Rise of online self-service

  • by Vicky Reeves
  • 06/04/2021

Make it easy on yourself: how the rise of online self-service can propel growth for brands and charities

Since the start of the pandemic few aspects of business have been as disrupted as service delivery. From attending a gym class to buying a home, there has been a new digital revolution in the way we research, access and interact with services.

Demand to use online services is unlikely to change as things return to normal. And we believe self-service options - allowing consumers to access and procure services without the need for human support - are about to explode.

Even before Covid-19 struck, research found two-thirds of customers would prefer to use self-service options rather than speaking to a company representative. Now, around 85% of customers say they’d choose the digital self-service route above any other option. 


The benefits of self-service

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, customer clamour for online self-service can be divided into the following areas:

  • Convenient - if consumers cut organisations some slack early in the pandemic, they’re less patient now when having to hold for customer service teams. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), 81% of customers now attempt to take care of matters themselves in a bid to cut time spent waiting fora live representative.A quick, slick experience is more likely to boost repeat purchase and loyalty.
  • Cost-effective - HBR has also calculated that each self-service interaction with a customer costs organisations just $0.25; while the average cost of a live, person-to-person service interaction - via phone, email or webchat - is more than $7 for a B2C company, and over $13 for a B2B company. That’s quite a saving in times of economic uncertainty. When multiple sectors are dealing with a 250% spike in customer service volumes, offering self-service makes even more sense.
  • Customisable - Beyond faster response times and easier processes, people are demanding personalisation. In exchange for their personal data and precious time, customers expect a level of customised response that wouldn’t have been possible before service digitisation. It’s vital to design self-service functions that give them the experiences they crave.


How to avoid chatbot chaos

Many organisations have already pivoted from traditional face-to-face customer service to begin offering convenient, cost-effective and customisable solutions. But that doesn’t mean they’re all getting it right, and there are plenty of learnings if you think the time has come to automate service delivery.

Chatbots are a notable area of growth. Research shows that 47% of organisations intend to implement chatbots for customer support services (with a further 40% expecting to adopt virtual assistants).

The trend is for chatbots to be programmed to match human behaviour and conversation. However, as these amusing (for readers at least) examples show, the technology can go spectacularly wrong without a great deal of thought and expertise.

A good place to start is measuring your existing chat strategy: what questions do customers frequently ask, and which answers given by your team are the most effective? This information can form the basis of your chatbot platform.


Sweating self-service assets

For an example of sales success driven by digital self-service, look no further than gyms. While traditional fitness centres have been shuttered for large stretches of the pandemic response, people still desire different ways to exercise to suit their needs.

Services such as Peloton have become ubiquitous, with the tech-based exercise brand expected to double its revenues to $1.8bn in 2020. The ease of using fitness apps, and booking live online classes to join from home, has created a fundamental shift for physical fitness that looks unlikely to slow once restrictions are lifted.

Commercial businesses are not alone in harnessing the benefits of self-service. Charities are getting on board, too. WPNC has recently helped SSAFA and The Charity for Civil Servants to automate service delivery for a better user experience.


Join the online self-service revolution

Everything points to customers continuing to expect a greater level of self-service in their brand and charity interactions, even when face-to-face options are available again.

In an era when people want to download, deal and donate on their own terms - via their preferred channels - ensuring your digital service delivery strategy is fit for purpose can help you stay one step ahead.

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