Banks, insurers, retailers and telecommunications companies are all using technology to cut their running costs, while claiming that their customers appreciate the ability to serve themselves.
A survey conducted for self service specialist Consology found that large organisations are installing more self-service technologies to cut customer support costs, reduce customer churn and increase customer loyalty.
Self-service technologies were essential as customers sought convenience and where customer support costs were spiraling out of control, said Consology CEO John Ziniades. Businesses that embraced an integrated self service strategy would outperform those that did not.
Banks are its biggest fans, rating a reduction of customer churn as the most important benefit, followed by cost savings from automating transactions, reducing customer support costs, cross-selling opportunities and deflecting calls from the contact centre.
For the telecoms sector, companies said they used it mainly to ensure a consistent customer experience. A retail group cited cost reductions and the ability to automate transactions and speed up account payments as the top reasons to adopt self-service.
The internet is becoming the self-service channel of choice as broadband penetration rises and the transactions cost next to nothing. Most organisations would prefer to push customers into serving themselves online as call centres tend to cost more than expected.
For anyone who still wants to talk to a real person rather than a computer when they contact these companies, the outlook is rather bleak.
Companies are increasing their budgets for self-service systems via the internet, in kiosks, at ATM machines or by cellphones over the next three years, with their spending expected to climb 15% to 25% in 2007, and 10% to 20% from 2008 to 2010.
“Customers are becoming used to serving themselves across a range of channels and applications — from self-service for parking and movie tickets, up to online banking and automated flight check-ins,” said Ziniades.
“In many industries, selfservice options that were once a nice-to-have or a competitive edge have simply become a ticket to play. Most consumers today wouldn’t even think about joining a bank that doesn’t have a solid internet banking platform. Expect self-service to become as central in many other industries over the next few years.”