Robots Do It Better: Why Users Love Self-Service Technologies

February 8, 2016

Let’s face it. While the Internet was designed to make us more connected, it’s also making it easier for us to avoid one another. Just think about that for a moment. Yes, you can reach out and communicate with people in the most distant corners of the Earth, but at the same time, there is nothing more irksome than receiving an actual phone call when an email message would have sufficed.

For example, there’s been a shift in hiring practices. Remember when you were supposed to pound the pavement, handing out a stack of resumes and letting people see your face? Today, no HR manager in the world wants you showing up at his or her door. Even if you did, they would just┬átell you to go online and fill out a form or submit your resume via email.

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Perhaps most telling of all, customers are increasingly opting for self-service. Among UK shoppers, roughly 71 percent say self-checkout machines are more convenient when buying a few items, and rarely do people opt for a bank teller when there’s an ATM available. What’s more, 65 percent of people, regardless of their generation, have positive feelings for companies that let consumers get answers to questions or solve problems on their own.

Business executives consistently believe that consumers interact with a brand to feel like part of a community or connect with the brand. Consumers, on the other hand, rank brand connection or community among the least likely reasons for interacting with companies via social media.

In essence, customers may want what you’re selling, but they don’t want you to force them to go through a human to get it.

The Benefits of Digital Automation

Customers want more control over their interactions with your business—and the more you can put them in the driver’s seat, the happier they’ll be. When designing your company’s app or Web site, think about why customers are clamoring for an automated user experience.

Reduced Friction

An automated system can provide information or process transactions almost instantly. This helps both with closing sales and retaining existing customers. Automation makes consumer interactions faster and more convenient for everyone involved. Take Seamless, for example. Suddenly, hungry people everywhere can order food 24/7, without risking their orders being mixed up or being put on hold.

Then, there’s the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) appeal of automation. The latest generation of consumers has grown up with technology, and they know they don’t have to rely on vendors to get what they need. For them, dealing with technology isn’t just more convenient, it’s completely natural and intuitive.

Increased Selection and Reduced Prices

What do your customers want most? They’re looking for a product that has exactly the features they want and a price that’s fair. Self-service software lets you quickly list all available products on a single Web page or app screen and beat competitors’ prices because you’re saving money on personnel costs.

Look at Turo, which is bringing automated vehicle rentals to the sharing economy. Using a simple app, customers can rent a vehicle from a local car owner, which lets them pick and choose the perfect car for their needs. Not only does this service cost less than a traditional rental car company, it also offers the possibility of massive scale. While a rental car company’s business is limited by the size of its lot, Turo’s market can expand nearly ad infinitum, encompassing vehicles of all makes and models, all across the US. Offering greater selection at lower prices is a surefire way to win customers.

Improved Functionality

Consumers want to spend their time efficiently, so they appreciate having access to as many services and products in one fell swoop as possible.

What if you needed to hire somebody to both clean your house and fix some leaky pipes? Because you probably wouldn’t find a plumber who was willing to work as a maid or a maid who could handle plumbing problems, you’d almost certainly have to hire two different people for these jobs. Once upon a time, that would have meant placing separate ads for each position and interviewing different candidates, then overseeing the actual work.

But Handy has automated this whole process. Instead of spending hours finding and vetting candidates to do each separate task, Handy lets you find and hire maid and other home services using their app. What’s more, Handy’s easy-to-use dashboard lets customers manage every aspect of their services, from hiring contractors to making payments to reporting quality issues.

More Useful Assistance

Unless you’re extremely wealthy, you probably don’t have a personal shopper. When you’re at a store or interacting with a customer-service representative, nobody is there to suggest similar products or remind you about your purchase intent.

Ecommerce companies like Amazon have totally upended our old way of shopping. Ironically, shopping online is often a more personalized experience than in-store shopping. Not only does Amazon suggest products that are similar to those you’ve been viewing, it also reminds you when you’ve left items in your cart that you’ve not yet purchased. Once you’ve made your purchases, Amazon generates tracking codes, so you can know exactly when and where your order will arrive.

Give Customers What They Want

Granted, automating the user experience isn’t ideal for every service. In high-stress situations such as rebooking an airline flight or canceling a hotel reservation, for example, customer service can break down without the human touch.

But, while most businesses can benefit from automation, it’s important to keep in mind that not every customer will feel comfortable interacting with an automated system. So it’s essential that you clearly display a phone number and email address on your Web site that will connect the user to a live person.

In the end, it’s simple: an automated, customer-facing system makes it faster and more convenient for your customers to receive service, while streamlining their purchase path. This not only keeps your customers happy—thereby boosting sales and improving customer retention—but also makes it easier and more affordable for you to deliver quality service. What’s more, it enables you to collect data that allows continual product improvements.

No system is perfect, and there will probably always be a place for human involvement in delivering services, but technology is automating the user experience in ways we had previously thought impossible. Who, 20 years ago, would have dreamt we’d be renting cars, paying plumbers, buying groceries, and more without any human service representatives to help us?

Automating your sales funnel is not only possible, your customers actually prefer it. So look at your business and consider this: where can you automate your service to give customers exactly what they want? 

Co-founder and CEO at Payability

New York City, New York, USA

Keith SmithKeith’s company Payability offers financial support to suppliers of online marketplaces through an early payment program. Keith previously co-founded BigDoor, a company that designs user-centered, brand-loyalty programs, using gamification techniques and dashboard analytics for companies like Dell, CBS, and PacSun.  Read More

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