We’ve Poisoned the Self-Service Well

Self-service technologies like interactive voice response (IVR) and chatbot systems have a bad reputation. Many customers view them as roadblocks in their journeys, pain points to be eliminated. The technology was well intended, but as Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Have poor implementations contaminated the water?

It’s true, the water has been contaminated.

Self-service technologies have received a bad reputation of being inhibitors of the customer journey and even pain points in the experience. Before you point the finger at the technology, we have to reflect on Peter Drucker’s words and remember that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Is not the technology’s fault, but rather the way it was implemented.

Technology should be an enabler to delivering fantastic customer experiences. When self-service applications fail to meet the customer expectations, it is because of a culture shortfall more likely than a technology shortfall. Many Information Technology departments implement a ton of ‘stuff’ that lack a tie back to business value. Our teams are more concerned at churning out deliverables and hitting timelines than focusing on the outcome that the organization is trying to accomplish by leveraging the technology.

Seeing The Forest Through The Trees

Self-service technologies are often assumed to cause frustration or confusion. This is where we, as customer experience advocates and technology implementers, have poisoned the self-service well. Were you just checking off the self-service box? Or were your teams putting the care info the strategy so that leveraging such technologies is just an extension of the organization’s culture?

The key is to understand and evangelize what the organization is working to accomplish with these technologies.  When delivering technology projects, the business should first identify what the end goal is; start every project with the end in mind. By doing so, you are creating a culture that delivers on value rather than checking off boxes. Many IT teams don’t even know the business value of what they are working on or how it enhances the customer experience and it is because we are not connecting projects back to goals. Knowing the answer to ‘what problem are we fixing by implementing this?’ will empower your team to solve problems that drive direct value back into the organization.

Perhaps you’ve interacted with a chatbot that gives you no escalation point to a human agent? Or an IVR system with a confusing menu that takes three minutes just to listen to? This is not the technology’s fault but rather how it was implemented. These frustrations and missuses are a reflection on the organization’s culture and commitment to the customer experience rather than an indicator of the technology’s value.

Do Not Be Afraid

Self-service technologies are reasonably mature and widely accepted. Don’t believe me? Imagine a bank without ATMs or a grocery store without self-checkout. They increase efficiency and consistency in the customer experience by supplementing existing methodologies with technology to create a process that the customer can conduct on their own. These technologies empower the customer and give them control all while freeing up your employee to work on more impactful tasks. With employees standing by to assist, putting the customer in the driver seat gives consumers the control and efficiency they crave in most experiences.

Customer demands are shifting towards building self-service capabilities into everything we do. When implementing these technologies and delivering on the strategy, we must ensure that we are leveraging the technology but not letting it loose. To enable better customer experiences that meet our customer commitments and organization’s culture, we must deliberately implement self-service.

Have questions on self-service or want to continue the conversation? Drop us a line or reach out on Twitter!

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