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Monday, September 13, 2010

Just what am I deciding on?

Self-service can be incredibly enabling for a businesses.

It can increase access to your business beyond the customers and markets you currently serve, improve your number successful outcomes by putting control in the hands of the customer, increase satisfaction through self-gratification, and decrease your service costs.

No wonder most service businesses have been quick to jump on the self-service bandwagon and continue to make self-service investments a priority. Unfortunately, cost impact is too frequently the driving force behind self-service processes and technology, and is widely attributed to much of the vehement dissatisfaction customers have with service in general.

When implementing self-service processes, the critical considerations are in providing customers sufficient knowledge, tools and empowerment to successfully serve themselves. The same service processes you consider when deploying your own labor to serve the customer are the ones that need to be considered when you are using customer labor.

I came across this imperfect execution of self-service process at the local Conoco.

It is clear that they’re giving me choices. I can select between 5 different gasolines with differing octane levels when I fill my car, and Conoco will charge me 5 different prices for them.

Unfortunately, that’s all the support I get. No decision support, no education, no sources for more information. What should I use? What is better? I assume that what costs more is better, but is something that costs less more “right”. Is 88 really better than 87? Is it 1% better, or proportionally more?

Variety is good, but in this case, they’ve left me with a choice without supporting how I would make it.

And so, in a self service situation such as this most customers will do what I did – choose the lowest price and hope for the best. Yet many times I’ve driven away wondering if I should be paying more for a different product in order to take better care of my car.

Most companies would blanche at not providing their front line enough information to make informed decisions, so why would they provide lay customers with less information to make similar decisions?

Better information in customers’ hands yields better self-service decisions, more satisfaction at having performed their role correctly, and in this case, likely more revenue & profit for Conoco.

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