Today, self-service is everywhere, although most of us do not perceive much of it actively as self-service anymore, because doing what was once a service offering has long been something we routinely do ourselves. As an example, most people shop in supermarkets, where they put groceries themselves into carts or baskets and bring them to a checkout. This kind of grocery shopping has only been patented in 1917, so it is a mere 100 years old. For most of us today, this is our normal shopping experience but in essence it is one of the earliest examples of self-service. Besides shopping, we also fill up our own cars with gas, assemble our furniture ourselves, fetch parcels from pickup locations, and a number of shops also allow us to do the actual checkout ourselves where we scan the goods and pay, all ourselves.
Given the above, self-service is not a rare thing but an increasingly important part of any service offering that has already made it into our everyday lives. The are many reasons behind this trend. Cost savings is often one of the predominant reasons for offering some type of self-service, but this should not really be the primary motivation. Of course in many cases cost savings are part of what self-service can achieve, but allowing customers to do fairly simple things themselves means empowering them! Ask yourself, who today would still like to go to an actual branch of a bank to transfer money to another account, having to be there during business hours, finding a place to park, queue up in a line and wait for your turn to hand a piece of paper that will authorize the transaction.
Many of such simple processes are already in the hands of customers: most of the low hanging fruit are gone. Now it is time for the next step and support customers with more complex processes and tasks, when they want it, independent of office hours, without having to wait in line, be it on the phone or a physical location. Customers can do complex things given a little smart support during the process: hassle-free, quickly, intuitively, anytime. Such support is particularly useful when the task at hand is done very infrequently or when technical know-how is required to get the task done. In those situations, digital support can navigate a user through complex processes using simple guides making the user feel in control. Be it the dreadful yearly tax declaration, that can be challenging for the average person or the internet access that always seems to experience issues right after the hotline has closed for the day.
Self-service today is closer to the user than ever and can be offered anytime and anywhere given that a majority of users has ubiquitous internet access and a capable smartphone in his or her pocket: the smart little helper is really only a click away. Also, the possibilities to offer help are becoming more and more powerful. Using text recognition and smart highlighting e.g., complex documents or invoices can be explained. QR codes can be used to grant access to documents or your WiFi access point. Augmented reality allows you to project information into the real world to explain complex tasks step-by-step and to record what a user does using the smartphone camera to verify that each step has been carried out correctly.
We certainly will see a lot more self-service offerings in the future. Do you have an idea how self-service can help you and your customers? Talk to us!