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From the self-service checkout to the information kiosk and customer portal, increasingly businesses are accommodating tech savvy consumers by helping them help themselves.
It comes at a time where customers are more than willing to do their research online, are more educated about their choices than ever before and often believe efficiency and benefits can be achieved by putting their own insight to use.
Here’s how self-service is revolutionizing the customer experience…
Not so long ago, the key to business lay in its in-person customer service. The retail assistant or customer service associate was considered the expert in the business field.
They were the bridge between a company and what the consumer needed to know in order to make a purchase or employ a service.
But in the internet-age the playing field has changed. Now the consumer is more educated than ever before. They can compare products and services at a glance, have a greater understanding of a business’ pros and cons via reviews and recommendations, and have access to insight at their fingertips courtesy of mobile phones.
That’s given rise to a generation who is more empowered than ever before when it comes to making purchasing decisions and handling their own affairs.
It’s also resulted in a generation which is more technically savvy than at any time prior, who can put their education and nous to good use when it comes to handling issues that matter to them.
In short, it’s a brave new era where many see time and cost efficiencies in self-service at critical points in the customer journey.
There’s perhaps no better indication of the rising acceptance of self-service than in the retail sector where self-service checkouts are among the top technologies that consumers are aware of and willing to adopt.
According to recent findings by the National Retail Federation, 62 per cent of consumers are aware of self-checkouts, of those 89 per cent have trialed them and 63 per cent are satisfied with the experience.
In retail the self-service experience has integrated into department stores and supermarkets with customers having access to iPad holders and tablet holders which removes the ‘checkout’ process altogether. This extends far beyond just sales transactions though.
Self-service is also making its presence felt in fitting rooms through iPad wall mounts and Tablet wall mounts that allow customers to seek product variations and stock without the assistance of a sales associate. It’s also a key foundation of augmented reality which allows them to see options available, and in virtual mirrors which offer tips and product insight as consumers try items.
Meanwhile self-service extends far beyond retail into a host of other business models.
Retail is just one example of the widespread acceptance of the self-service ethos. The trend is also gaining traction hospitality where patrons can order their own food, and in hotels where guests can manage their own entertainment, facilities, accounts and in-room services.
In addition, self-service is also successfully making its way into more traditional business and corporate models. For example, government institutions now allow consumers to access their own accounts, pay bills and complete forms at self-service customer kiosks on-site.
Utilities companies like telco’s encourage patrons to log into their account and step through services or buy new products in-store, and big corporations welcome guests with self-service visitor kiosks that allow them to sign in then direct them to the right area.
Even major banks employ self-service to expedite and improve the customer experience, giving account holders the opportunity to perform everyday actions like changing a PIN number or checking their account balance at self-service devices in their establishment.
Ultimately self-service is proving a key tool in customer service. It’s facilitating the new relationship between a brand and an educated, empowered consumer.
In the process, self-service is not replacing the human connection. Instead, it is facilitating the better use of staff resources and allowing consumers who are time-poor but insight rich to help themselves to the positive experience they believe they deserve.