Self Service vs. Phone
Self-service has become a huge part of everyday life. It’s fast, simple and keeps us in control. From self serve checkouts at the supermarket to automated calls with your energy supplier - the option for self service is everywhere.
Strengths of self service
The most obvious attraction to self service is the speed in which we can process our own transactions and enquiries. Time is valuable and it’s natural for us to want to speed up often arduous tasks. Most of us would choose the quick self service queue at the supermarket, as opposed to the long queue for a sales assistant.
The act of self service is relatively simple and stops us relying on anyone else. It also means fewer explanations and less repeating ourselves; instead just getting the job done straight away.
From a company point of view, it can also be a great cost-saving strategy. Fewer staff need to be employed at one time if a substantial majority of customers can serve themselves. For customers too, self-service can reduce the costs of waiting on hold to expensive phone lines.
Weaknesses of self service
Self service and technology are almost synonymous. Although self service is designed to be as simple as possible, without a basic understanding of technology it can seem difficult and often confusing.
Typically, self service can only handle simplistic enquiries therefore greatly limiting what it can do. If you have a complex order or multiple enquiries, it is unlikely that self service will be the most appropriate avenue to go down. Similarly, if something goes wrong during the process, as a customer you’re stuck - there’s no one immediately available to sort it out for you.
Strengths of the phone
Telephone communication is still one of the most popular ways to process an enquiry, service or order. It allows the customer to discuss their specific requirements in detail and be reassured that they are being dealt with by the best person; completely taking the hassle out of processing it all yourself. It also gives the opportunity for a person to ask several questions - possibly resolving multiple issues in one phone call. This can be cost effective for the company and also helps build a more positive customer service reputation.
Weaknesses of the phone
Calling a company can be time consuming, often with long holding times. It can be frustrating to be passed to various departments and people when our time could be better spent elsewhere. Many companies are still providing expensive premium rate phone numbers (see here) which can add up to high telephone bills if customers aren’t careful.
So what's better?
There certainly isn’t a definitive answer for this. While we think phones are still pretty great (we might be a bit biased here), each method will be favoured by certain groups of people.
A great solution is the combination of the two. For example, using IVR within a telephone system (have a look at more detail on intelligent call routing). A customer can call a company and will be immediately greeted with a menu system, where they can route themselves to the most appropriate person or department. They’re then connected with an actual person who can answer all their questions and build that all important customer relationship.