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5 things Uber can teach UK businesses about digital customer service

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Unfortunately, most of the recent news about this disruptive, new technology focuses on the legality of Uber. But there are real lessons UK businesses can learn from Uber about providing high quality customer experience across a number of new touchpoints.

1. Products are dead, long live services

Customers love using Uber because the app gives them what they want in the palm of their hands. Uber plays to the exact expectations of customers which use online services today, not merely selling taxi seats, but selling the taxi experience. Uber’s seamless end to end service includes seemingly obvious features like ‘one tap to hire’ a ride, exact GPS location tracking so you feel confident of when your taxi will arrive and other features which are more difficult to deliver in any other way at a technical level. This includes splitting the taxi fare between multiple customers and the ability to give customer feedback. From selection of the type of taxi to the handling of the money transfer between customer and taxi company, Uber has it all covered in one app.

After all, simplicity drives loyalty in this digital age.

This begs the question for UK businesses, can my customers find out everything about what we do and the services relevant to them in as few clicks as possible? Few pass this test.

2. The rise of online services 

This shows that customers are more inclined to be loyal to companies who interact at their level. Customers interact with businesses everyday online, increasingly via mobile devices. These ‘touchpoints’ can be Internet radio, online banking and networking via Linkedin. Online services have become so pervasive they have become a ‘must have’ for businesses who want to thrive in the new economy. Services are being ‘productised’ so they are now more accessible and easy to consume and also give companies a way to monetize continuous interactions with the customer with upsells of new features and services.

In a recent survey Avangate compiled looking at consumer perceptions of online services, we were able to have insight into the likes and dislikes of today’s consumers.
Over half of respondents would consider paying for online services if they were offered as a trial (60 per cent) or could be purchased with the ability to self-service modify their service options at any time (50 per cent).

3. The market does not lie

With Uber making a valuation of $17bn during its most recent round of funding, it is set to be nearly as valuable as Twitter. This innovation in new technology along with the implications of the changing buyer journey has forced changes in banking, entertainment and now transportation industries.

Using telecoms as an example, the price of handsets is decreasing to the point of being given away for free with phone companies making money through service contracts with optional add-ons. Seamless customer service expectations require businesses to make use of data to provide a 360 degree view of each individual customer and how they interact with the business. Treating each customer as an individual is the core to the New Services Economy and is something Uber does very well. Thought for UK businesses?

4. The new services economy

UK businesses should think value, value, value. Taxi company firms should think about how they address their smartphone-equipped customers. Are their online offerings up to date? Who wants to carry pockets of change, wait on streets in the rain and pay unspecified tips to people whose name they do not even know and they may never see again? The answer is pretty soon no one – given the bar has been permanently raised for consumers.

Uber is just one example of this major shift to the new services economy. Once businesses can give their customers a seamless service and support experience, they will follow Uber into the new world of driving revenue through value added services or risk being left behind.

The rise of services has been well documented – McKinsey cited for middle income countries, the service sector not only represented 50 per cent of GDP, but over 85 per cent of job growth. This change is new and UK managers have yet to fully understand how the combination of online, cloud, and mobile, coupled with the rapidly dropping costs to build new products, will lead to the explosion of new online services – be it SaaS and Cloud Services, Information Services, eBooks and entertainment, or even Legal and Financial Services.

5. If you want to win in the market, know your customers and give them what they want

The success of Uber and other online services companies such as Dropbox, Egnyte and Netflix is no fluke. They are practicing the new business strategy that is using data and the latest technological advances to deliver services which customers want.

So how can you tap into all this goodness? There are many lessons here for UK online businesses. Next time when you have a strategy meeting, think about how quickly you can create new products and subscriptions, freemiums and trials across any connected device to service, retain, and upsell your customers.

With more innovation and more touchpoints – the winners will be the ones that can rapidly experiment and offer continuous improvements to their online services while incorporating easy self-service options to allow the consumer to choose the best features, payment methods, pricing packages for themselves.

Sure, Uber is a well-funded pioneer that can spend the money to build out these innovations. The lesson here is you don’t need to start from scratch. There are solution providers who are helping companies “rethink commerce” and enabling the next set of companies like Uber across a variety of industries.

Ultimately, UK businesses should consider tapping into the new “Services Economy” to better monetize how buyers are buying today and accelerate their revenues. Besides, why let Uber have all the fun.

Michael Ni is CMO at Avangate.

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