Let’s Talk About Self-Service
During recent years, EMC Customer Service has devoted a lot of time and energy to becoming more proactive. We’ve added proactive responsibilities to our job descriptions, formed new teams to handle the uptick in proactive activities, and invested in tools and capabilities to provide proactive recommendations and advice to our customers.
Another customer service trend that’s simultaneously becoming very popular is self-
service. Examples here at EMC include customer-installable upgrades and peer-to-peer interaction within the EMC Support Community. Even the process I went through to post this blog recently became self-service. Instead of emailing out my blog with a subject line of urgent: please post my new blog, I was given formal posting instructions with screenshots, a video training module, and a separate set of Search Engine Optimization instructions.
The concepts of proactive service versus self-service may seem very different. You might even make the case that they are complete opposites. Proactive service generally implies that the support provider will address problems and potential problems, and self-service generally implies that the onus is on the customer.
I’ve been scratching my head lately when we discuss these two concepts here at EMC—are we asking customers to “do it yourself” or are we telling them to sit back and let EMC Customer Service handle it?
After reading a short piece on CNN Money entitled Self-service beer taps coming your way, it dawned on me that the two concepts are very closely related. Conceived in 2008, PourMyBeer founder Josh Goodman experienced a very typical dilemma—he was at a bar with some friends and they wanted another beer, but they couldn’t get the beer served quickly. This didn’t make sense to Josh for two reasons:
1) The bar must be losing a ton of money
2) He was at a bar, so it really shouldn’t be difficult to get a beer
At first glance, the PourMyBeer business concept has self-service written all over it. However, it’s also very proactive. The bar would have to invest in the new beer system technology, anticipate the demands and tastes of customers, ensure speedy delivery, and promote usage effectively in order to drive adoption and changes in behavior. You could argue that the very core of proactive services is the ability to enable self-service that is simple and effective. In other words, I think you need to be good at one in order to be good at the other.
Customer desires are constantly in flux because it is human nature to prioritize what’s important. A quiet day at work combined with a non-critical issue might be a perfect time for a customer to get skilled up in self-service. If things get busy, there might not be time for that same upgrade that was appealing to self-install yesterday. Going a layer deeper—the psychology of customers differs widely, even within the same organization (or at the same bar). Some customers prefer to manage activities that take place within their IT environment, while others look to their support provider for help.
Next time you’re involved in a self-service scenario, think of how much proactive work went in to anticipating your needs and creating a framework for you to succeed. Conversely, next time you receive that proactive notification and follow a breadcrumb path to address the issue, consider the self-service component.
What do you think the relationship is between proactive service and self-service?