Having this choice can be a good thing and can certainly narrow the gap between desired and delivered experiences. But what kind of impact does self-service vs. person-to-person service have on consumers and on organizations?
First, let’s determine what type of consumer you are.
Are you the type who is willing to stand patiently in the check-out line at the grocery store, trying to remain tolerant of the coupon clipper ahead of you or would you rather take matters into your own hands and check yourself out at the self-serve kiosk?
As for the Generation X group, though relatively smaller in audience and “sandwiched” between the two larger demographic clusters, Millennials and Baby Boomers, they have been exposed to both earlier and newer ways of servicing the customer. They’ve experienced both methods and tend to be content with opting for either option in order to suit their needs.
Ok, so now let’s talk Baby Boomers. Do you remember when ATMs (first known in Canada as ‘Green Machines’) were introduced? Banks promised quicker, more efficient service through the introduction of a new self-servicing tool called a “bank machine.” Did you excitedly rush to the bank to create your very own PIN number or did you feel a sense of dread of things to come and opted to stick with what you knew, reluctant to adopt this new concept?
Today’s market is made up of a variety of distinct and diverse consumers that possess a myriad of needs and desires. Offering the choice between self-service and person-to-person service is one of the many ways organizations are working to meet the needs of their customers. But is one better than the other? Does convenience trump personalization or vice versa?
- For consumers,
- Self-service offers broader availability, often with 24/7 access giving customers the freedom and flexibility to shop, run errands or access information on their own terms.
- Increased efficiency and speed which can be especially helpful during peak business ‘rush hours.’
- Typically easy to use.
- Help is usually readily available if needed.
- When using self-service, consumers have a greater sense of being in control of their purchases.
- An ideal option for those times when you just don’t feel like speaking to anyone, but still need to get the job done.
- For businesses,
- Efficiency and speed for the consumer helping to keep them happy while reducing line-up wait times and stress on employees.
- Self-checkouts take up less space. In some cases, six kiosks can occupy the same amount of floor space as a single cashier run, traditional checkout area.
- Employing self-checkout systems can considerably reduce overhead costs in the way of staffing, while still providing customers with the service they need.
- According to a 2014 NCR global study, conducted by the NPD Group, 82% of consumers asked, agreed that retailers who offer self-checkout provide better customer service overall.
- For consumers,
- Seeking answers can be a more complex process, causing frustration at the number of clicks or buttons being pressed; longer learning curves can exist.
- If help is unavailable either online or at a kiosk, customer frustration escalates potentially leading to an abandoned transaction.
- Elimination of authentic, human service which can be perceived as impersonal and detached from the consumer.
- Frustration with technology. If utilizing the system isn’t intuitive or there are technological glitches, confidence in the organization is greatly reduced.
- For businesses
- The opportunity to connect with customers is lost, leading to out-of-touch vulnerability.
- Shrinkage potential as kiosks are not as closely monitored making room for theft and bar-code switching.
- Missed is the chance to personally engage with the customer and provide authentic human service.
- The opportunity to leverage customer contact into a customer relationship becomes more challenging.
- Missed opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell if digital strategies are ineffective.
In the end, whether you are a Millennial, Gen X or a Baby Boomer, as we approach 2017, the reality is that satisfaction is readily available via both methods. According to a Gartner survey, by the year 2020, customers will manage 85% of the relationship with organizations on their own, without human interaction.
Millennials prefer self-service, Gen-Xers accept the inevitable and convert accordingly and Baby Boomers are trying their best to not be left behind, but everyone has a desire for enjoyable customer experiences.
The freedom of choice is a good thing for both for the consumer and the organization. What should be kept in mind is that there are benefits and disadvantages of both self-service and person-to-person service. Providing customers a “Channel of Choice” on how they wish to interact with your organization must be top of mind when reviewing your service strategy.
Dolly Konzelmann is the President of Cutting Edjj Consulting (CEC) and The Customer Service Professionals Network (CSPN). With over 20 years in the customer service industry, CEC and CSPN are considered among the most comprehensive consulting, coaching and training companies in Canada. Providing services to organizations of all sizes and public workshops to individuals, CEC and CSPN use a results-based partnership approach to develop and deliver customized solutions that meet an organization’s unique business needs and resolve their most significant issues, helping them to create a lasting competitive advantage. CEC and CSPN are recognized by the HRPA and they offer an array of services including training, consulting, assessment, conferences, studies, networking events and accredited designation programs governed by the Canadian Council of Professional Certification.