Confession time: I am one of the 75% of women in UK that colour their hair. And like most people, two years of restricted access to a hairdressing processional somewhat threw me a curveball and required extreme resourcefulness. A bottle from the chemist was a complete disaster – uneven and mismatched, leaving me in mortal fear of the reprimand that surely awaited when I could finally get back to a colourist. Working from home became brutal: endless Zoom calls meant all I could ever see were my roots which were in desperate need of TLC.
However, desperate times lead to innovative businesses coming to the fore and thriving. Some judicious social media profiling threw an advert for subscription hair colouring in my path. It was heaven-sent. My needs were assessed up front (and by that stage those needs were apparent for all to see). An expert contacted me to ask questions to make sure I had the right service, and then the little box of magic arrived in the post, working every bit as well as a £200 trip to a stylist, but costing a 1/10th of that and taking just 30 minutes rather than four hours. Best of all, the whole process was completely devoid of conversations about where I was going on my holidays. This service has my back – I’ve set the frequency of delivery so that the second I see glints around the temples, a precious box of tricks arrives on my doormat. And it’s a responsive service – if I want to change things up a bit tone wise, increase frequency, or if for some unknown and unfathomable reason I wanted to pause or cancel, I’ve got a dedicated customer service contact on speed-dial to sort it all for me. I have officially broken up with my colourist for good, and have sheepishly slipped the Dear John note under the salon door.
Lockdown has enabled adaptive businesses to thrive and has forced customer behaviour to adapt. Imagine my smugness during toilet paper-gate when boxes of sustainably produced, community supporting rolls of gold-dust continued to make their way to my front door – as a valued current customer, I was their priority and was guaranteed service. Similarly, laundry detergent: looking for a better solution to the acres of plastic waste and dolphin-meddling chemicals, I’ve joined a subscription service of eco-friendly biodegradable sheets which arrive monthly in a compostable envelope through my letterbox: in fact, I ran out last night, but am safe in the knowledge that I’ve had email confirmation that the next batch is arriving today – the system works!
And it’s not just the dull household malarky that can be made out-of-sight-out-of-mind by outsourcing on subscription, there is fun stuff too! Midweek dinners are so much more interesting when they arrive as restaurant-quality pre-portioned kits – it shakes up the menu a bit, and there is no last-minute late night dashing to the supermarket to remedy an empty fridge. Dinner is on the table in under half an hour (and best of all, this can be further outsourced to child labour as it’s all pretty straightforward). And subscription businesses are clearly responsive to customer feedback: they have to be or subscriptions will be short. Concerned about plastic packaging, I contacted customer services and let them know. Clearly I wasn’t alone as now all ingredients either come loose in a big recyclable/compostable box or is in recyclable packaging. Subscription companies have to be responsive to thrive which leads to happy customers if they get it right.
Even my wardrobe is (mostly) on subscription. Once a month I get a choice of four outfits, then I send them back for new ones. No clothing waste (350,000 tonnes of useable clothing ends up in landfill in the UK each year) and no boredom. And to assuage my easily pricked conscience, all of the packaging is reused. Renewals are emailed to me automatically so I don’t have to think about them. And given fitting room mirrors seem to have a personal vendetta against me, I am delighted never to have to set foot behind the flimsy half-shut curtain again!
And then there are the TV subscriptions, the music streaming, the (admittedly pretty lonely) personal trainer app and the whole multitude of other services which I have been subscribed to monthly for some years without giving it a moment’s thought. It is convenient and certainly cost effective: a month’s subscription to a film streaming service costs less than a single trip to a video hire shop used to (remember them?) and it ensures I have access to the latest movies available, wherever, whenever and on whatever devices I want to watch them.
I don’t know why the utter joy of subscription services has all come as such a recent revelation to me given I have been a part of the Arken family for three years and we specialise in subscription services: if fact, that is our entire business model. Arken software had repeatedly transformed estate planning business processes time and time again since we switched from a machine based licence model to a cloud based software as a service (SaaS) model. The advantages are many fold: clients can access the service (with best in class cloud-based security) from anywhere they happen to be, and on whatever device they happen to have access to: that three hour train trip suddenly becomes productive time; you can head home from the office to meet the kids knowing you can logon later and finish off the Will that otherwise would have kept you tethered to your desk long past school pick-up time. A document can be started in one regional office and finished in another. Long gone are the days when we delivered our service on a disc with updates coming in the form of another disc when the need arose, relying on the user remembering to complete the updating process (discs had a notorious habit of languishing in desk drawers). Nowadays there is no question that users have the very latest version of our software – updates are automatic, and generally happen in the background and invisibly. It gives users the confidence that their software is always current and is under constant review and improvement under the weather eye of Arken’s specialist Legal Advisory Board. Releases are frequent, and keeps everyone up to date with improvements and fixes. And the ease of updating allows us to keep the content of the software cutting-edge. Whereas a textbook or static precedent bank will often be heading-out of date before the ink is dry or the file has saved, subscription software is under constant review to ensure that the latest legal developments, budget pronouncements and best practice are considered and incorporated regularly and automatically.
Having a best in class product is not enough these days in a market where business consumers do have a choice, but Arken really does put the Service in SaaS. Delighted clients are the reason we come to work each day. Every business is assigned a dedicated Customer Success Manager who is experienced in the use of all of our systems and in document drafting. The CSM will be there from day one to ensure all users in a business know how to use the systems to their full advantage, passing on tips and tricks, answering questions and supporting use to ensure that maximum efficiencies are being achieved. Our onboarding process is thorough: we want you to love our software as much as we do, and we are well aware that it is complex. It is this complexity that puts Arken well at the front of the pack, and we want to make sure that users can harness this complexity for efficiency: a simple will can be done twice as fast in Arken, a complex one at least four times as quickly. A comprehensive onboarding programme, regular training, webinars and an open support line or chat bot with real live lovely people at the end ensures clients are never left to fend for themselves. There is almost always a way to create a solution in Arken and we love to help clients figure out a solution – and just occasionally the extent of what is possible surprises us. And if we find clients have certain preferences which they would like us to accommodate, we do listen. Arken regularly reviews client feedback and incorporates those aspects for which there is demand, occasionally reworking entire areas of the system to ensure the optimum client experience.
So I’m a little bit flummoxed as to why it took me so long to realise what had been as clear as the roots on my head: subscription services are the way forwards. They are customer-centric, solution driven, efficient and require the minimum of user intervention. I’m sold.