The global market for self service is experiencing growth, and research companies predict it will keep growing in the next few years. The main reason for growth is that self service can benefit both customers and companies.
Self service is divided into two main categories:
- Assisted Self Service – when the customer is assisted by a live agent. e.g., online chat, video chat, email, instant messaging, SMS response systems and social customer service.
- Unassisted Self Service – when the customer is able to complete a transaction without the assistance of a live agent, e.g., FAQ, videos, IVR (Interactive voice response), online payment, ordering, billing information, peer to peer platforms and aggregators.
Companies that deliver online self service are able to minimize costs (as long as service is provided efficiently) and benefit from increased customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, lifetime value and advocacy.
For the customer, self service tools provides a more convenient experience that saves time and empowers the customers, by allowing the customers to be involved and determine the level of service they get. And indeed, customers, especially Generation Y consumers, increasingly prefer to interact through digital self service. As a result, customers expect companies to provide customer service on their channel-of-choice, and they expect a consistent excellent experience regardless of the channel they choose.
Customers expect service via multiple channels. Since different channels serve different goals, customers select a specific channel according to the reason of interaction. In general, the preferred interaction's platform is via IVR / mobile when a narrow set of data is required, online is selected for a larger set of data and face-to-face/representative communication, when searching for guidance. For example, IVR is more common in the insurance industry than in the financial industry and face-to-face communication is more common in the financial industry than it is in the insurance industry.
According to surveys, self service tools are gaining in popularity in various service based industries:
- In the financial industry, the top reason for consumers for choosing a bank is good online service, ahead of branch locations and low fees.
- In the retail industry, it was found that the checkout process had the biggest impact on customer satisfaction, more than price or merchandise. Hence, the most common self-series tool is an in-store checkout kiosk. Virtual reality technology is in its infancy but showing presence in the retail industry.
- The travel and hospitality industry is highly advanced and offers a variety of innovative self service tools. Passengers can complete an entire journey without requiring the assistance of a human: Online booking, online check in and printed boarding pass, digital bag tag, automatic bag drops and other tools are being offered by airlines. When arriving to a hotel, check in is possible through the smartphone, which is also used as a room key, enabling guests to bypass the front desk.
Innovative self service tools and platforms are blending a physical/digital approach, with an emphasis on synchronizing information and a smooth transition between the different channels. This way, a customer can start an interaction with a virtual agent and advance to a live agent who is already aware of this interaction’s history, and is able to assist the customer from the same point.
In conclusions, in terms of customer satisfaction, there is a clear preference for digital and multi-channel service. However, poor self service can cause the customer to abandon the channel. For organizations, self- service saves costs as long as the service is provided correctly and the information is synchronized between the different channels.
Today, customer satisfaction is still very high when a live representative is involved, but our assessment is that in the near future, the picture may change following the entry of innovative tools that enhance the service experience significantly. We expect robots (or “bots”) to become the next preferred channel for self service, with the accumulation of data, which enables a better automatic service than ever before.