The need for immediacy has never been higher. In a world where customers can order virtually any product or service without even having to touch their phone (aka Google Home or Amazon Alexa), businesses are faced with the growing demand for instant access, service, delivery and satisfaction- all day every day. This is where self-service kicks into gear.
Self-service provides customers with the opportunity to put their journey into their own hands. Customers want to help themselves, so long as they have the right tools and resources in place to do so. According to research by Zendesk, more customers prefer self-service over contacting a support agent. Why? Because nobody wants to wait on hold for half an hour or more waiting for a basic query to be answered. If customers can do it for themselves they will, and most customers are willing to give it a try.
Customer self-service can take many shapes and forms, such as self-service web portals, checkouts, kiosks, online tutorials/FAQs or automated chatbots, but the goal for each is the same: to provide customer support/services without the customer requiring assistance from a representative. While this may not be the case every time (we all know what it’s like to have technology crash and burn right when we need it most), customers would still prefer the option over making a phone call when their needs are transactional only.
So, what is it about self-service that is changing customer experience for the better?
We’ve touched on this point already with regards to long phone call wait times. If a customer has a seemingly simple or straightforward task to complete or problem to solve, self-service allows for the solution to be found in a much quicker and easier fashion. This then frees up time for customers with more complex problems who require the assistance of a representative.
Customers are well-equipped with information and resources and they know how to use them. They want the opportunity to use these resources for themselves to get tasks done at the time and place that suits them. This could be something as simple as being able to submit forms, pay bills and update account details without needing to setting foot in a store. Customers want to be in control of every step of the process, and self-service makes this level of desired autonomy possible.
The customer experience should be a sensory one, and self-service has the potential to incorporate various sensory touchpoints into the customer journey. While this may not be important when you’re doing your weekly grocery shop and just want to get out of there as soon as possible, this be of value in other situations. For example, certain hospitality venues can find value from giving their customers the option to use an interactive self-ordering kiosk where they can go through a step-by-step customization process. This can be somewhat of a novelty, and in turn add a bit of flavour (no pun intended) to the traditional queue-to-order process.
Although there are clear benefits when it comes to introducing customer self-service options to improve customer experience, there are still some points to be mindful of to ensure that it does in fact improve the customer journey.
Make it easy:
Sounds like a no-brainer, but the truth is not every self-service portal or kiosk is easy to use. Sometimes companies make the steps to purchase too convoluted by including too much information, and it unfortunately won’t take long before a customer feels fed up. If it isn’t simple, your customers won’t use it- period.
A method to avoid this from happening could be highlighting the most popular FAQs so your customer doesn’t have to go down a rabbit hole of answers before finding one that will be highly likely to be relevant to them, or by providing screen shots as a visual aid rather than long, wordy instruction steps. Everything needs to be clean and organised so that the customer doesn’t feel lost or confused.
Keep it relevant:
In other words, don’t forget to update! It can be extremely frustrating for a customer if the last response to a question was answered in 2002. As your business evolves, your self-service portal should evolve with it. This means creating new how-to videos, constantly analysing search behaviour to stay informed on what customers are looking for, and organising information based on the most frequently asked questions.
Ensure that the self-service system fits in with your online or instore journey. A customer journey analysis is required to first determine where it is that the customer needs it most, for example both during and post the purchase journey, and the tone, style of communication should mirror the voice and personality of your brand.
Ensure that the service works consistently across all devices, particularly mobile, so that customers aren’t limited based on what device they have available at the time.
Create an easy opt in human option:
If something goes wrong it should be ridiculously simple to then talk to a human. If you don’t get this right, you might as well not do it at all.
Customer self-service isn’t just a cost cutting tool or optional extra. It is a preference that is set to stick around as customers continue to move away from traditional trouble shooting methods. While it is not the be all and end all of customer experience solutions, it is an integral part of the process and for this reason needs to be considered as part of each business’ CX strategy.