Monday, August 29, 2016

Self-Service vs No Service

Self-service is a huge trend in enterprise software.  The basic idea is that, rather than expending the service provider's resources on simple matters, simply enable your customers to handle the matter on their own.

The idea did not start in enterprise software.  Think of self-service gasoline stations, buffet-style dining, loading items into your shopping cart at Trader Joe's; all examples of self-service.

Done well, self-service raises customer satisfaction while decreasing provider costs.  I'm a long-term fan of Expensify - a product that optimizes the experience of self-service expense reports.  They are an example of self-service done well.  Done poorly, customer satisfaction plummets to the point that customer loyalty is vaporized in an explosion of frustration.  Think of the virtual receptionist used with most customer support telephone wonders whether the idea is for the customer to help themselves or simply keep them in a a vortex of navigation options until they simple give up and hang up.  That's done poorly.

There is simply no better or quickly way to destroy customer loyalty to a product or service than to route communications with that customer through a service hub with an automated attendant. It's a strong message to customers that a service or product  provider does not care about you, your issue, or your feelings regarding the experience of using the product or service. "Thanks for buying...hope all goes well, we're outta here"!  No service.  I'm always a little taken aback when I see it.  And I see it more frequently these days.

Some self-service is good. For example, I prefer to write my own trouble tickets - I can be much more precise about my issue when writing it up myself as opposed to explaining things to an analyst.  But the follow-up should be someone reaching out to work my issue.  When Step 2 consists of automated self-help suggestions, I know I'm in for a frustrating experience because we've crossed the line into the realm of no service.  (it's like taking my iPhone to the Genius Bar and hearing the phrase "As it turns out..." - it's a guaranteed sign that frustration will follow).

Customer service still matters.  Want to keep your customers...and even make those customers advocates for your product or service?  Take care of them after they buy.  But don't make that transition into no service...unless you're ready to shrink your customer base.

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