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Help your customers help themselves



Setting up a self-service portal to enable your customers to help themselves is only half the job done. This is according to KEVIN MELTZER, Business Development Director at Consology, who believes that once a company’s self-service portal is up and running, the company still needs to advertise it, advise its customers on how to use it and be there to assist them should anything go wrong.
Once you have rolled out a Self-Service web portal, your job of getting your customers to make the switch to the lower cost electronic platform is only just beginning. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that people will go to the online Self-Service portal just because you built it – you have to let them know it exists and give them good reasons to use it.

Adoption marketing, assisted service and incentives are among the strategies you can use to entice customers to switch from channels such as the phone or the branch office to the Web. Let’s consider each of them in turn:

Adoption Marketing
Many organisations fail to make customers aware that Self-Service options exist and how best to use them. Adoption marketing is critical. You should market a new Self-Service platform just as you would market a new product or service and let customers know how it will benefit them.

You could, for example, send mailers to your clients by post or email to let them know about your Self-Service platform. Your monthly billing run could be the ideal opportunity to do so – simply add a flyer or a note about your Self-Service offering into the envelope each month. Online ads are also a great way of letting customers who are already using the Web know that they could be dealing with you online rather than through your call centre or stores. Call centre voice prompts are very effective for informing people what they could be doing online while on hold for a call centre agent to respond to their query.

Assisted Service
You need a change management programme in place to encourage customers to switch away from face to face and telephonic interactions towards using Self-Service systems. Many clients might be intimidated by Self-Service and may need some hand-holding until they become used to the system.

Think of this real-world example: South African cinemas had staff on hand for months to help patrons buy their tickets after they installed Self-Service kiosks. As a result, many customers quickly became comfortable with the system and now buy from kiosks rather than the counter.

You must have some form of support in place for customers who are trying to use your system: dedicated call centre agents to talk them through the processes, detailed FAQs on your Website, or employees at your store to demo Self-Service to customers.

If your customers battle to use Self-Service after they’ve been thrown in the deep end with no help, they’ll quickly go back to using your physical branches or your call centre instead.

Younger and more tech-savvy customers might embrace Self-Service because they understand immediately that it’s convenient and saves them time, but many customers may be reluctant to make the switch. Incentives such as lower transaction fees, discounted pricing or loyalty points can be used to entice them to use your lower cost channels instead of picking up the phone to make a routine query.

Internet banking in South Africa has experienced rapid uptake as the incentive of lower transaction costs has become more apparent to the end users. Likewise ATMs experienced a surge in usage as soon as the banks starting charging more for withdrawing cash in a branch than using the ATM service.

Closing words
Companies that want to drive the maximum return on investment from their customer Self-Service systems must be ready to educate customers about the Web portal and to support them as they change habits established over the years. The success of a Self-Service project depends as much on your success in persuading customers to change their behaviour as it does on your technology.