From forging love-hate relationships with grocery store kiosks, to scrolling FAQs and managing our subscriptions online – self-service has become a shopping staple.
Done right, digital self-service is a pillar of any convenient customer experience. And its unbeatable ability to give customers the control they crave means it’s a gift that keeps giving:
- 67% of customers prefer to use self-service options instead of speaking with a company representative.
- 85% of customers will choose self-service first.
- Across industries, 81% of customers try to take care of things themselves before reaching out to a live representative.
As you know, self-service technology doesn’t just make your customers happy. By cutting costs and increasing customer lifetime value it boosts your business too. Not to mention your balance sheet.
We’ve come a long way from the first instance of self-service over a hundred years ago at the oddly-named American grocery chain, Piggly Wiggly. Now, with Covid-19 accelerating Digital Commerce’s already rapid rise, you might be taking a closer look at your own online self-service capabilities.
To help you along the way, we’ve looked at five staples that can take your digital self-service from so-so to outstandingly convenient.
1. Convenient self-service starts with your customer
Convenient experiences have one thing in common.
They start with the customer.
Your self-service is no different.
It might seem like a no brainer. But a surprising number of businesses design self-service journeys based on nothing more than guesswork. This usually leads to dead ends and a difficult experience, leaving everyone frustrated.
The simplest way to avoid this nightmare self-service scenario is to plan each step of the journey based on real customer behavior. Not your best guess.
Better still, build and test your online self-service iteratively with the users themselves. And we’re not just talking about your younger customers, who are more likely to use self-serve.
Out of necessity, right now more customers across every generation are turning to Digital Commerce. So you need to consider each of your customer cohorts to make your digital self-service empathetic and easy to use.
If in doubt, follow the different strokes for different folks mantra.
Offer multiple options to meet people’s self-service preferences – from your website, app and live chat to FAQs and informative videos.
2. Don’t lose your human touch
We just discussed how you need different types of online self-service.
But, however varied your self-service, it should still be AN option. Not the ONLY option.
Human back-up is non-negotiable if you’re aiming to serve up a truly convenient experience.
Way back in 2011, Gartner predicted that by 2020 customers would manage 85% of interactions without a human. We haven’t quite reached those levels yet, but even when we do – you can’t ignore the other 15% of your customers.
Human interaction still matters.
Despite wanting to be able to digitally self-serve, your customers also crave the human touch – so much so that 82% of U.S. consumers want more of it in the future.
This means your self-service needs to be joined-up and combine seamlessly with your other support channels. That way, when your customer wants to talk to someone, your support agents are already aware of their needs and well positioned to help them out.
When it comes to online self-service, cross-channel capabilities are just as important for your people as your customers. In fact, high performing teams are twice as likely to use an omnichannel solution that combines support, self-service, chat or phone.
So, as much as we love self-service, the lesson is don't leave yourself entirely reliant on it.
You need a safety net. Your people should be waiting in the wings if your technology can’t do the job, or your customer just needs to talk to a person. We’ve all been there.
3. Keep on innovating
Like any part of your business, your self-service can’t stand still for long.
If you’re not continually innovating it’s easy to fall behind the latest customer standard.
AI and chatbots might seem like relatively recent innovations. But, according to PwC, AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030. Whether it’s to search Google, track our Domino’s pizza or ask Alexa for the latest news updates – we increasingly rely on AI, chatbots and personalization to self-serve.
Infusing your own digital self-service with the latest technologies will help you keep measuring up to your customers’ expectations.
And don’t be afraid to seek inspiration from businesses in different industries. Customers want the same convenient self-serve experience – whether they’re browsing cosmetics or communications websites.
If you borrow ideas from other industries before they’re commonplace in yours, you’ll not only meet expectations, but probably steal a march on your competitors.
4. Stable and scalable > slick
Stable and scalable may not be particularly exciting.
Together the two sound suspiciously like a political party election slogan.
But, for digital self-service, stable and scalable trumps a slick user interface.
Because if your self-service can’t handle high volumes of traffic or transactions – which usually happen when people need it the most – it spoils your customer experience.
It’s inconvenient and frustrating.
Luckily it’s also entirely avoidable if you prioritize scalable tech that does the job (and looks the part too).
5. Optimize digital self-service like any other channel
There are basic bits of optimization you do on every part of your site. Be sure to add self-service on your optimization to-do list.
We’ve covered a few of these points already, but they’re worth repeating.
• Make your self-service channels easy for customers to find and access from every part of your customer journey:
You might have a flawless FAQs section, but if it’s completely hidden from navigation your customers aren’t going to use it. In the same vein, make your self-service content searchable and easy to navigate.
• Optimize your self-service on every channel:
67% of consumers move between devices when they’re shopping online and 98% of those switch between devices in a single day. So your self-service technology has to work across channels and have a responsive design for different devices.
• Keep it on brand. Your self-service is an extension of your brand, keep it consistent with the rest of your experience.
• Offer your customers genuinely useful content. What kind of questions have they previously asked? Replicate this in articles, forums, videos, step by step guides etc.
• Test, test and test again.
Give your customers control with convenient digital self-service
We pay at the pump, check-in online and use self-checkout at the grocery store.
Your customers want the same level of control from the self-service on your website.
But there’s a caveat – it has to make your customers’ lives easier. So your self-service shouldn’t be framed as a way to cut costs. It’s about making your customers’ experience as convenient as possible.
Done well, it’s a win-win scenario.
Follow the five steps we’ve covered and you'll be well on your way to serving up an effortless self-service experience your customers love.
With digital demand on the rise, self-service is a key part of giving your customers access – we’ve explored a little bit more about why access has never been more important here.