Digital self-service allows companies to serve their customers better

Self-service has made a breakthrough everywhere. We all use some type of self-service every day. It has become such a fixed part of our day-to-day lives that sometimes we don’t even realize we are serving ourselves.

Self-service refers to a commercial service in which the customer pays and possibly also selects a product without a single employee of the company being involved in the transaction. A familiar example is a grocery store, where the customer takes products from the shelves and pays at a self-service checkout. Other good examples of effective self-service models are Posti Group’s OmaPosti, Neste’s mobile refueling and Ikea stores.

Why do companies need self-service concepts?

Customer service is becoming more and more challenging. The growth of online retail has forced brick and mortar stores to come up with new competitive factors. The clear advantage of physical stores is that the product or service is delivered immediately. If a customer needs a can of paint and a paintbrush right now, even two-day delivery from an online store is too long. Online services have an edge, however, in their convenience, speed, price and unlimited opening hours.

Serving customers efficiently is becoming increasingly challenging. In order for a brick and mortar store to reach the efficiency of an online store, the customer experience must be continuously developed. Customers who are used to the online experience expect longer opening hours, faster service and lower prices. Self-service is often the best way to respond to this challenge.

What does digital self-service have to offer?

If tasks that normally require human intervention are handled digitally, it saves in labor costs in the long run. For example, a self-service kiosk can work without staff, which means operating costs are always the same at all times. The quality of the service also remains more consistent and the customer experience is better.

Adding self-service does not automatically mean reducing manpower. When routine tasks, such as picking products and collecting payments, can be handled as self-service, employees can focus on customers who truly need personal attention. This also creates a positive image and leads to more satisfied customers.

How is self-service implemented?

Self-service concepts are always based on trust between the customer and the company offering the service. The operating models can be, for example, the attended model, in which the customer collects the products and pays while an employee supervises the self-service checkouts. This is how many grocery stores, for instance, operate. The unattended model is used, for example, at gas stations, where the customer fuels up and pays with no employees present.

Nowadays, most companies aim for multi-channel operating models that offer increasingly demanding customers a diverse and seamless user experience. Digitalization, for example, has introduced a change whereby the customer clicks a product into their shopping basket in an online store, but picks it up from the store in person. The model supports stores’ self-service checkouts and is an example of how brick and mortar stores can respond to the challenges of the internet.

What kind of support does a company need when switching to digital self-service?

When a company begins using a self-service concept, a sense of uncertainty is completely normal. It’s a major change, but when done right, the company can rest assured that everything will go as it is supposed to.

When the operating systems are monitored automatically, for example, malfunctions in the devices do not interrupt the service and prevent transactions. Monitoring also enables predictive maintenance, whereby problems become apparent even before they happen. This means the continuity and quality of the service can be ensured by fixing problems ahead of time. With digital self-service, monitoring takes place regardless of place and time, which is essential for services that are open 24/7.

For companies, switching to digital self-service is a learning process – one that Etteplan’s skilled experts are happy to be part of. Etteplan's digital self-service offering includes both self-service solutions and hardware. In both of these areas, we offer a full service covering the product’s entire life cycle from a single point of contact. 

Antti Ojaranta

Antti Ojaranta

Solution Architect, Cloud and Applications
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