Don’t Neglect Self-Service to Engage Customers

You probably don’t view Amazon as a competitor. That’s where you’re mistaken. 

When we look to build a better CX, it’s natural to focus on our people. After all, they are often the heart of our customer experience. 

However, while we need to ensure a strong person-to-person experience, we also need to make sure the experience is strong even when customers don’t want to talk to our people. The research shows that we’re not doing so well there.

In their book The Effortless Experience, the CEB worked across industries to identify that 58% of people who called into a contact center first tried to answer the problem on the website and were unsuccessful. Not surprisingly, 59% of them were annoyed when talking with the contact center. 

Worse, this doesn’t appear to be changing much, at least not according to consumers. Research by TSIA, as reported in Destination CRM in 2003, says 48% of consumers felt confident that they’d be able to find what they need via self-service versus 49% this year. 

Granted, what qualifies as self-service has changed, as has consumers’ expectations for self-service, but seeing essentially no change in 15 years is disheartening. Despite massive investments in self-service tools, user-focused design, apps, etc., we’re just barely keeping up with consumers’ expectations. 

Whether we like it or not, consumers’ needs are set by market leaders like Amazon and Google. Amazon is famous for ruthlessly developing self-service tools; CEO Bezos’s attitude is that if you have to contact customer service, something has broken. While we may not share his perception (and even his own Zappos division doesn’t), there’s no denying that Amazon offers terrific self-service tools. 

In fact, in almost any industry, customers use Amazon as their comparison for what a company should do. Whether it’s radiology, food ingredients, cancer screening, chemicals, you name it–customers view their experience through the Amazon lens. 

That’s why Amazon is your competitor. Whether it’s website design, an app, or a service experience, your customers compare you to Amazon, but it doesn’t stop there. Apple, Google, AirBNB–they’re all your competitors when customers use your online tools. 

It’s time to get real about self-service. For many experiences, customers prefer digital first and people as a last resort. You may be satisfied with your clunky digital experience, but your customers aren’t. If you truly want to be customer-focused, you need to give them the tools to accomplish their goals in their own way.


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