Large customer-carrying organisations are seeing an influx of new employees who want to take a huge chunk of their work from them, yet ask for no direct payment in return. These prospective new employees just happen to also be their customers.
That's according to John Ziniades, CEO of self-service specialist, Consology. He says that the growing maturity of self-service technologies is turning customers of banks, Telco’s, retailers, airlines, healthcare companies and other consumer-facing organisations into a part of the extended workforce.
"Companies around the world are shifting responsibility for administrative tasks over to their customers – and consumers are loving it," says Ziniades. "No longer do customers want to hold for a call centre agent to find out an account balance, nor are they willing to queue to buy a movie ticket on a Saturday night. Instead, they'd simply like to do it themselves."
Companies that put their customers to work are achieving huge benefits such as cost savings from automating transactions, reduction of customer support costs, cross and up-sell opportunities, and deflection of calls from the contact centre.
For their part, customers appreciate the always available and convenient service they enjoy through Self-Service channels such as the Internet, kiosks, ATMs and mobile phones, says Ziniades. That translates into higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, he adds.
Ziniades warns that self-service customers can be demanding as they generally have high expectations of the service offered through branches and self-service channels. They often have a good understanding of the supplier's (or service provider's) products and services.
"Take the banking environment as one example. An online banking customer generally knows more about the bank's products and has higher expectations of the service received from the bank's employees," says Ziniades.
"This customer wants a reliable service that is as convenient and low-cost to him or her." Many customers feel that they can do more for themselves, if only their suppliers will give them the tools they need to do so, Ziniades adds.
Online self-service systems in industries such as banking have shown only marginal improvement over the past six years, meaning customers still have to visit branches, phone call centres and fill out forms more than they'd like to.
Concludes Ziniades: "Self-service customers are the best customers. They're often the most lucrative customers with the most spending power, yet they want to be served through low-cost electronic channels. Organisations who give them the tools they need to help themselves will outperform those that don't have a sound Self-Service strategy."