Why Online Self-Service Is the New Reality for Businesses

The customer service landscape is being reshaped by digital, primarily because consumer preferences are changing. Seventy percent of consumers expect brands to offer online self-service options.

In the world of customer service, times are changing. Digital channels, especially those that help consumers find answers on their own, are the new normal.

To be sure, conventional options like phone or in-person support aren’t going away. In-person service makes sense for brands that have a big retail footprint, while the phone continues to be the preferred support channel for older people.

Yet the customer service landscape is being reshaped by digital, primarily because consumer preferences are changing. In a survey conducted by Parature, 70 percent of consumers said they expect brands to offer online self-service options.

What are the primary three reasons you need to adapt to this “new normal” in customer care?

Multichannel is the expectation

It’s hard to overstate just how much smartphones have changed the way people communicate - including how they get customer service. Four years after the iPhone was introduced, just 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone. Today, nearly 80 percent do.

And, by one estimate, the average person spends more than 2 hours per day just using apps. That’s more than a month per year!

Because we’re spending so much time on our phones, the phone is typically the first tool a person turns to when they are researching a purchase or require support. Google estimates that people interact with brands twice as much on mobile as on any other platform.

The upshot for you is that your support options must be mobile-friendly. Consider how you can infuse help content and FAQs into your responsive website and mobile app - the platforms that consumers are already using to engage with you from their mobile devices.

Think, as well, about how many purchase or support journeys start with a web search. Your support content should be indexable, so it appears on search engine results pages.

Millennials are digital-first

The Millennial generation is huge. With 75 million members, it’s now the largest generation in the American workforce.

One of the principal ways Millennials are different from earlier generations is their digital fluency. True digital natives, Millennials prefer to use the web for nearly every interaction - especially if they can involve their smartphones.

It’s for this reason that making phone calls has fallen out of favor among Millennial consumers. Around the world, texting and OTT communications (e.g., WhatsApp) are supplanting voice calls.

This trend extends to customer service experiences. A survey conducted by Aspect Software, a call-center software provider, found that 69 percent of Millennials feel good about themselves when they are able to answer a question or solve a problem on their own.

Not only that, they feel better about the company, as well - proving that self-service can be a virtuous cycle.

It’s part of great CX

After all, today’s consumer doesn’t distinguish between seeking information about products, making a purchase, or getting after-sale support. For the individual, all of these interactions fall under the umbrella of what’s called customer experience.

As we’ve written about, customer experience is a critical brand differentiator. Organizations that lead in CX generate more revenue and experience lower churn, Forrester research shows.

This is borne out with customer service, in particular. Fifty-six percent of Millennials, per Aspect Software, have switched brands because of poor service. For the modern consumer - especially the Millennial consumer - great service is simply an expectation.

With the Millennial generation already the largest in the workforce, you see how online self-service is truly an imperative for today’s businesses. And Generation Z - the generation behind Millennials - is even more digitally savvy. Now more than ever, online service tools are in demand among consumers.




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Ben Foster

Content Marketer at inSided. Having worked in B2B tech in San Francisco and Boston, Ben's now happy to be in New York City. He'll never root for the Yankees, though. Connect on LinkedIn

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