The Rise of Self Service

4 min read
Amba Wilkes

Driven heavily by the advancements of eCommerce, user expectations have grown rapidly. Businesses are scrambling to meet these expectations, shifting their focus to the online experience to better serve their audience.

With a tech-savvy audience to satisfy, and in a bid to make it quicker to perform an action for yourself, self-service has begun to rise through the ranks.

The process of allowing users to serve themselves online, whether making a purchase or partaking in a service, self-service is fast becoming a method of taking the user journey one step further.

Key takeaways

In this blog, we discuss:

  • Who’s leading the way with self-service
  • The adoption of self-service across professional industries
  • The journey to implementing self-service operations

Leading the way

There are already a number of professional industries that have made great strides in implementing self-service processes. The most advanced is arguably the government services framework in the UK which is a great example of how self-service can truly enable users. Through the government’s transformation, users can carry out tasks that once required forms to be filled in and for them to wait patiently in line.

HMRC and the DVLA are also early adopters with well-established self-service offerings. Whether renewing your driver’s license online or digitally completing your tax return, both continue to further improve their online capabilities.

This is made somewhat easier by the government’s standardised approach to design. As each of these frameworks operates at such a scale, branding is of minimal concern, allowing them to focus on the functionality and ease of offering.

But the government isn’t the only one thriving with self-service, the banks too have advanced significantly. When internet banking first emerged, functionality was limited to checking your balance or making a payment. Today, you can apply for loans and mortgages alongside doing much of what previously could only be done in-branch with the support of an advisor.

The pandemic has even pushed the NHS onto the path of self-service, with smartphone vaccine passports instead of the provision of a physical document that it would undoubtedly have been just a couple of years ago.

Adoption of self-service across industries

In a growing number of industries, the use of self-service and the role of the website within this has become a common consideration. Discussing this topic, Managing Director, Jonathan Healey, shared his thoughts:

“Generally, up until the last few years, a corporate website was either brochureware or eCommerce. Of course, there are exceptions, but the majority of eCommerce was B2C while the majority of brochureware was B2B. We haven’t seen true automation in a B2B sense until the last couple of years, and this is what’s changing.”

In any business, there are processes that consistently take place. The tying together of those processes in an automated way is essentially a summary of digital transformation. Your website is the place where you manifest this to the public.

It’s important for businesses, no matter their sector, to have a strong online presence that authentically represents who they are and what they do. Heavily driven by the pandemic, self-service is emerging on a greater scale in other industries.

Take automotive dealerships. What was once a three or four-stage process is now much simpler and more convenient. While investing in this automation may have cost the business, they are likely to get this returned through the improved online experience.

But this isn’t the only industry we’re starting to see self-service grow, it’s also an intrinsic part of digital transformation in industries such as:

  • Housing
  • Membership
  • Healthcare
  • Finance
  • Solicitors
  • Utilities

The journey to self-service

Historically, businesses would shy away from self-service due to the challenges it can bring. There have been a number of high-profile, large digital transformation projects that subsequently failed - in the NHS, for example. While the rollout may not have been effective, as a result, there has been a great benefit to many other organisations who have learnt from their mistakes.

But even with those learnings, the cost to organisations to embrace self-service will have been initially high and therefore, the journey to that decision is long.

Businesses are shifting focus to ask important questions such as what do our customers need? How do we make their experience better than their last? How do we tie the full experience together from the initial interaction to the transaction?

Starting here will help your business to:

  • Define your digital services strategy
  • Develop a business case
  • Consider the impact on jobs
  • Gain political buy-in
  • Weigh up upfront costs
  • Think about technical challenges

What we’ve found in our vast experience is that users often care less about how a website looks and more about how the experience makes them feel. As such, businesses can afford to take these projects one step at a time.

Instead of attempting a largescale, one-off project designed to revolutionise a business overnight, companies now see the value in breaking down their project into prioritised phases. This approach helps to ensure success and allows you to benefit from the impact sooner to really get the most from your investment as you continue working towards your long-term objectives.

Off the shelf or bespoke

When you come to your self-service journey, you may find that off the shelf solutions that tick all the boxes exist specifically for your industry. More and more often, however, we’re finding clients are still choosing to go bespoke.

The reason? They’re discovering that an off the shelf solution isn’t always most conducive to forming an effective customer journey. There are also additional complexities that can mean extra costs when it comes to integration with existing systems.

Implementing a third-party solution is tempting as the quick and convenient option, but the user experience will always be better if you do it well yourself.

If you do choose to go off the shelf, be sure to consider your other technology vendors within your project. Which parts of your business processes are supported by different vendors and systems - how will you manage this? One option could be to implement a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution across all your systems to create a more cohesive network.

Closing thoughts

We live in a time where empowered customers are happy customers. Users relish not only being able to easily find the information they need online, but by being enabled to take the action they want too.

Delivering an effective self-service offering means you need to consider the customer journey carefully and invest in the right tools to make the user experience more streamlined and highly convenient. Self-service technology has the potential to not only better satisfy your customers but also allow you to solve problems faster and cut costs.

If you want to talk more about the rise of online self-service within your industry and how it could impact your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts.

Thoughts. Opinions. Views. Advice.

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