Was there a time when you had to wait in lines at restaurants to order food? That is fast changing as self-service becomes more popular. Restaurants like McDonald’s were early adopters of self-service kiosks that give you the choice to order food without having to wait for human assistance. Emerging technologies, adaptation of new tools, integrations through mergers and acquisitions and high user expectations are driving the need for continuous improvement in the delivery of IT demands, globally and regionally.
This is a trend that has been widely adopted, from restaurants, gas stations, and parking facilities to expanded offerings at ATMs. In fact, self-service technologies can come to your aid irrespective of whether you are 8 or 80 years old.
Statistical analysis conducted by “World Economic Forum” reveals that global literacy rate has increased over the years and currently stands at 87%. Today’s customers are more aware and tech savvy than ever before. Customers increasingly want an instant resolution to their issues and would rather take matters into their own hands than wait for a support ticket to be raised. The whole information system has evolved from physical libraries to eBooks, search engines and so on, which has accelerated the information availability ecosystem. They tend to look for answers online via an FAQ article or even a tutorial video; the point is to access information and look for a fix without seeking human support. With more and more companies embracing digital disruptions that support self-service portals, they are on their way to becoming a well-established market necessity.
Rethinking customer support
In recent times, the use of self-service has increased significantly, due to a growing focus on improving customer experience and driving customer satisfaction. In fact, as per a recent study, if a brand offers self-service options to users looking for support, 77% of consumers will have a more favourable opinion of it.
- User convenience: There are many reasons why self-service is becoming increasingly popular among customers. For one, it is convenient. It enables customers to get things done at their convenience, without having to depend on anyone. This is especially important in today’s fast-paced world, where people are always on the go and have little time to spare.
- Cost effective: Another reason why self-service is valuable is that it saves customers money. When companies offer self-service options, they can often provide these services at a lower cost than if they had to provide human assistance. These savings are then passed on to the customer, making the product or service more affordable.
- Differentiator: Self-service is also an important aspect of marketing. By offering self-service options, companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors and provide a unique customer experience. This can be a noteworthy factor in driving customer loyalty and increasing customer retention.
- Skillsets of customer support: With the increase in self-service options and automation, the necessity for customers to contact customer service for information, queries or minor fixes has reduced by a large extent. This has bumped up the proportion of mid-level and complex queries which has led to a favourable boost in the skillsets and domain knowledge of customer support teams.
Additionally, social distancing as a health and safety measure was a part of the new normal, and self-service options had become an easy way to ensure compliance. In addition to all the other benefits of self-service options, this option to avoid human contact is an added incentive.
One company that has successfully implemented self-service options is Amazon. Amazon is known for its and intuitive customer-centric approach and has been at the forefront of self-service for many years. The company offers a range of personalised self-service options, including online help, chatbots, and an extensive knowledge base. Amazon’s focus on self-service has contributed critically to its success, and the company continues to improve its offerings to better serve its customers.
Considering that it has become almost second nature for most of the population to turn to Google for answers, it is hardly surprising that they have excellent self-service options in place for the plethora of services that they offer. They have a comprehensive search option in their online help center. You get the benefit of customised results based on the nature of your query. Despite the availability of vast quantities of information, they have kept their self-service pages simple and easy to navigate with interactive content. In addition, you have access to several articles in their knowledge base.
Chalking the path to a smooth self-service experience
Now, let’s talk execution. How can business leaders establish a sound customer self-service strategy?
The first step would be to map the customer requirements that can be business drivers. Businesses can cut down operating costs by providing faster resolution for customers through chatbots, IVR, and most importantly proactive communication. Similarly, companies can target to enhance the user experience by providing more engaging and interactive content, and even boost revenue by leveraging AI virtual assistants that can make personalised product recommendations to customers.
- Apple is a great example of a company that has understood its customer’s needs. Their self-service option comes with a search tool that gives them personalised options based on their query which guides them quickly to the information that they need. In addition, there are links to more resources, educational videos, and options to speak/chat with an expert. It’s no wonder that they have a loyal customer base that continues to grow.
- Once companies identify their key business drivers and set up the necessary infrastructure to this end, they must strive to keep updating their content and expanding the knowledge base. Static and irrelevant information can kill self-service strategies instantly.
- Furthermore, incorporating digitally disruptive technologies like AI and Machine Learning can deeply enhance the search capabilities of virtual assistants to provide more intuitive support. Of course, this is an evolving process, and the bots will require human involvement at the initial stage to straighten out any bugs. This enables tech-driven assistants to learn correct associations over time and offer successful resolutions. It is also important to keep in mind to integrate all customer touchpoints and channels cohesively through such virtual assistants to provide consistent messaging to end users.
While the adoption of newly introduced self-serve options is fast gaining momentum, proactive and automated communications such as issuing status updates or key alerts and embedding information to the self-serve modes that customers can access at a one-click, act as a catalyst.