In 1958, the average lifespan of companies listed in the Standards and Poors 500 was 61 years. A study by McKinsey revealed that in 2017, this figure had dropped to less than 18 years.
In fact, the prediction is that by 2027, 75% of companies that are active today will have disappeared – and that’s before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is taken into account. In reality, it’s likely that all of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 means that these figures are much higher.
Despite all of this, around 20% of businesses say that the pandemic had a positive impact on their organisation overall. Why? It’s all down to them embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, otherwise known as digital self-service.
What is self-service?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a combination of a number of different technologies including AI and advanced data analytics, integrating across the physical and digital world. Digital self-service is therefore a broad term that encapsulates all of the solutions that allow people to find solutions independently, without any – or minimal – human interaction.
Data suggests that COVID-19 brought about seven years of change in the number of digitally enabled products that companies have in their portfolios in the span of just a few months. Digital self-service has been embraced at an unprecedented rate and all of the evidence suggests that these solutions aren’t going anywhere in the future.
In fact, it’s predicted that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. That’s because the pandemic has not only encouraged businesses to embrace new technology but customers too.
90% of customers say that they expect a response to their support questions in less than 10 minutes, and 69% of customers say that they’ll try to solve a problem themselves before turning to a customer service agent.
The problem with these statistics is that less than a third of companies actually offer self-service options such as knowledge bases. It only takes one negative experience with a company for customers to choose to take their business elsewhere and digital self-service provides a unique opportunity for companies to capitalise on.
The importance of digital self-service for B2B companies
As customers start to experience more digital self-service solutions in their daily lives, the benefits of self-service are becoming clear. Solutions like knowledge bases and chatbots are allowing people to take control of their customer experience and increasing the speed of service.
The reason that this is so key for B2B companies is that every B2B customer is also a B2C customer. If people are able to self-serve with their bank, electricity supplier, or favourite fashion brand, then they’ll expect to be able to do the same when it comes to interacting with a B2B company.
In fact, 90% of B2B decision-makers now say that they expect the remote, digital model to be a firm fixture in the future, and three in four of them believe that this new model will be as effective or more so than it was pre-COVID-19.
On top of this, just 20-30% of B2B buyers say that they want to interact with sales representatives in person and they don’t expect this attitude to change once the pandemic is over.
99% of the buyers surveyed by McKinsey in the same study say that they will purchase through a completely digital self-service model. Almost all of them say that they would be ‘very comfortable’ making single purchases of $50,000 or even higher via an entirely digital self-service solution.
This is why it’s so crucial that B2B businesses completely review their customer journeys in order to ensure that they fully embrace this new, digital way of working. Customers might be willing to expect that adoption will be a little slower for B2B companies than it is for B2C companies, but they certainly won’t wait around forever.
The benefits of self-service
Digital self-service isn’t just about improving the customer experience, it can also reduce costs by as much as 75%. That’s because a live call with a customer service agent can cost anything from $6 to $12, while an automated interaction costs just 25 cents.
Relying on digital solutions doesn’t mean that you should get rid of all of your customer service agents, however. Instead, this allows your trained staff members to focus on more complex, valuable issues and interactions.
This provides you with an opportunity to nurture those important customer relationships and can therefore result in more conversions, a higher lifetime value, and reduced customer churn. Attracting new customers costs five times as much as retaining existing ones, and the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, compared to the probability of selling to a new prospect which is just 5-20%.
These price increases can present a significant problem for any business and can be the difference between sustained future success, and failure.
Why should you adopt employee self-service?
The increase in digital technology means that your employees will have a new role to play in your B2B business and upskilling is vital. Although 77% of workers say that they’re ready to learn new skills or completely retrain, younger people are twice as likely as older people to get this opportunity.
Add to this the fact that 60% of people are concerned that an increase in automation could mean that they’ll lose their jobs, and 39% believe that their jobs will soon be obsolete and it’s clear to see why workers are eager to learn.
Once upon a time, training would have been held in-person in an office meeting room or other physical location, but the increase in remote working means that this is no longer the case. Just 9% of those who can work remotely want to return to a traditional commute and work environment on a full-time basis, so training solutions need to adapt to reflect this.
Digital self-service options allow your employees to access a comprehensive learning platform no matter where they’re based. Having access to a self-service portal means that your employees can log on and track their progress independently, and it also means that they’re able to learn whenever they have some spare time.
Having access to these ‘bite size’ chunks of learning has a variety of different benefits including increased subject retention and improve employee engagement. It also allows your employees to learn in a more flexible manner and lets them guide themselves through the material at their own pace.
The potential of digital self-service when it comes to enhancing your employee and customer experience is phenomenal. Solutions like these ensure that everyone has access to the resources that they need in order to interact with companies in the way that suits them best.
On top of this, the potential benefits from an ESG point of view are endless. In an increasingly digital world, customer priorities are continuing to shift. Both B2C and B2B customers are looking to work with companies that have a strong ESG plan and self-service can provide a unique opportunity. These solutions can improve a business’s efficiency and compliance by empowering employees and streamlining operations.
B2B buyers are ready to self-serve, your employees are ready to learn, and the world of business is set to continue changing at a rapid rate. The question is: are you ready to adapt and implement the digital self-service solutions needed to achieve sustained future success?