Customer self serviceQuick quiz: Have you ever walked into an airport, noticed that there is nobody in line at the check-in counter and still made a bee-line for the self-service kiosk? Better yet, have you ever waited in line for an ATM machine even though there was no one in line for the teller?

“If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, you’re not alone,” say Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff in a post at the Harvard Business Review blog. Their recent research has revealed a fascinating new consumer reality: “Most customers these days demonstrate a huge—and increasing—appetite for self-service,” they report.

Some of their findings:

  • Today’s customers value electronic self-service just as much as using the phone to get help from a live person.
  • By and large, that holds true regardless of age, demographic, issue type or urgency.
  • A staggering 57% of inbound calls to companies come from customers who first attempted to resolve their issue on the company’s website.

What makes self-service so appealing? The lousy level of live service being offered is one factor (if you agree with the fascinating reader comments accompanying the blog post).

But on a psychological level, “it might have more to do with the unique element of control that self service affords,” these authors suggest. “Skeptics might argue that customers never wanted the kind of relationship that companies have always hoped for, and that self service now allows customers the ‘out’ they’ve been looking for all along.” Ouch!

The message for marketers? Better focus on polishing your self-service technologies—just in case your customers prefer DIY.

Know when to zip it. “Running your company as if customers want to talk to you … [is] potentially undermining your efforts to build longer-term loyalty,” Dixon and Ponomareff conclude.

Source: Harvard Business Review.