home Customer Experience, Digital Future of self-service is customer-led automation

Future of self-service is customer-led automation

To cope with the avalanche of digital information and activities, customers — like organisations — are increasingly turning to automation.

There’s a lot of discussion about how enterprises continue to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) to save time and money, but we often overlook the next generation of customers being equally amenable to conducting their personal experiences the same way.

The reality is that customers have to engage with endless digital activities over their lifetime. Assigning these activities to their virtual personal assistants (VPAs), chatbots and other self-service tools will grow over the next 10 years.

Shift in customer self-service

Self-service is becoming the norm as customers increasingly expect an effortless experience at scale. Hotel doors open with a bar code sent to a mobile app. Kiosks support customers in weighing and tagging their own luggage. Check-in is done through a mobile app. Travel and price comparison sites allow users to construct a travel itinerary.

Providing an effortless experience increasingly means using naturalistic engagement methods like voice and other AI powered technologies. This gives customers what they want and helps organisations achieve higher operational efficiency.

What’s interesting is that when we look at the dynamics of self-service and continued automation by organisations over a longer time frame, cracks begin to appear. The burden of managing and supporting self-services is being taken from support staff and being pushed into customers’ hands.

This level of delegation from ‘DIY’ to customer-led AI, will be a major force shaping customer self-service.

Future of self-service

There are four scenarios that represent the future of customer self-service.

1. Do it myself – Customers undertake self-service activities themselves using a fluid, easy-to-use toolkit. They leverage multimodal (text, voice, touch, gesture) experiences across a range of interfaces, from mobile, interactive voice response (IVR) and apps to smart speakers, mobile and mixed reality.

2. Do it together: Customers discover other customers like them (directly or indirectly) via platform services, to manage, support and automate the demand and supply of support between customers and organisations. These are self-service communities with proactive discovery of members.

3. Let my bot do it – Users trust and permit their virtual personal assistants to monitor and proactively engage with enterprises, from problem solving and SLA monitoring to service consumption and management.

4. Let our bots do it – Collaborative customer bots and automation routines share knowledge and collectively engage organisations with demands for better service and price to share problem solving.

As customers embrace these DIY mindsets, enterprise provided user interfaces will increasingly play second fiddle to customer controlled experiences.

Since customers won’t be able to keep up with the level of self-service required to manage their digital lives, they will delegate to their own bots to manage it for them. The customer self-service of the future isn’t just about the customers themselves, but their bots as well.

Don’t stall your digital future

No matter who wins or loses, there will be massive changes in how people engage with an increasingly digital world. Without customer-led automation, the digital future will stall.

To stop this from happening, focus less on enabling the next new channel and more on making experiences in existing channels smarter. Use multimodal (text, voice, touch, gesture) approaches to communication to ensure that customers can interact more deeply, less ambiguously and more quickly. Ensure you don’t push all the frustrating and unexciting aspects of your service to customer self-service. It shouldn’t be a burden for customers. Anticipate their needs and provide them with personalised self-service recommendations and actions.

Anthony Mullen

Anthony Mullen is a senior director analyst at Gartner. His research focuses on virtual personal assistants, bots, artificial intelligence, conversational platforms, smart cities, predictive analytics and user data. Anthony will be presenting at the Gartner Customer Experience & Technologies Summit in Sydney on 17-18 June.