Is self-service a waste of time?
More and more companies are trying to move with the times, and their shrinking budgets, by migrating their customers from traditional channels of service like call centres to self-service apps.
But as with everything in the customer-brand realm, this isn't as simple as it appears. Here are four very real obstacles that organisations are currently not doing enough to overcome.
#1 Old habits
People have a natural tendency to go to the channels that they are accustomed to. For this reason most people have already established the channel they use for their queries before you launch your self-service app, and unfortunately they aren't very interested in changing.
There's also the simple fact that people just won't pay attention to information they deem as unnecessary. So even if you advertise for your self-service app, every day of the week, the customer won't listen until they actually have a problem.
So it's not as simple as shutting down your call center simultaneously with the launch of your self-service offering. Instead, why not use your current channel to promote the other.
Even a simple on hold message that explains they could jump the queue and download the app which helps with X and Y queries.
Your customers' channel preference isn't just linked to it being a habit. Their preference is largely based on the type of interaction they are looking for.
Often, the customer wants an emotional release, they want to vent, they want you to hear the anger in their voice and they want you to react to it accordingly. These are the fundamentals of human interaction, and something that customers aren't ready to let go of.
So the challenge here is to develop the emotional releases that traditional channels provide? This is where personalisation and user experience needs to be fine-tuned to a level that makes the customer feel not only important but truly empowered.
#3 Usefulness (or lack thereof)
If you have managed to get your customers to download your self-service app before they have a problem, and on top of that, it is the sleekest most personalised app they've ever seen - it still has to pass the test of usefulness.
In order to truly be a self-service app, it needs to cater to their issue and provide an instant resolution. This means that it absolutely has to fulfil its promise.
So if your company promises instant fixes, it can't deliver an end message that says "Thanks for logging your query, we'll get back to you."
The simple solution here is to offer functions that can actually be completed using a self-service channel. Don't bother adding options that don't end in task completion - or your customers will be seriously angry when they have to call you to complete the process.
#4 Self vs super service
Sites like Hellopeter, and your company's own social media pages offer the consumer a kind of fast track to super service.
It means that they won't have to call your call center, much less use a self-service app, because a simple complaint on one of these channels will lead to an almost instant resolution.
It's efficient; it allows them an emotional release, and often it provides sympathy and recognition for their suffering from other customers.
The most startling part about super service, is that even though it costs the company little to nothing; it is the bane of social media managers and marketing teams.
It's really an unexplored territory that holds a wealth of insights into customers' emotional needs and wants. So why aren't we conquering it people?
What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity." - J. Sidlow Baxter
At the moment, self-service in South Africa especially is, to put it bluntly, a mess. But the payoff for companies who tap into the obstacles and turn them into opportunities is huge.
It's no longer a race to get these self-service apps out, but more a race to relevance and actual problem solving.
The question is, are you nearing the finish line, or just wasting your time?