By Kevin Meltzer, co-founder of Consology
South African companies are increasingly embracing Self-Service as a key strategy for the years ahead. One sign of the growing sophistication of their approach to Self-Service is the way that many of them are creating dedicated management roles and teams to focus on creating and implementing their Self-Service strategies.
Just two years ago, banks and telecommunications companies delegated responsibility for Self-Service to the teams looking after their mobile or electronic channels. Today, we are starting to see them look at channels such as kiosks, mobile devices and the Web as part of an overarching Self-Service strategy.
Take the example of a South African telecommunications company that has created a dedicated Self-Service team led by a full-time Self-Service Manager. This multidisciplinary team draws on a range of skills, from technical to business process engineering to user experience to marketing, to create Self-Service experiences that delight customers while reducing costs for the company.
This is a positive trend and reflects the way that South African companies are tackling the problem of servicing a growing volume of customers in a manner that is efficient and convenient. Many companies look at just how expensive it is to outsource customer service to a contact centre firm and ask whether there isn’t a way to serve customers that is both more cost-effective as well as more pleasurable for the consumer. Companies look at the postal service and wonder how they can cut postage costs and delays in bills getting to their customers. They question whether it should really be necessary for someone to step into a branch to change their address details or query an invoice.
Companies are also realising that Self-Service strategies need to be integrated and consistent across all channels. Companies can no longer build Web, mobile, kiosk and other Self-Service channels in isolation from each other, but as an interconnected fabric of services that address different customer needs and deliver appropriate services through the selected channel.
For example, in the financial services industry, channels might include ATMs, online banking, mobile apps, cellphone banking, in-branch Self-Service kiosks and IVR services. Some of them serve the needs of different customer bases, while some customers might use different services at different times or for different purposes.
The role of the Self-Service team is to understand how all these different channels may be used to automate business processes that once required the customer to speak to someone on the phone or at a branch outlet. They are expected to look at how Self-Service across these channels can grow revenues and profitability while increasing customer satisfaction.
The rise of Self-Service Managers and their teams also marks a shift towards greater customer-centricity among South African companies. Self-Service is no longer just about saving money, but an important way of retaining customers and keeping them happy. These are among the most important benchmarks against which the performance of the Self-Service team should be measured.