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Online self-serve. Don’t just focus on efficiency.

Open dialog article,
By Tom Allen, Web Developer, icemedia (a Dialog Group company).

Organisations - both government and corporate - are moving more and more services online. Services that were previously handled in person, by phone, or for example things like forms completed by hand, are all being pushed online.

Often the major driver of this change is to save costs. But there are good reasons why this shouldn’t be the focus. For a start, you simply don’t need to. Savings are almost unavoidable when you move services online.

It’s far more important to focus on the opportunity to actually improve the experience for customers. Don’t just move it, improve it. This requires rethinking and re-engineering the service from scratch. You need to make the process quicker, easier and better than it currently is.

Online self-serve has moved to a new stage of maturity. It has gone through the following stages:

Online Self-Service

It is now moving from the ‘Preference’ stage through to a ‘Demand’ stage. That’s right, people are now demanding it. You need to be ready to meet their needs. And you need to provide it on their device of choice.

Here are a few things to think about as you move your services online:

  • Don’t focus on saving money.
  • Focus on making the customer experience better. Much, much better.
  • Be strategic. Don’t just fix one part of the process (if you do, other parts may break or strain).
  • Design the whole solution, even if you need to execute it in stages.
  • Design from the user experience down to the technology (not the other way).
  • Test it with your customers. They have to love it, not just tolerate it.
  • Consider redeploying the resources that won’t be needed when you move to online self-serve, rather than cutting them. For example, redeploy your inbound call takers to outbound business makers.
  • Don’t penalise late adopters. Make the experience better and they will come… eventually.

If you just replicate a service that customers currently tolerate, rather than creating a new, better, quicker and more efficient approach, you could save money but still lose customers.

Some things you can do that will help improve online self-service include:

  • Keep customers informed. You can track where an application or order is at every stage and let them know via email, SMS or via your website.
  • Get them prepared before they start. Tell customers what they need to have before they get into the process. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting 80% of the way through a series of online steps, only to realise you don’t have something you need to complete it.
  • Show them the steps and where they are at. Breaking a process into a number of small steps can make it easier and less onerous for most people.
  • Eliminate what you don’t need. Moving a process online gives you the chance to cut out unnecessary steps. You can also pre-populate fields, e.g. address details or credit card details.
  • Provide access to information. Make sure customers can quickly and easily access more information if they require it.

The current trend to move services online provides a fabulous opportunity to improve customer satisfaction, but only if you design the process so it is better and ideally, much, much better.

You can give your organisation a chance to gain a competitive advantage by engineering the online service to be significantly better for customers than the current offline or semi-online service is. But this requires a rethink of your approach.

If your focus is just on efficiency, saving money, you may miss the bigger opportunity – to improve customer service. Better customer service means you will most likely grow your business. Oh, and by the way, you’ll almost certainly save money too.

For more information on creating your next self-service online solution visit (a Dialog Group company).

Reference this article: Tom Allen, Online self-serve. Don’t just focus on efficiency. (2015-03-10) Open Dialog - Dialog Information Technology <>

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