DIY Service Technology!

The Retailing Industry was revolutionized in early 1920`s when all the goods were moved to the front instead of being at the back of the counter. When the Customers selected their own groceries and took their baskets to the cashier before exiting, instead of waiting on the staff to find out their list of products and bag it up for them.

Since then, the self-service revolution has rolled unto this day .The idea was to get more done by doing less. This helped greatly in cutting costs of labor and infact speeded up the process.   

Today not just retailing, but a lot of industries have adopted and have started switching to Self Service Technologies (SST). Banks are making it ever easier to do transactions online, while cutting their branches. Consumer goods giants are seeking to convert their emerging market customers into freelance sales folks, who peddle their products to friends and neighbors. This is especially true for the mobile industry that embark on their exclusivity of purchase which can only be done once you have an official invite. Travel industry has been ruthless in this case. Today you can book your trip using a price comparing app on your smartphone. You can print your own boarding pass and do a web check-in before you board your flight. Hotels now send its customers PIN codes which they can be used to open their room doors thus letting go of the check-in staff.  A designer clothing company, invites its customers to submit their own patterns and then polls on which one should go into product. Your movie tickets are just a click away. If you are craving for a slice of pie from your favorite restaurant, all you need is a smartphone.

Why has been there such a rise in self-service revolution? It can be said that it’s partly driven by customer preference- nobody wants to wait for someone else to pick out their own groceries, it is quicker to do it yourself. Speed is another factor. In grocery retail shops, shoppers grab, scan and bag items as they cruise through isles. Further, all product descriptions are wirelessly transferred to their smartphones to a self-check-out, in one move.

Self-service in no doubt has been a win-win for all parties. It goes like: Help others, help thyself. Giving people the power, the ability to access and control information raises customer satisfaction, whether it’s conducting a banking transaction, checking cellular minutes, ordering an on demand movie or requesting time off. It was said that self-service is better for companies with high volume, low complexity products and services. This has changed, since even the most complex of the industries with the smallest of the units have been adopting self-service technologies.

The benefits go beyond cost savings and improving the end user experience. With the use of customer analytics, self-service products can actually deliver greater insight about customers than other channels – get a 360 degree view of customers wants and needs- “recommendation or remembering is the byproduct of such customer interface. Do It yourself Technology is transforming Businesses and industries at 4G speed. Self-service has empowered people to do things on their own.

Remember when the shopkeeper put your groceries in front of you as you called them out one by one from a little sheet of paper you carried along. Or sales guys helped measure your feet before you tried on a pair of shoe? Today tableside tablets allow patrons to order food and drinks and pay the bill without a waiter.

However somewhere it may have gotten to the point where SST has proved to be I do my job and yours too”.  Though these technology platforms have given us the ability to self-manage the administration of our lives but it has happened without our approval. We have all been through that interactive voice response call for hours to get our broadband fixed. Wasn’t it easier to actually have a live person coming in whom you could make understand your problem”.

Organizations must evaluate the cost of moving away from a face to face interaction, especially in a B2B context where much relies on personal relationships. This is especially difficult for Indian community where a lot of emphasis is given one on one relations and a personal touch is ever prevalent. Loss of human contact and opportunities for companies and customers to forge a bond that goes beyond money.

SST has come to replace “customer service” experience by “customer –technology” experience. its not about shifting responsibility for service to technology but infact what has been done is that there is an increased involvement of  customers too in the deliverables  , who are out of the realm which you can’t control or manage. Their behaviors have to be predicted for all the scenarios in which a customer can react and be ready with an alternative. This means simplifying the tasks to be taken up by customers, who necessarily won’t have the same level of knowledge and skills.. This means designing SST which factors in all kinds of customers with their differing abilities, resources and willingness to use it.

Most people don’t care about service till the time they don’t experience a problem. Self-service doesn’t mean no service. Try cancelling an order immediately after clicking submit. Probably you can’t. In this case, the greatest challenge when using self-service solutions is to retain the trust of the end user. 

The future sees more consumer interaction via video calls and interface. This interaction is going to be “ more tailored, more personalized, more visual due to video in both directions”. The challenge is to be more considerate and understanding towards the customer needs without stepping over the line. Thus   it is not about what technology to make or which technology to use, rather it’s about how to customize your technology and make it work the best for you!

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