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The Curse of Self Service

Years ago I had the privilege of working at our local supermarket.

It was a big deal at the time. I’d moved up from being a waiter at a pub and in the process near doubling my hourly rate to a little over £4. I was responsible for stock replenishment (shelf stacking) and manning the checkout; a rite of passage for all teenagers surely.

I used to enjoy working on the checkout. It gave me the feeling of responsibility for the customer experience, not just taking money but also providing some degree of service. But all that’s changing with the advent of the dreadful self-checkout, a faceless and error prone experience.

As customers we are stepping back into our teenage years, where once again we have to scan products and navigate the weighing scale menu. The self checkout is the ultimate in self-service and it never surprises me to see queues at the checkouts when the self service line is empty.

Self service is a feature for plenty of business-to-business organisations too.

With the advent of software as a service, where cheaper products do not support high customer service budgets, vendors are forced to rely on FAQs and support forums to answer customer queries. It’s only when you need to rely on these channels for help that you realise how maddening they can be. There must be a better way?

Perhaps…

1. better product design to reduce the requirement for support
2. improved reference documentation online with accurate search
3. a support community led by brand ambassadors
4. an empowered channel network to provide paid support

The starting point is to view your product from the eyes of the target customer.

Only by experiencing your product in this way can you understand what level of support your customers need and what you should provide above and beyond self-service.

As a business to business marketer, make sure you’re not providing your customers with a self checkout experience. You may not get a second chance to impress if people find “unexpected items in the bagging area”.