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Why customer service still remains the most valuable weapon in your digital strategy

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Why customer service still remains the most valuable weapon in your digital strategy

Chris McClellan, CEO at RAM Tracking 

As a CEO of a growing technology company I’ve had my fair share of LinkedIn messages, emails and conference presentations. Every year it’s always the same declaration that a tactic is now dead or the latest buzzword is the “next big thing”. In the last 5 years we’ve had content marketing, big data, SoLoMo, gamification, blockchain etc. Each one has been heralded by the gurus, ninjas and “experts” as something that I absolutely must be doing in my business to survive online. Every year I hear this I always eagerly wait for someone to actually hit the nail on the head, but I’m always left disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, all of these tactics and approaches have their place and some are wildly exciting and innovative, but too many companies from SME to PLC get caught up in trying to “find the next big thing”. Ironically, the latest next big thing is one of the oldest lessons in the book – customer service.

When I started RAM Tracking in 2004 I made a conscious decision to position the company as an online-first vehicle tracking provider. We invested in our website, social media, email marketing, PPC and SEO. Before I spent a single penny on any of these though I made sure that the culture right throughout my team was that customer service was the most important element of everything we do online.

Now in 2018, it’s interesting to see that the value of a positive customer service is becoming more important again. Gartner recently revealed that more than 50% of businesses plan to reinvest in improving their customer service experience. Another study recently showed that 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. Getting your customer service right not only improves retention and brand reputation, but it reduces the reliance on new business through upselling to an already captive audience as well as gaining positive customer referrals is highly likely to help bring in conversions and leads.

With this in mind, I’ve written down some of the core activities I believe every small business should be doing in 2018 to improve their customer service experience online.

CRM

  • A Customer Relationship Management system like Salesforce (which RAM Tracking use throughout every aspect of the business) is vital for maintaining a positive customer service. Not only does it allow your business to track and view the entire sales journey from initial first click through to repeat orders, but it gives your entire team (from telesales through to social media) access to a customer’s history in seconds. Having all of that information at your fingertips instantly means that representatives of your company appear knowledgeable, up to speed and can help understand the customer’s business and relationship with you in a matter of seconds.

Segmentation for all activity

  • Blanketing your customers with the same messaging and content is likely to see your engagement rates drop, bounce rates increase and annoy your customer base. One of the benefits of using a CRM is that you can begin to categorise your customers based on their location, revenue and what product/services are applicable to them. We learnt early on that sending sales content to customers who in fact already utilise all our services would only have a negative effect. Instead, we segment all of our communications as to not upset or bombard customers but instead send them a personalised experience.

Value-added content

  • In a competitive marketplace creating content can be a difficult task. In many instances it’s hard to differentiate from what has been said already before. There is a temptation to create content that is off-brand or even irrelevant in a bid to be more creative. Alternatively, if you’re trying to improve your Organic Search performance a poor but common approach is to create content solely for search engines. Instead, look to create value for your customers. Have your content and customer services team sit down, discuss what the most frequently asked questions are on the phone and then go away and create this content to help answer it. Not only will this help your site rank for intent-based questions for SEO but it’ll give your customer service team an asset to be able to direct customers to.

Make referral rewarding

  • As previously mentioned, the power of referral or word of mouth is enormous, yet many businesses do little to tap into it. Set up a simple referral scheme that rewards loyal customers for recommending you. Rewarding them with a £25 or £50 Amazon voucher is a great way of incentivising and encouraging this behaviour. In many industries a CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) of £25 is likely to be substantially less compared to PPC.

Constant customer feedback

  • The most important of all my tips is to be never scared of seeking out feedback. Without it, it’s hard to know where to start (or even identify if there is a problem). We regularly work with the IIC (Investor In Customers) to have our customer service independently assessed. From some of the feedback we received, we made changes quickly to improve upon these areas and saw our rating go from two star to the top standard of a three star rating. This isn’t something we do every few years to get a nice accreditation, but something we aim to do this every 6 months. It allows us to adapt and evolve our offering with customers’ expectations, new technology and gives my management team benchmarks to measure against.

All in all, investing in customer service doesn’t need to be tasking. By making a few steps you can improve the way your brand is perceived, how many customers you retain for repeat business and improve internal operation efficiencies.

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Honda’s part self-driving Legend a big step for autonomous tech

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Honda's part self-driving Legend a big step for autonomous tech 1

TOKYO (Reuters) – Honda Motor Co Ltd on Thursday unveiled a partially self-driving Legend sedan in Japan, becoming the world’s first carmaker to sell a vehicle equipped with new, certified level 3 automation technology.

