The phenomenon of Self Service has been around for a long time. There are lots of benefits and it has now become a natural element of everyday life.
The origins of Self Service
Self Service has its origins in sales, from places such as cafés and petrol stations, where all service used to be provided by staff. By letting customers serve themselves (collect their own coffee and sandwich, fill up their own car, and so on), companies could reduce staff costs as this new model resulted in surplus personnel. Companies were also able to lower their prices and thus become more competitive in the marketplace.
I first reflected on this in the mid-1990s. At that time I was in South Africa for a while, and I noticed that all filling with petrol, washing of windscreens and the like at petrol stations was done by staff at the station. At first glance the petrol station appeared overstaffed, but it was explained by the fact that each car had at least three people filling, washing and pumping tyres at the same time. Did the petrol station really get full value for its staff costs?
Self Service as support
With the emergence of the Internet many years ago, more companies started to see the value of running a business and increasing product sales by presenting themselves online through their own websites. At the same time there was an increased interest in Self Service solutions via the Internet. Support organisations were one of these.
In the field of Service and Support, the definition of Self Service is viewed as a substitute for a company's Helpdesk, Call Centre, Service Desk or equivalent. Self Service is a sub-type (or component) of service with a link to the interaction with the customer. Self Service currently works at most companies as a technical interface to register cases, chat, email or look for information.
The benefits of Self Service
Offering Self Service as an element of the total range of services for customers creates excellent opportunities for cost savings and enhanced customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is achieved through faster, simpler contact with the company's service or support department.
Self Service has become a natural element of our everyday lives
Self Service is now something that virtually all companies need in their dealings with customers. According to a report from Statistics Sweden in January 2012, 96% of all those aged 25-34 manage their bills through the Self Service channels of their banks. The trend of shopping online increased by 75% within the same target group during the first quarter of 2013. This target group has learnt "from the beginning" to use the Internet as a natural element of their everyday lives.
I can recall the time when I realised that my own father was unaware that all banking transactions could easily be performed online. Of course it was no problem to help him get started and to manage his banking affairs via an online bank. But what will the world look like in a couple of years? To what extent will the older generation be able to keep up with developments?
It will be even more interesting to keep an eye on those people who were "born into" the world of the Internet. What demands and expectations will that generation have when it comes to online services?
Jannica Wahlund, JanCan Konsult, www.jancan-konsult.com