A table full of welcome
Written by Arthur Gillis, Chief Executive Officer of Protea Hospitality Group
It was in a conversation with an Irish business developer recently that a phrase he uttered struck home.
“Ireland spent a decade in the sun. Now unlike Greece we’re taking our medicine and people are doing without so much, but our economy is done for until at least 2020,” were his bitter words.
Africa has been though decades of tough times, but considering the global recession that has hit developed nations in hindsight we’re fortunate that this continent’s economy has not been that closely tied to Europe and North America.
There is no “medicine” for us to take, and as we start a New Year I cannot help but be optimistic about the economic future of Africa.
The hospitality industry in Africa in particular is unequivocally a barometer of economic wellbeing.
There are many unique logistical challenges on this continent, so the fact that some 200 hotels are under construction in what are often difficult circumstances, is a fair indicator that there is growing demand for business accommodation.
And make no mistake; this continent’s hospitality industry is built squarely on a foundation of demand for business travel.
The Protea Hospitality Group, which is the largest hotel group on the continent with 125 hotels in eight African countries, is developing some 14 of those properties and every single one is in a node that is experiencing economic growth.
Development in West Africa is being driven mainly by oil and supporting industries.
An Ernst & Young report recently named Nigeria and Ghana as among 25 global rapid growth markets that display strong expansion potential and are (or could be) strategically important for business.
The Nigerian economy, which was in recent years predicted to overtake South Africa as the continent’s largest economy sometime around 2020, might conceivably do so by the end of 2014 because its economic growth rate is likely to be greater than seven percent in 2013. In contrast South Africa’s growth rate is likely to struggle to reach three percent largely because of its historically close economic ties to Europe.
It’s therefore a no-brainer that West Africa is attractive to hoteliers, including the Protea Hospitality Group, and we aim to increase our presence from 10 to 15 hotels within two years, and up 20 within five years.
A number of countries in East Africa are also showing significant growth, despite troubled regions like Somalia and Sudan. Uganda is one of those countries with a predicated growth rate of around five percent this year, and our hotel development there underpins our belief in its political stability and growing economy.
The continent as a whole is in an exciting (business and leisure) tourism growth phase. The World Travel Organisation predicts that in-bound tourism to Africa will increase by more than 50 percent from 2010 to 2020.
Add to that the growth predicted of Africa’s combined consumer spending of $860 billion and one can’t help but feel bullish.
The latter figure should be one that African hoteliers take to heart, though. Much of the current business is trans-continental, but we need to develop a keen operational focus on catering to the developing local market.
An Accenture report on African consumers shows that since 2000, consumer spending in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown at a steady four percent per year and the market is expected to be worth $1 trillion by 2020.
The report says that the most significant contributors to growth are changing, with less reliance on exports and more reliance on domestic demand, giving rise to an emerging middle class that will become more demanding as income levels and spending increase.
This emerging middle class will increasingly become our hotel guests and only those hospitality companies with strong brand identity, an intimate understanding of the regional conditions and solid local partnerships will thrive in this changing market.
While Africa’s 2013 will not be all rosy all the time in every country, unlike Europe we have an opportunity to grow significantly this year and every industry should put in a 100 percent effort to help realise our collective continental goals.
The Protea Hospitality Group comprises African Pride Hotels and Protea Hotels, and is the largest hotel group in Africa.
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.