The customer is always right – while it sounds trite, the phrase applies more than ever nowadays. In an increasingly dominant online world, customers expect quick and easy access to information. Interestingly, for the generation of “digital natives”, a human attendant is largely irrelevant to this. Find out how self-service can help improve customer service.
What is Self-Service?
Self-service is a form of customer support in which customers can take the necessary steps themselves to get their questions or issues solved. This can be done through a website or an interactive public display.
Self-service is a very effective way to improve customer service and increase customer satisfaction. When customers are offered the opportunity to search for solutions to their problems, they feel respected and taken seriously.
Additionally, self-service gives the company a chance to differentiate itself from competitors. Often, it is not enough to simply respond to questions with standardized answers. For a company to provide genuine added value for customers, it must provide individual answers to individual inquiries.
The US consulting house PwC surveyed 15,000 people about the future of customer experience. It came out that 74% favored personal interactions, but didn't care if the service came from a human or a machine. The most important thing was convenience and speed. (English PDF about the study)
This is consistent with the conclusions of a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review. According to the survey, 81% of customers try to solve their problems on their own before contacting an employee. You can sum up the results wonderfully in one sentence: : Consumers want results — not sympathy!
What are the advantages of self-service?
Customers take advantage of self-service regardless of opening hours. Direct feedback and measurability enable continuous adjustments. Automation of standard processes reduces the workload of employees. Customer requests as well as inquiries are processed quickly and transparently.
At the same time, self-service offers many advantages for the company. They can work more effectively during normal business hours because they don't have to respond to requests which came at night or on weekends. This allows them to focus on the areas they are best at.
Timely and Transparent
Nowadays, most companies offer customer service that addresses customer requests. But often, this service is neither transparent nor timely. Waiting times as well as misunderstandings lead to impatient and dissatisfied customers.
With self-service, on the other hand, customers process their concerns themselves and usually receive a quick response. In addition, they have the opportunity to track their case and thus see how far it has progressed. The process as such becomes transparent. If people understand how something is proceeding and at what point in the processing they are at any given time, they typically react more calmly and with greater satisfaction.
Independence of time and location
Customers use a self-service regardless of time and location. With this type of customer service, they choose for themselves when and where to get information or help. This makes it easier to get in touch with companies and take necessary steps.
Feedback and measurability
A significant component of a successful self-service program is feedback. Feedback is important to optimize processes and ensure that customers are satisfied.
If the user interface of a self-service software is intelligently designed, users are provided the opportunity to provide feedback at any time. This is far more efficient than this often annoying completion of questionnaires or telephone surveys. Especially if these take place long after a customer contact.
Another crucial aspect of feedback is the measurability of the processes. To ensure that the self-service program is successful, the various processes must be measurable. This means defining KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which you can use to measure the success or failure of the program.
Useful KPIs in this case would be:
Number of customers using the self-service program.
Number of customers satisfied with the program.
Number of errors made.
Number of feedbacks.
Automation of standard processes
A common application for self-service is the automation of standard processes. Many companies already automate simple, recurring tasks such as creating reports or sending e-mails.
By automating standard processes, a company takes a major step toward agility. Agility enables companies to proactively increase productivity while reducing costs. It also clears the way for employees to focus on their core tasks and work more effectively.
However, automating standard processes is only one part of the self-service potential. An additional application of this technology is the provision of information to employees and customers. Companies that provide self-service portals give their employees and customers easy access to important information. This also allows employees to solve problems faster without having to wait for help.
Examples and tips for self-service
A FAQ is a collection of answers to frequently asked questions. It comes in a variety of formats, such as a web page, Word document, PDF, or video. A FAQ is a genuine way to provide your customers or prospects with the details on a particular topic. Customers don't have to contact you again if the most common questions are already included in the FAQ.
A knowledge base is a collection of information that helps not only customers, but also company employees solve their issues. While the FAQ gives short and quick answers, a knowledge base deals in much more detail with topics.
The knowledge base should be easy to navigate and contain clear, understandable information. To find information easily, an intuitive search function is a good idea.
The knowledge base content must be up-to-date and contain contact information so that customers can contact someone if they do need human assistance.
An AI chatbot chats based on artificial intelligence. AI chatbots are usually developed for a specific task or target group and consist of various algorithms and databases. They understand natural language and respond to the demands of their dialogue partner. Some programs detect the mood of their conversation partner thanks to text analysis tools and can respond accordingly.
