DETECON Consulting

Customer Self-Services: Accepted, but with Room for Improvement

More than half of all consumers rate the self-services now being offered with a school grade of 3 (satisfactory) or worse. Companies, on the other hand, generally believe their services are good. These are the results of a study conducted by the management consultancy Detecon International. The consultants surveyed more than 440 consumers and 88 companies from the service sectors banks, e-commerce, energy, public transport, and telecommunications, seeking to find out what requirements the respondents have for customer self-services and how they rate the self-services currently available.

The overwhelming majority of the surveyed customers (78%) are essentially open to the deployment of self-services and regard them as a positive development. Simple and clearly structured services are especially important for 85% of the respondents, while 69% place a high value on security and data protection. Aspects such as a broad range of functions and design, features companies like to emphasize, play only a subordinate role as fundamental demands from consumers (mentioned by 2% and 3%, respectively). “Independently of age and sector, consumers primarily want self-services such as online purchases or contract modifications to be easily understandable, simple, and as secure as possible,” determines Andreas Penkert, Managing Consultant at Detecon and author of the study.

The study reveals that self-services are better than their reputation – however, opinions about the quality of the currently available services diverge significantly. Features ranked highly by companies are given average marks at best by consumers. Customers see considerable restrictions to simplicity and convenience when using current self-services. Data protection, transparency, and control are rated as just barely sufficient. “Companies,” says Penkert, “have a completely different impression; 86% of all service providers believe that their self-services are a source of positive customer experiences.” The discrepancy between corporate and customer perception is especially striking, for instance, for utility companies (86% and 28%, respectively). Another surprise is that only about one out of three companies believes data protection to be an especially important fundamental requirement on the part of consumers. Amazingly, only about 10% of the online retailers regard their customers as having major concerns about data protection. Nevertheless, the e-commerce sector scores the highest percentage of positive user experiences among customers (83%). “Online retail trade can undoubtedly thank the maturity level of its usable self-services, which is far advanced in comparison with other sectors, for this relatively positive response,” explains Patrick Eberwein, Senior Consultant and author of the Detecon study.

Despite the demands on the part of customers for intelligent self-services, optional personal customer service continues to have a place in the multi-channel landscape of the companies. “The more complex the issue,” declares Eberwein, “the more important it becomes to customers to be able to express their wishes in personal interaction. That is why the integration of self-services in an existing multi-channel landscape is the source of the greatest challenges in cross-over contact management.” This is especially true for sectors such as the telecommunications industry and banking, where in-depth consulting services are essential.

All in all, companies expect up to 15% of existing customer contacts to shift to the self-service channels over the next two years. If fundamental customer demands are satisfied in this area, the automation mechanisms can generate customer loyalty. Companies expect growth in sales of between 5% and 10% over the same period. Savings in the costs of sales and services of between 10% and 15% are calculated.

In response to the findings of the study, the Detecon consultants present a value-based customer contact management method which incorporates both the customer and the corporate perspectives, thereby unifying the goals of cost efficiency for businesses and long-term customer loyalty.

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