stay.

Service Associates’ Reviews Become Portable

Good reviews hold tremendous value, and reviews specific to staff members are terrific motivators, too. Denmark’s Servicelovers is a firm that wants to change customer service through positive feedback. The company permits patrons of any business to rate and recommend high-performing associates, and the reviews may be freely used by both employer and employee. The reviews are portable, too: if an associate who received rave reviews while working at a retailer seeks new employment, s/he can showcase the feedback to prospective employers via a dashboard similar to a LinkedIn profile. Banking reviews is a great investment in the future for any service professional who consistently earns high marks from customers.

Frictionless Experiences Are Becoming the Norm

Who doesn’t hate standing in a line—especially one that clogs store aisles and moves at a snail’s pace? In the quest to eliminate lines and other counterproductive shopping experiences, retailers are going frictionless. An example is Amazon Go, a grocery store that has vanquished the traditional checkout process. Utilizing a smartphone app along with sensors that track items as they are removed from or replaced on store shelves, the retailer knows precisely what’s in each customer’s cart. As shoppers exit, their purchases are instantly charged to their Amazon Prime account. Every business should be looking for ways to create a frictionless experience as customer expectations continue to move in just one direction; upward of course.

Personalized Service Wherever We Go

Similar to what Disney has been undertaking in its theme parks, Carnival and other hospitality brands are adopting wearable medallion technology to provide personalized service to guests. The technology allows the server to know guests’ names, their dining and entertainment preferences, and (naturally) their room and account numbers. Just as Geo-fencing, Geo-targeting, and Geo-conquesting expand a firm’s geographic reach, allowing competitors to target your customers via beacons, location-based technologies will soon allow any retailer, restaurant, or hotel to know who you are the moment you walk through the door. Instantly knowing potential and current customers offers powerful opportunities for customizing service, but one caveat: this technology poses privacy and regulatory risks and can backfire if not handled with the utmost care.

First-Class Service Expands

The tourism industry has a long history of offering wealthier passengers first-class travel options, including priority seating, luxurious accommodations, and attentive service. Today, credit card companies use data to ensure premium cardholders receive faster support than regular customers, and the medical field is expanding concierge services. With a retainer, doctors will provide enhanced care, including a commitment to limit patient loads and maximize their availability to well-heeled clients. Players in many other industries are watching this trend, and will increasingly extend premium services to further expand market share.

Wellness & Lifestyle Are Healthy for Any Business

Among the new and immersive customer experiences offered by brick & mortars are complimentary wellness and nutrition programs, with retailers taking their cue from the hospitality industry. Westin Hotels helped lead the way with RunWESTIN™, a New Balance-sponsored program of scenic three- and five-mile running routes available to hotel guests. Lululemon, a yoga clothing specialty retailer, offers yoga classes and running clinics, while Williams-Sonoma provides in-store cooking classes. The expansion of such services enhances the shopping experience and increases the number and quality of human-to-human connections between associates and customers. For many of us, the word “shopping” is a sure-fire stress inducer; by incorporating wellness and lifestyle activities, businesses are putting the customer’s well-being and relaxation first, and they stand to reap the benefits.

Innovative Speech Recognition Systems Will Win Over Consumers

Consumers are frequently frustrated by first generation speech recognition technology, but firms like Interactions are successfully blending Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human understanding to achieve nearly 100 percent accuracy. Some customers speak softly, unclearly, or with accents that can befuddle a speech recognition system, while others have service issues beyond the ability of a bot to comprehend. When an interaction goes off the rails, the result is a customer experience that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons. The new hybrid speech recognition systems address this problem cleverly, leaving routine, unambiguous transactions to technology and letting live staff develop satisfying two-way conversations while spending more time helping the customer who really needs it.

Businesses that closely follow trends in customer service are always contemplating what’s new, exciting, and able to help them stand out from the crowd. Transactions are soon forgotten; experiences and emotions make memories. Is your customer service memorable? Are you missing opportunities to create human connections? A new year is at hand, full of promise. Dig more deeply into these 2018 trends and find creative ways to leverage the most relevant ones. The quintessential customer experience will be yours to deliver.

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