“A self-service solution doesn’t mean you don’t offer customer service. On the contrary, self-service is a way to enhance,” – Shep Hyken
Customer service is necessary to sustain and grow a business in an increasingly competitive world. A business can be a small or medium-sized enterprise or a sprawling transnational corporation; but both the entities need to serve customers in their best possible capacities. Interactions with customers can be called the lifeblood of commerce, because such interaction helps businesses to be heard and to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Self-service for customers is one of the options available to the modern business to connect with customers and create a competent end-user experience.
Self-service for customers can help the business to save money in key customer support functions. This type of customer service is predicated on online technologies and the various uses of such technologies in customer service and customer engagement. In its basic form, self-service for customers excises the human element and automates the customer’s interaction with the company. This is accomplished by offering customers a detailed ‘frequently-asked-questions’ section on a corporate website. This repository of information is designed to enlighten customers and answer their queries regarding a company’s products and services. In addition, a company or a corporate house can offer an online discussion forum that can act as a source of information. Modern technologies have also helped to invent the chat robot (also known as “chat bots”) that answers a customer’s questions in cyberspace.
The overarching benefit of self-service for customers lies in the fast response times that an enterprise can bring to bear in its conversations with customers and other interested parties. A company that responds fast to customer wants, queries, and requirements gains an edge over the competition. This has been widely acknowledged to be true and this effect can be achieved through self-service for customers. We have to acknowledge the fact that customer mind-sets have evolved with time and in a busy world, the customer may not have the luxury of time or the inclination to dial a corporate call centre and speak to customer service executives. The chat bots and self-service sections of a website may offer faster connections to the information being sought by customers.
Self-service for customers can be designed into a company’s website. These service tools can be structured intelligently to enhance a customer’s knowledge and boost his familiarity with a product or service. This is in keeping with the online search literacy levels of the average Internet-savvy customer. For instance, a lot of people are familiar with online search engines and the techniques to arrive at the information they seek. Such skills can be used to interrogate the FAQs sections of a company’s website. The information derived from such searches can be used by the customer, while the company’s information technology infrastructure can collect data and compile statistics on the customer’s behaviour in the online self-service space.
An enterprise can work to deepen the benefits of self-service for its customers. The FAQ section of a website can include a variety of information in different forms. Screenshots of the potential problems a customer can face should be added to the section. Certain video and audio files can be added to offer the customer a holistic customer service experience. These inputs can be helpful because they can help the reader to trouble-shoot. The screenshots, animation, audio, and video can guide the customer to a suitable solution. How-to videos and recording of tutorials can also be considered for inclusion in the FAQs section of the website. A happy customer can therefore be suitably impressed at his / her achievements. Self-service for customers also means that the content in the website repository or FAQ section should be kept updated at all times. This can cast a positive impression on the customer and can save time and money for the company.
Web-based customer service technologies help a business to economise its operations when compared to other customer service modes. The latter include call centre technical support personnel, customer service representatives, Internet-based chat, and email response. Each of these vehicles of customer service is powered by human interaction and therefore adds to business expenses. The costs pertaining to hiring, on-boarding, and training human resources can be recurring and therefore prohibitive for an enterprise. The returns on investment may not justify the business expense involved in the said activities. Therefore, automation in terms of self-service for customers presents itself as a viable option to cut overheads and increase revenues for the modern corporate enterprise.
Self-service for customers has gained traction in a variety of industries. Consider this: many restaurants in the western hemisphere offer customers the choice to order their food and drink through the use of self-service ordering technologies. The customers are at liberty to choose their meals from the menu and use the said technologies to place the order. The convenience of self-service technologies offers the customers the time to consider their order, and once the order is placed the information is quickly transmitted to the kitchen for processing. The human element in this scenario is limited to the wait staff bringing the food to the customer’s tables. A similar example of self-service for customers is centred in online ordering systems for restaurants. This scenario offers customers the time and convenience to order food at their own pace, without the pressure attendant in situations where the customer sits at a restaurant and interacts with a human waiter. The outcome of such technologies manifests itself in repeat customer visits and a happy end-user experience. We could say that the use of information technologies to power such interactions with the customer is opening a new chapter in the history of the food and hospitality industries.
Self-service for customers has also been harnessed at certain grocery stores wherein, customers are offered the option of self-service checkout areas. The wide range of products available at a grocery store can burden most customer checkout queues; this is a global phenomenon. However, automation technologies have managed to offer an option, wherein the business interaction with the customers is automated. The customer brings in his trolley of articles which are sorted and packed in front of the customer. Payment is executed through credit cards, debit cards, or electronic wallets. The use of such self-service technology offers the customer an option to the regular check-out process which is manned by store personnel.
In the preceding paragraphs, we have spelt out the importance and significance of using self-service technologies to serve the customer. We have also delineated some of the techniques that power self-service for customers. We may say that web-based self-service represents the cutting edge of customer service in modern times. The use of self-service technologies allows most consumers direct access to the answers they seek. For its part, the business enterprise is able to meet customer expectations and gauge consumer preferences, in addition to gaining a competitive advantage and lowering the costs of providing customer support. The process of serving the customer in a time-constrained world must be continuously refined and re-evaluated. While business considerations and imperatives must be borne in mind at all times, we have to acknowledge that only by serving the customer can a business truly achieve greatness.