The launch gives Japan’s No.2 automaker bragging rights for being the first to market, but lease sales of the level 3 flagship Legend would be limited to a batch of 100 in Japan, at a retail price of 11 million yen ($102,000).

Still, the new automation technology is a big step towards eliminating human error-induced accidents, chief engineer Yoichi Sugimoto told reporters.

The Legend’s “Traffic Jam Pilot” system can control acceleration, braking and steering under certain conditions.

Once the system is activated, a driver can also watch movies or use the navigation on the screen, helping to mitigate fatigue and stress when driving in a traffic jam, Honda said in a statement.

It can alert the driver to respond when handing over the control, such as vibration on the driver’s seatbelt, the carmaker said. And if the driver continues to be unresponsive, the system will assist with an emergency stop by decelerating and stopping the vehicle while alerting surrounding cars with hazard lights and the horn, it added.

The announcement comes after the Japanese government awarded a safety certification to Honda’s “Traffic Jam Pilot” in November.

Global automakers and tech companies, including Google parent Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Tesla Inc, have been investing heavily in autonomous driving.

Yet even as the technology advances, regulations on autonomous driving differ from country to country. Audi unveiled an A8 sedan with level 3 technology in 2017 but regulatory hurdles have prevented it from being widely introduced.

Honda has no plans to increase production or sales of a level 3-equipped Legend for now, its operating officer said on Thursday.

($1 = 107.3400 yen)

(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Airbus to avoid redundancies in Germany, France, Britain

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Airbus to avoid redundancies in Germany, France, Britain 2

BERLIN (Reuters) – Airbus will make no forced redundancies in France, Germany and Britain, the European planemaker said on Thursday, as it reached an agreement with a German trade union to protect jobs until the end of 2023.

A spokesman for Airbus, which has been hit hard by slumping demand for aircraft in the coronavirus crisis, said other measures – such as voluntary redundancy programmes, early retirement or internal transfers – had been agreed instead.

Negotiations started later in Spain, the spokesman said.

Airbus has been struggling to reach targets to cut staff as part of a restructuring plan affecting up to 15,000 jobs, especially at its headquarters in France and in German plants, sources had earlier told Reuters.

The IG Metall union and works council representing Airbus workers in Germany said they had agreed with the aircraft manufacturer on an overall package to safeguard employment and sites in the country until the end of 2023.

About 1,300 employees at Airbus Germany and 1,000 at Premium Aerotec, a subsidiary that makes large plane components, took voluntary redundancy between November and February, Holger Junge, head of the group works council, told a news conference.

“Production figures have stabilised,” Junge said. “But we have not overcome the crisis.”

Airbus agreed to avoid further job cuts through short-time work and reducing hours by up to 20% from 2022, he said. Airbus employs about 55,000 people in Germany.

In January, Airbus stuck to ambitions for a partial recovery in jet production later this year, although there is speculation that it may have to delay that due to extended coronavirus lockdowns in Europe. [nL1N2JJ1DU]

(Reporting by Christina Amann and Alexander Huebner, writing by Emma Thomasson, editing by Thomas Escritt)

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Shell changes senior UK leadership in global overhaul

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Shell changes senior UK leadership in global overhaul 3

By Ron Bousso

LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell is changing the senior leadership of its operations in Britain as part of a global overhaul to cut costs and shift away from oil and gas to renewables and power.

Under the changes, which have been announced internally, country chair Sinead Lynch will become Shell’s global head of low-carbon fuels, a company spokeswoman said.

Lynch, who joined the Anglo-Dutch company in 2016 following its acquisition of BG Group, will be replaced by David Bunch who currently runs Shell’s retail business across Europe and South Africa. Bunch joined Shell in 1997.

The changes will take effect in August when Shell rolls out project Reshape, its biggest restructuring in decades as part of plans to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by mid-century and build a large low-carbon and power business.

Under the overhaul, Shell will cut 9,000 jobs, or more than 10% of its workforce.

As part of the management changes, Steve Phimister, head of Shell’s oil and gas operation in the North Sea since 2017, will be replaced by Simon Roddy, currently deputy managing director at Shell’s Nigerian onshore oil and gas joint venture SPDC.

Phimister’s new role in the company has yet to be announced.

Shell has gradually reduced its oil and gas operations and refining business in recent years but Britain remains an important market. The North Sea will remain one of nine main oil and gas hubs, the company said last year.

Shell also has a large retail network in the country and plans to significantly boost its electric vehicle charging point network. In January it agreed to acquire Ubitricity, the largest public EV charging network in Britain with over 2,700 points.

Shell’s European rivals including BP and Total have also set out ambitious long-term plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions and build large renewable energy businesses.

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by David Clarke)

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