"Schiphol opens first self-service shop without staff", "Sodexo opens 24/7 self-service food concept for companies" and "Busy at 'self-service farmers' during corona". You read about it almost daily: companies and retailers are increasingly switching to the principle of self-service. They believe there are enormous opportunities and that self-service is the future. Sceptics still cling to the principle "full-service is the best service", because in their opinion personal contact is essential for customers. However, it appears that this is no longer the case for everyone and every situation. So maybe offering self-service is something for you?
What is self-service?
In this context, the use of the word self-service refers to the purchase of a product or service without the intervention of any staff. Meanwhile, our society has already adopted self-service without being fully aware of it. We withdraw money from an ATM, pay for parking at a ticket machine and buy our petrol via a terminal at the pump. We are surrounded by self-service services that make our lives a lot easier.
Self-service versus full-service
The idea of self-service does not seem to match the traditional needs of the customer. But our world has changed a lot in a short time. With the advent of the Internet, everyone has access to an enormous amount of information about products and services and is therefore very well informed. So much so that 80% of the decision to buy is already made before anyone even visits a shop or makes contact. In addition, we are becoming more accustomed to on-demand services and want instant service. Research also shows that 86% of customers would avoid a shop because the queue looks too long. Self-service therefore meets very important customer requirements. They want speed, convenience and immediate availability, preferably 24/7.
How does self-service work?
Many great solutions have been developed that enable customers to go through the checkout process independently. The prices of products can be transferred to a self-service checkout by using a barcode scanner like those in a supermarket. You can checkout clothing by placing it in a container with a scale (based on weight information entered beforehand). Or you can pay for multiple products in a bag at once by using RFID technology.
Methods are also being sought to make the payment itself as easy and quick as possible. In Asia, QR codes are used predominantly, but in the United States there is a clear preference for payment with an NFC chip. The next step is the cashless shop, which is already being extensively tested by Amazon, for example. Here, sensors register which items the customer puts in the shopping cart and the customer pays for them via an app. Tests are also being conducted to see if customers can be identified by biometric features such as their face, voice or palm and then pay automatically.
Self-service and the customer experience
Can I still offer a good customer experience with self-service? Yes, you can! For a large majority of customers, respecting their limited available time is the biggest factor for a positive experience. In addition, it is a misconception that when you let customers do a lot themselves, the level of customer service decreases. This is not the case because you offer customers interaction on their own terms and so this actually adds a lot of value. Instead of being a spectator, they now become part of the process.
Another important advantage of self-service is that you can analyse and store data about your customers and thus offer highly personalised services based on preferences, such as discounts via the self-service screen. Based on previous purchasing behaviour, you can also offer other services or products via such a screen or app (upsell).
Is self-service the future?
With self-service, you can limit waiting times and meet other customer requirements such as the need for immediate availability. However, self-service will not be the ideal solution for just any purchase process. Think about luxury goods, for example. A customer will still want someone to talk to for advice and questions.
However, self-service does not always mean a direct replacement of people and traditional services. It can be a very valuable addition so that your employees can focus on precisely that personal approach, answering questions and other forms of service. If you offer products or services where the customer prefers to make purchases independently and, above all, quickly 24/7, then a complete transition to self-service is worth considering.
In short, self-service is the future. For you as well!