However, the use of AI chatbots also carries risks. Especially if the “intelligence” of the algorithms is overestimated to such an extent that they are communicated to users as “humans”.
Indeed, it often happens that the chatbot cannot answer a particular question or solve a problem. In this case, the customer has to pass on their request to a real human employee – which of course seems embarrassing if no one is available in a timely manner.
Do not fool your customer
The credibility of their business will definitely suffer if a web chat with “Mark” or a “Nicole” along with a picture pops up at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning, hypocritically promising personal help.
Furthermore, there is always the risk that AI chatbots will be hacked to steal personal data or spread other malware.
Frequently, it makes sense for companies to build a community for self-service. Through the community, customers can help each other and answer questions. This makes service more efficient and cost-effective for the company.
However, you should set up and moderate a community properly. This is the only way to ensure that the content is helpful and does not contain errors.
A successful community for self-service therefore requires:
Clearly defined goal
Before you start building a community, first consider what goal you want to pursue with it. Do you just want to create a place where customers can help each other? Or do you also want to bring the company closer to the customer and thus increase customer satisfaction?
A community is only effective if it is moderated regularly. This means that you must remove any inappropriate content. You also need new topics all the time to keep the community interesting.
The design of the community decides its success. Present content in a clear and appealing way. Match the design to the target group as well.
Interactive kiosk systems
Interactive kiosk systems are a form of self-service solution that allows users to communicate with the system and receive information.
They are often used in areas where it is necessary to obtain information quickly and easily. These systems can be found in banks, airports, government offices and other public buildings. They are also commonly used in businesses to help employees find specific information or to streamline workflows.
Some advantages of interactive kiosk systems include: They allow users to search for information instantly; they make it easier to navigate a business or venue; and they improve customer service.
In this regard, these terminals have a large intersection with Interactive Digital Signage. This allows an elegant symbiosis, which I discuss in more detail in the following paragraph.
Self-Service and Digital Signage
With digital signage, an effective communication technology exists that companies can use to broadcast information in a variety of ways. Images, movies, or texts are used to publish product news, discount promotions or other information.
The primary aim is not to run advertising on the self-service terminal. That would be possible, of course, but the more important point is that digital signage brings sophisticated remote maintenance and display functionalities.
This allows applications such as images or videos to be played out in a time- and event-controlled process. This means that an application can start or stop at a specific time or when a specific event occurs, such as a user interaction.
These processes are already standardized by languages like SMIL and don't need to be developed by every time. So, you don't need to reinvent the wheel.
Maintenance and reporting can be done using the standardized on-board tools of common enterprise CMS.
The key to treating programs like media are web applications. Today, many companies are shifting to make web apps available in a cloud. Users thus avoid tedious installations or updates. They work independently of the operating system in their respective web browsers.
Well-known examples: Google Docs, Canva.com, Gmail, Nextcloud or Outlook 365.
This trend does not stop at any industry. However, the programs mentioned above represent examples of more complex software. This is not the case for many interactive self-service applications, which tend to consist of a handful of forms.
Since low-code or no-code tools have become available, the symbiosis of self-service and digital signage is even more interesting.
The importance of no-code tools has grown significantly in the last few years. These tools make it easier for people without technical knowledge to create and run software. Many companies have now realized that no-code tools are a cost-effective way to quickly develop and deploy new applications.
Some of the most popular no-code tools are AppSheet, Bubble, Glide and Airtable. These tools provide data structure visualization, a simple user interface, and a set of templates for developing applications. They also make it possible to develop and publish applications without programming skills.
No-code tools are particularly useful for companies that need to work agile and respond quickly to changes. They allow teams to rapidly add new features or customize existing applications without the need for outside help.
However, no-code tools also have their limitations. In most cases, they can be used for simple applications only. If you want to develop a more complex application, you usually need the help of a professional developer.
Digital signage widgets are the web apps in our industry. These run locally secured on the respective device – regardless of whether the operating system is Android, Windows, Linux, or macOS.
Almost any modern web application can be converted into a standards-compliant widget. The effort required for customization is often minimal.
The combination of self-service with digital signage enhances both technologies in unexpected ways.
If we now pair the web app widgets created using No-Code Tools with the infrastructure provided by Digital Signage, we get customized self-service with a minimum of effort and cost.
Standards-based digital signage technologies can thus transform any interactive screen into a fully-fledged self-service terminal.