Self-service technology is becoming more and more common online and in stores. Companies see this development as a win-win situation.  They believe that customers are more satisfied with the self-service options, especially because they have more control over the service process. On the other hand, this benefits the company’s overall cost-to-serve by reducing overhead, streamlining transaction processes and increasing profits. So, it is indeed a classic win-win situation. Or is it?

Customers and companies: a difference of opinion

The perspective of customers on the new self-service technologies differ from that of the companies. There is no guarantee that customers will be more satisfied with self-service technologies. Some companies that previously opted for self-service technologies have already reversed this, because the expected business benefits turned out to be nothing more than an illusion. For example, an American supermarket chain removed all self-service cash registers from their branches in order to improve the shopping experience of the customers.

Satisfied or frustrated customers?

Of course, there are success stories with self-service technologies. The car rental companies that have shortened the check-in process by half with the use of self-service, with a result that the customer satisfaction with the rental process has increased considerably. The challenge facing companies who implement self-service options is that satisfied customers can quickly turn into frustrated customers when the self-service technologies are poorly implemented, or they do not meet customer expectations.

The company wins in the short run by saving on the overall cost to service customers, but unhappy customers can leave for the competition.  The question is how companies can understand their customers to implement self-service in a way that adds value for both the customer and the company.

The right combination

When companies move too quickly to self-service technologies without insight into customer needs and preferences, this can cause frustrated, annoyed and angry customers. It’s not necessary to be one or the other.  Often, a combination of self-service and personal service works best, especially when it takes the customer into consideration. For example, a large fast food chain, which can also be found in the Netherlands, has a self-service solution that allows customers to enter and pay for their own order. They only have to pick up their order from the checkout. Customers without know-how of technology simply go to the counter to order from one of the employees. In this way all customers are helped based on their needs and preferences.

Personal service still plays an important role

Every channel strategy including those developed around self-service solutions, needs to be aligned with customer needs. By working from the customer perspective, self-service technology can find its place in the channel mix and deliver value to customers and to the companies implementing it. Personal service and the human touch will continue to play an important role for companies and their customers to differentiate their service and deliver added value.  Most important is that companies consider their customers’ perspective to create the best mix of channels, including self-service options.

Interested in optimizing your channel mix?

Interested in implementing self-service channels into your channel mix? Or want to know more about how to optimize your channel mix for the right combination of personal and digital customer contact? We can help. Contact us for more information.

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