Self Service models have radically transformed various industries, including the travel and hospitality industry (e.g., online reservations vs. travel agents), the entertainment industry (e.g., ordering movies from Netflix or iTunes vs. going to a DVD rental shop) and others. Today, the financial industry, healthcare, automotive and of course retail – are also offering more and more self-service tools.
Self-service is integrated into each step of the customer journey – pre-sale (including consideration, comparisons, advise seeking, etc.), sale (including choice, payment, errors etc.), and post-sale (including retention, support, reviews etc.).
Self-service can be divided into the following categories:
- Unassisted Self Service– where a customer can complete a transaction / receive the support he/she needs without requiring a human agent’s assistance at all. This includes:
Completely transactional / unassisted – Online payment, ordering, billing information.
Content based unassisted self-service – FAQ, product / service information and instructions (e.g., videos), IVR, Virtual Assistants.
Community Based self-service – Peer to peer platforms, aggregators (which are sometimes initiated by the company).
- Assisted Self Service– where the customer can access the service at his/her own terms, but does require a human agent on the other side, including: Online Chat / video chat, Email / instant messaging / SMS response systems, Social Customer Service
The market for self-service is growing, due to the fact that it can provide actual value to both the customer and the enterprise: the customer enjoys a more personalized, on-demand service – without lines and waiting. As part of the convenience mega-trend, consumers are searching for ways to save time and money, and they are getting more and more accustomed to solve problems and become more proactive with their service needs, including support, transactions and research.
At the same time, the interaction costs the enterprise a fraction of call center support (Forrester Research estimates that call center support can range from $6 to $12 per call or more, while a web self-service interaction can cost a company less than 10 cents to support).
However, the aforementioned is only true for well-executed service: if transactions are too complex the customer will leave the web channel and call the customer support center – which is likely to result in increased cost for the organization, as well as reduced satisfaction levels for the customer.
Hence, a company must consider the customer’s experience, loyalty and life-time value rather than the mere cost of transaction, and aim to provide the most convenient, time-efficient and satisfying tools per each need. When implementing a self-service strategy, it is crucial to develop a customer-centric self-service which takes into account best execution practices:
- For assisted service, best practices include: ability to access live agents at any point while retaining the information already delivered by the customer; knowledgeable and skillful agents – as they might be required to attend to the more complex issues, unresolved online; provide social based platforms such as forums, availability on social networks; and provide timely answers.
- For unassisted service, the key is to rely on vast, personal, information; provide multi-channel availability; user-centricity in the design of the tools, based on the customer’s journey and logical process; provide an easy and efficient process – paper-free; and optimize the content on the website / app.
Beyond crucial elements, such as omni-channel experience, proactive service and customization of channels and service per each customer and need – We believe that the future of self service will also involve components which correspond with the mega trends of consumer empowerment and peer-to-peer sharing: more DIY offers that will enable the customers choose their level of engagement / service, while relying on peer information and support more than ever.