Humans like to feel in control.
Coupled with our increased expectations of any service we receive, it’s no wonder more and more providers have started to look for ways to shift some of their customer support responsibilities onto us. After all, we can’t give ourselves a bad review, can we?
This is how customer self service came about. Let’s start from the beginning.
What is customer self-service?
Customer self-service is the process in which customers set up their own solutions or troubleshoot an existing one on their own without the help of a client support representative.
One of the first instances of commercial self-service was the humble supermarket, born in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee, as the brain child of cost-cutting maverick Clarence Saunders. In letting customers pick their own items from a shelf without the help of a clerk, Saunders found a way to appeal to people’s need to control their experience and save on hiring staff.
It basically meant customers took it upon themselves to do some of the work and they were happy about it. So is it any wonder the concept took off with business innovators looking to cut costs and keep customers satisfied?
With the development of automation-based solutions and software, self-service has become a way to maintain that personal touch without losing out on the efficiency such a system guarantees.
Do customers prefer self-service?
More than 100 years later, we have countless variations on self service that we take for granted, from booking our own holidays to assembling our own furniture. The magic of it all is that we consider it an improvement on travel agents and transporting bulky, expensive items.
Statistically speaking, there is a multitude of studies exploring the value of customer self service with a couple of highlights being:
- 69% of customers try to troubleshoot their problem on their own first (Zendesk)
- 73% prefer to solve issues themselves (Aspect Cloud Solutions via BizReport)
- 67% prefer self service to having to talk to someone on the phone (Zendesk)
In the end, it comes down to the aforementioned need to feel in control. It’s difficult for an individual to rely on another party to provide a perfect experience but through self service, they can get a little closer to that ideal.
Why do you need to rethink your customer self-service strategy?
The pinnacle of customer self service used to be the existence of a knowledge base or an FAQ. If that seems a little lacking these days, it’s because the bar has been raised higher and higher every year.
Microsoft reported that 54% of customers have higher expectations of service providers than they did the previous year. As more disruptors come onto the market, the trend is only accelerating.
Customer experience, of which service is a natural component, is a key decision factor and falling behind can put any provider at a disadvantage. Low prices or convenience are not enough to draw people in anymore, unless they’re backed up by great service, too.
Think of how Uber took the transport industry by storm. Their cars or drivers weren’t all that different from traditional taxis but the experience they brought to the table made a world of difference to consumers.
If you consider it closely, what people like about Uber is that they don’t have to speak to a person in order to call a taxi, they input their details, check the driver and prices beforehand, then leave a review, all of it on their own and in full control. If that sounds like self service it’s because it is.
The challenge comes when Uber becomes such an ubiquitous presence that they set the standard for customers’ expectations of every other service they use. This means it’s important to be aware of the following elements and how you can implement them into your own customer journey strategy: