Does self-service trump human interaction?

Jeremy Nedelka of 1to1 Media responds to a new report published by IHL Consulting Group that finds spending on self-service machines is up and expected to grow another 18% next year.  The report, which covers in-store self-service options, states that retailers and other businesses are finding that self-service kiosks can significantly increase customer loyalty, as well as customer satisfaction.  Seems like some pretty compelling data, but as Nedelka points out, "Does replacing personal service to create added convenience hurt the customer experience instead of helping it?"

Whether online or offline, self-service does pose a great opportunity to cut costs and improve service efficiency.  But ultimately, consumers will transact with whatever options are available to them. Finding the right balance between self-service and assisted service is not only a matter of gauging cost, but opportunity.  In certain sales situations, not offering human assistance can put the business at a disadvantage when it comes to leveraging cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

For example, on any given day, a cashier at my local Safeway may have the insight to tell me that cornflakes are "buy 2 get one 1 free." Without that person being there to inform me of this, I may not have noticed the promotion and only bought one box of cereal. That’s the kind of information most offline self-service kiosks don’t provide.

Online, thanks to advanced personalization features, it’s definitely easier to present consumers with relevant cross-sells and up-sells without human involvement. But sometimes, even in the online world, there’s no replacement for human interaction for sealing the deal and cross-selling customers, which is why proactive service is becoming so popular.

So what if online customers transition to the phone?  In those situations, the best way to cross-sell is to have insight into customer’s buying behavior.  Just as the Safeway clerk can see that I’m buying cornflakes and suggest the "buy 2 get 1" deal, contact center agents should be able to see current online session data, and customer history, to present relevant suggestions.