Is the Future of Customer Service Self-Service?

John Krautzel
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Consumers and companies alike believe the future of customer service lies in some kind of self-service solution that streamlines the process of solving a problem. Instead of actually talking to a person to resolve an issue, customers would rather find out how to take matters into their own hands.


A global survey conducted by Steven Van Belleghem — in cooperation with SSI — bears out what's happening in customer service circles. A 24-hour turnaround time to answer a customer inquiry through email or social media is no longer an option. Approximately 39 percent of consumers surveyed felt a four-hour response time is appropriate. For Facebook and Twitter users, that figure rises to 55 percent. Companies must find a way to balance a self-service solution to common problems while having a human option as a precaution when mass communication, in the form of videos, FAQs and social media posts, fails.

Consumers continue to press companies to deliver timely, cordial service while maintaining efficiency. Customers, more than ever, don't want to contact a company more than once to take care of the same issue. The main reason is consumers enjoy maintaining control over their choices. Enter the possibilities of a self-service solution.

E-Commerce Leads the Way

Thanks to technology, e-commerce leads the way in fulfilling customer expectations for having more control over their experiences. Up to 70 percent of consumers make purchase decisions before they contact the company. Online reviews, a point-and-click purchase process and details about products on a e-commerce web page all help simplify the customer experience. Because of this, customers expect to be able to solve their own dilemmas when it comes to contacting the company.

Just 27 percent of people surveyed prefer to solve problems over the phone, while 56 percent want a self-service solution before they make a purchase. After the sale is made, 48 percent of customers want a self-service option compared to 35 percent who want to ask questions over the phone.

A self-service solution doesn't just come from e-commerce. Banks have hundreds of ATMs that disperse cash to customers. Retailers utilize self-checkout machines, and German airline Lufthansa allows customers to scan passports at kiosks rather than having to wait in lines. All of these physical examples in brick-and-mortar locations give customers more control while reducing the human element of service. Luckily, these scenarios foster win-win situations, especially when businesses improve these interactions.

Big Data

One main solution for companies includes analyzing data from customers. People normally don't mind giving their favorite companies information as long as consumers can take advantage of the situation. As many as 48 percent of consumers in the survey like personalized offers, while 62 percent want more expedient purchase possibilities by using their information. A whopping 81 percent of people say they would be willing to give companies their data if it reduces wait times after the sale. In short, people recognize that giving companies their personal data is a way of life, and it leads to more convenience.

An innovative self-service solution helps consumers get what they want faster, but it also alleviates staffing concerns with businesses. When service becomes more streamlined and more efficient, businesses save money and improve profits while simultaneously helping customers.

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Nova at


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