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2018: What’s Your Plan?

So ready or not here come’s 2018.

The first thing to do is to assess 2017.  How did it go?  What did you learn?

We saw a culture that has become increasingly sensitive to wait times, and although that is something we already knew about, retailers continue to be surprised by the prickly nature of Guests when faced with anything other than instant service.

We also saw a continuation of self service – just walk into a convenience store or gas station and chances are you can order a hot dog, turkey sandwich, smoothie, or cold brew at a kiosk.  More than that we saw online chat and self help features even more prevalent than ever before.  You could learn to fly your new drone or operate that immersion circulator all on the company website or YouTube channel.

So that leads us into interesting territory when it comes to 2018.

These are the trends that could be the most important in the new year:

Employee Engagement

Your front line teams are your warriors in the daily quest to delight your Customers.  They are the ones who serve them eyeball to eyeball during each interaction.  That means that you need them in top form each day – and the best way to do that is to be sure that you are thinking through their experience as well.  Are you engaging them in meaningful ways that make them want to take great care of your Guests?

Anything you can do around communication, training, or recognition will go a long way toward ensuring they deliver great experiences.

The Guest Journey

Looking at your Customers from a holistic perspective is a great way to ascertain how to best serve them.  That could mean you need to take the time to discover their larger purpose and motivation as well as what they do right before or after they interact with your brand.  For example, you may sell cars but your Customer is looking for an experience or freedom or a way to work – something bigger than just 4 wheels and an engine.  Also your Customer interacts with other businesses inside and outside of your space.  What do they like about doing business with them and is any of that business up for grabs?

Finally, what is your Customer’s end goal and what will really make them happy?

Ease of Use Speed of Service

Guests are looking for easy.  They want fast, on demand service that is there when they need it.  That means not just a great app or website for 24 x 7 selling, but true service when they visit or call you.  They want their issues resolved during the first contact and they also want to know that you value their time and business.  This means having staffing levels up to the challenge of your business flow and not running short of product.

Customers feel as though they are severely time crunched and businesses that deliver a great product and save them a few moments will have a competitive advantage.

Self Service vs The Personal Touch

As mentioned early regarding service in 2017, self service is here to stay.  We have a cohort of Guests who are very comfortable ordering online and having something delivered or picking it up in the store to reduce waits.  They order coffee, sandwiches, phones, and clothing this way – and for the most part they are satisfied with the lack of personal touch.  But then, every so often, even the most tech savvy and socially apathetic folks need a human connection.  They could be having a bad day, feeling lonely, or just looking for a little additional service.  Some folks want a barista to take their order when they had a rough day at work or want to talk to someone at the clothing store when they have a formal event they will be attending.

AI and Chat Bots Just Keep Getting Better

More and more businesses are relying upon chatbot technology to handle Customer interactions.  This is the logical extension of the automated audio call trees which have become increasingly better in call centers.  The good chatbots can handle simple Customer interactions and provide resolutions for questions.  The great ones know when to hand off to a live support agent and do so quickly and seamlessly.  This is technology that is just getting started and has implications for both text and phone conversations in the future.

The Whole Story

Guests want to know what is up with your business.  Where do you get your coffee beans and do you treat your team well?  Are you serving locally produced pastries, ceramics, or alpaca socks?  Guests love the word transparency and really it just means they want to know your story.  They want to know where your business came from and what its culture all about.  This is why you see companies like Zappos opening up their home offices for tours.  As this article is being written, Apple is working on a new home campus that offers a retail store, public cafe, and tours of the location.This kind of openness is well received by Customers who really want to know who they are buying from and what a company stands for.

So that’s all well and good – and a lot to chew on with a hangover.

But ultimately it all will come down to what you choose to do.  Afterall, knowledge is meaningless without the desire to act upon it and put in the hours to drive success.

So think carefully about what you want you want to do next – resolutions are overrated, but you can use this as a time to focus on a few key moves that will bring you the most results.

Happy New Year to all of you – Who I consider cherished friends.


Tony Johnson Guest Experience Leader

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