Digitalization not only presents new technical possibilities. It is also changing our behavior, forms of interaction and expectations of technology. For companies, this means both digitalizing their processes and tailoring them to ever-evolving requirements.
One area in which this development is particularly evident is the service sector. In this blog post, we explore the question of what good service in the era of digitalization looks like in an organization and what forms of interaction people perceive as positive when they require support.
Bidding Farewell to “Help is at Hand”
In the early 2000s, the advertising slogan “Help is at hand” achieved cult status in Germany. Its protagonist Verona Pooth, one of the pioneers of modern influencer marketing, used this slogan to advertise the number of a directory assistance service. The slogan played cleverly with the expectations of customers: good service relies on competent human help over a telephone hotline.
Admittedly, the slogan became so popular in Germany that the provider continues to use it in its advertising to this day. However, both the directory assistance business model and the expectations customers place on service have evolved radically over the past 20 years. Today, more and more people would rather use the internet instead of speaking to an unmotivated administrator. The passive “Help is at hand” has turned into an active “I’d like to help myself”.
Millennials Are the Biggest Pioneers of Self-Service
This trend is particularly evident among younger people such as Millennials and Zoomers, i.e. those born after the 1980s. In practice, the digital socialization of these cohorts is noticeable from the fact that they have a significantly higher preference for self-service offerings when it comes to customer support. In a survey, 82 percent of these two groups stated that they prefer to solve problems using self-service offerings on modern technology.
Why is this the case? These generations, which are increasingly involved in the world of work and gaining influence year on year, are digital natives through and through. Many of them cannot imagine a world without the internet, having become masters of it since childhood. Thanks to their media socialization, they’re accustomed to enjoying fast and direct access to information. For them, digitalization means simplifying processes through uncomplicated, intuitive solutions.
In addition, many Millennials and Zoomers display another characteristic related to their digital socialization: they tend to be service-shy. While older generations like to solve problems through direct interaction, i.e. face-to-face or on the phone, many Millennials and Zoomers like to avoid direct contact with other people when contacting support. Before contacting a call center to get help, they would much rather help themselves using information online.
Coronavirus Crisis as a Catalyst
However, the widespread use of digital media, devices and services means that self-service is by no means exclusively popular with digital natives. Across all ages and industries, 81 percent of customers today prefer to have a go themselves before seeking the help of a service employee. The motivation underpinning this is the same as for Millennials and Zoomers: in an increasingly complex world, people desire quick and easy solutions to their questions and problems that empower them to take action themselves.
The coronavirus pandemic has massively reinforced this trend, which was highlighted in a recent Salesforce study that surveyed 7,000 experts from the service sector worldwide. Four out of five customer service experts stated that they’ve experienced a sharp rise in demand for self-service offerings due to the pandemic. As a result, the need for digitalization in more and more areas has become a virtue. This is because a growing number of people have learned to appreciate the benefits of digital solutions, e.g. since self-service applications have proven themselves when working from home.
Excellent Self-Service Facilitate Processes for Everyone
Nevertheless, in order to better assess the significance of self-service offerings, it’s necessary to dig a little deeper. After all, self-service should not be an end in itself, but should always be considered in context. For self-service to be a success, it must be used in such a way that it offers added value to both the provider and users.
In practice, this means that self-service should be used in places where it can be easily applied and where it makes it easier for users to perform a task. This streamlines and accelerates processes for both sides. Companies need to pay attention at this juncture, since the increased attractiveness of self-service for users opens up completely new possibilities for them in terms of how actors can be integrated into work processes.
Self-Service in Procurement: Enhanced Interaction with Suppliers
A good example of successful self-service, resulting in a win-win situation for users and companies, is collaboration with suppliers via a self-service portal. Such a portal enables various self-services to be linked together with web support.
This way, the portal becomes the central interface through which suppliers and procurement employees can access information, communicate, complete routine tasks, upload documents and create invoices. No contact person from the company needs to become directly involved in these processes, as the suppliers perform all the tasks themselves and reap the benefits of a streamlined process.
Self-Service in HR: Satisfied Employees and More Time for Productive Tasks
Another best practice example for using self-service in a business is the HR department, where many routine tasks can be handled via a cloud-based self-service portal. It would enable employees to access all relevant data and documents independently, meaning they don’t have to go through the HR department if they’ve got questions about documents, certificates or forms.
What’s more, employees can use the self-service portal to upload documents such as certificates of incapacity or adjust data such as bank details with just a few clicks directly from their workplace or home. For employees, the self-service portal eliminates the need to go to the HR department, while HR staff don’t waste as much time dealing with unproductive admin tasks.