Self-Service: The Next Channel You Can't Ignore

Self-service is a common element of commerce that most take advantage of on a daily basis - from self-service checkout lanes at the grocery store to ATMs, Redbox and YouTube videos that help you do it yourself - it's become the norm for transactions. However, it hasn't always been this way. Back in 1916, Tennesseans would unknowingly become patrons to a growing revolution that was forever changing how Americans would interact with businesses. And it all started in a grocery store. Specifically, a store called Piggly Wiggly.

Yesterday's Self-Service

When Piggly Wiggly opened its doors on a September day in Memphis, commerce underwent a drastic change. Instead of relying on clerks to hunt down their items for them as they once had, customers could walk through the grocery store and select for themselves whatever items they desired - oh what freedom. As Piggly Wiggly grew to be a successful, nationwide chain, they learned the value of helping the customer to easily find what they want, on their terms, and in a convenient fashion. 

But this wasn't the first instance of self-service in the modern world. The 1880's brought the Sears catalog to Americans, allowing them to order products by mail, and in 1905 gasoline could be pumped by the customer instead of a clerk. Across the pond, coin-operated vending machines first appeared in London and with it a new era was slowly forming - the era of customer empowerment and self-service. 

Today's Self-Service

Today's world of self-service continues to offer innovation after innovation. The now 25 year-old Internet quickly changed many industries, from communications to commerce to customer service. People can now search online for solutions to their problems, or check their account balance without having to talk to an Agent. And frankly, people prefer to manage customer service themselves when they want, from where they want. In fact, Forrester research found that more than 70% of customers prefer self-service to talking on the phone or sending an email. 

We may not realize it, but self-service is all around us. The most ubiquitous examples are the ATMs and gas stations, but consider IVRs or apps that let customers manage their account, or a forum in the help section, training videos on YouTube or eLearning modules that can assist Clients by training them how to complete the desired action. Some of the key principles of self-service that have made it meaningful and satisfying to our society include providing customers with:

  • Convenience
  • Information
  • Options

Integral to today's self-service is automation - an email automatically sent to confirm your purchase, a text message to indicate a bill being ready, or to remind you of an upcoming appointment. A training video, eLearning or knowledge base that help teach your customer's how to do something for themselves.

For many businesses, though, their primary communication with customers is over the phone. And with many businesses, when customers do call them, the IVR or hold message prompts them on how to complete service via the web or alternative channels. We're all familiar with good and bad automated experiences. Automation, being our modern extension of self-service, is not by its nature problematic - it's only when it does not successfully help us get what we want that we become frustrated with it. Consultants, like ours at The Connection®, are well versed in this methodology and can help successfully design automated pathways that help your customers achieve first call resolution quickly and efficiently. 

Tomorrow's Self-Service

With the deeply integrated role of self-service in our lives, companies are adapting to offer self-service experience (sometimes similar to what is being offered over the phone) via three primary ways:

  • Text Message
  • Customer Account Management via the web
  • Customer Training/Education via knowledge bases, video or eLearning content 

A lot of industries are already using these methods to support their business, and the customer response has been overwhelmingly positive. That might be because it's faster than other channels and the convenience of managing their account on their terms. A Harris Poll study commissioned by OneReach found that 64 percent of consumers would prefer to use text over voice as a customer service channel. That same poll found that 81% of Americans say they are frustrated being tied to a phone or computer to wait for customer service help. 

As was the case with Piggly Wiggly, customers just want what they want, when they want it and they want it to be easy. The idea hasn't changed, but the delivery and the channels have. Companies can start taking that next step by integrating channels to help customers do things quicker and better than ever. See how The Connection® can help you deliver self-service options that provide flexibility to your customers - contact us.

 

As published by ICMI

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