Commercial and Operations Director, Vodafone Business
A few years ago, customers saw ‘self-service’ options as second best.
Far from being convenient, these experiences often led to frustration where customers were stuck in an automated call centre loop.
These days, however, research shows that businesses are spending more on self-service than on any other customer service technology.
So what has changed?
Today, the technology supporting self-service innovation is much more advanced.
Mobile banking, digital passport applications, Pay at Pump and scan-as-you-go options are all great everyday examples.
When they work well, customers proactively seek out these methods for their speed and convenience. However, effective and innovative customer self-service relies on a number of elements lining up behind the scenes.
In the case of online shopping, a web page will need to carry up-to-date stock and pricing information and next-day delivery only happens if the ordering system links straight through to the logistics network.
In the financial services, sophisticated self-service options, such as online or mobile loan applications, impress customers more if supporting evidence can be uploaded digitally or pulled across from partner systems to speed up the process.
Mobile banking apps previously only let customers perform tasks like viewing their balance or making a payment but newer services go further. Now customers can manage multiple accounts, filter surplus cash into different savings ‘pots’ and receive spending alerts – all through one app.
Saving suppliers time too
For businesses and service providers, customer self-service options are not just a chance to save costs. It can help your team keep track of orders, deliveries and payments too.
With direct, secure access to their own account, via a dedicated online portal, suppliers can look back through their own records for the information they need. They can even set up automated notifications for when each step is completed.
Airlines have successfully taken this one-step further by shifting some of the admin tasks to the customer.
Using apps, they encourage passengers to check in and upgrade their seats online. They can also send customer’s updates about their flight or even promote further destinations once their journey is complete.
All of this can lead to a simpler, better experience for the customer, while also removing some administrative tasks for the airport team.
Automation is key
As artificial intelligence develops, especially machine learning, it is transforming the scope of web chat and virtual assistants.
With a bit of training, these tools can learn to spot what customers are trying to do so they can offer the right help. AI assistants can also identify when a customer is becoming angry or frustrated, so they can transfer the interaction to a real person who can soothe the situation.
By taking care of routine queries, these tools free up trained, specialist agents to handle more complex customer needs. The balance of both here is crucial.
During the pandemic, self-service options have come into their own as customers and businesses alike have leaned on digital interactions more in order to support safety restrictions.
Using digital models, businesses will be able to adapt faster and with ease to an ever-changing world, both during the pandemic and beyond. Focussing on improving the customer experience, organisations can build the resilience they will need to succeed tomorrow.