Article by Jenelle Berrien
As the year winds down and preparations have begun to welcome 2019, we thought it would be a perfect time to reflect on a few highlights from 2018. It was a year with a host of innovative changes and technological advancements in Human Resources, Customer Experience and Franchising. The introduction of new technologies, historically low unemployment and the rise of the socially-conscious consumer made 2018 a year of full of new ideas, challenges and delightful trends. All three (3) industries grappled with these topics in different ways, but in the end, business continued to thrive and promise strong growth in the future.
In Human Resources (HR), the War for Talent continued with companies hiring new employees at record rates. This was driven primarily by changes in the economic environment spurred by a major economic tax cut at the beginning of the year and advances in technology. Within the recruiting space, Artificial Intelligence (AI) began to gain momentum and became the hottest word on the street. New Sourcing platforms were introduced weekly helping busy recruiters to utilize AI and/or Chatbots to bolster their sourcing efforts, nimbly manage talent and allow anyone to stay in contact 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. Text and video-based interviewing increased and reliance on platforms such as LinkedIn and Google Jobs gave recruiters the technology needed to fill jobs faster.
Recruiting experienced many forms of change. Remote work also became a buzz word where candidates increasingly sought to work from home in order to enjoy a more balanced life. Recruiting gurus offered weekly webinars to help others learn new tools and techniques while discussing the ways in which the space was changing. Companies were challenged to build their brand on social media to remain competitive while increasingly keeping an eye on customer needs. Additionally, social issues greatly impacted the world of work as well seeing the MeToo movement forcing employers to rethink social attitudes and re-examine gender pay gaps at work. While proving to be quite a tumultuous year, 2018 pushed the limits of traditional recruiting to new and innovative heights.
The Franchising industry also saw changes over the year that were driven by technology and customer demands. The hotel giant Marriott introduced a hospitality Alexa in some key locations allowing guests to access a wide range of information, activities and consumer options just by interacting with a small in-room computer. If successful, this technology could replace the need for the Concierge as guests have their own individualized AI in-room computer to provide them with personalized experiences to meet their needs. Not to be outdone, Dominos Pizza announced pizza delivery to customers no matter where they were – in a park, beach, sports field or any kind of landmark. And when customers demanded a less rugged and more comfortable camping experience, Jellystone Park Camp Resorts began to offer “Glamping” as a new way to enjoy nature. This new form of camping is now focused on the needs of more high-end consumers with a whole host of new, more glamorous list of activities. These customer-centric business moves helped to increase customer interest and keep people talking.
Creative business moves were all over the Franchising world in 2018. Smoothie King made a huge announcement to eventually remove sugar from its smoothies by next year. This move was also customer-driven as health-conscious buyers want to eliminate sugar from their diets. These examples represent the many ways today’s consumers are smarter and more brand aware – in turn driving companies to be more innovative in meeting the needs of their evolving customers.
Of course Customer Experience has also exploded over the past year in every industry across the globe. All companies are aware of the importance of building a strong brand in social media channels and staying customer-focused in their offerings to the new breed of social media consumer. Technology has helped fuel this rapid growth with the introduction of augmented reality, holographics, biometrics and robots who do anything from provide consumers information about products, make payment processes quick and effortless as well as helping companies to inform customers using robots, holograms and a host of visual experiences. These technologies help to provide customer experiences that are easy to understand and provide instant information needed by the customer in a form they can understand.
Behind the science of CX is understanding the customer journey. Typically, through the use of Journey Mapping, a CX professional can visualize, analyze and re-engineer how customers interact with their brand from all touchpoints. Through the use of Big Data analytics, companies are rising to the challenge in many new and exciting ways. The leaders of this charge in 2018 were firms like Zappos, Publix, Southwest Airlines, USAA and Nordstrom – all customer-focused brands willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to correct errors quickly & efficiently and provide legendary customer service.
These three industries have all experienced similar changes over the past year – increasing company brand presence using new and innovative technologies to provide superior customer experiences. The companies of tomorrow will continue to build upon these ideas as technology continues to provide access to smarter, faster and more agile tools. We expect 2019 to provide the same level of growth and innovation across the board making consumption as easy as possible for all. Whatever 2019 brings, it’s clear that we are experiencing an exciting time as the world evolves through the use of advanced technology and as social media driven customers become smarter. What will tomorrow bring? We remain on the edge of our seats looking forward to that answer… only time will tell.
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