The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader

Self Service

I was at a major retailer last week and decided to take advantage of their self-service checkout. I didn’t have many items, and what I did have wasn’t unusual or special in any way. The concept of self-checkout is great, as it should be faster and easier than waiting in line for a cashier.

Well, it should . . .

canstockphoto1538654aThe actual experience, however, was far from faster or easier. In fact, it was particularly frustrating. There’s apparently a scale under the bagging area and if it doesn’t detect a proper weight after an item is scan it just sits there waiting for somebody to arrive and override the system. Or there’s an issue with produce, and it doesn’t recognize the code, or, or, or . . .

I should have just used the cashier. And I’d like to be able to say that it was just this one time, at this one retailer, but I’ve had similar experiences at other stores. The self-service system is simply not very user-friendly and requires frequent assistance or intervention from a store employee. This employee, unlike a regular cashier, is responsible for anywhere from four to eight self-service lanes. The result is an overworked employee and unhappy customers.

A better example of self-service is one that’s been around for a long time. Very few people have never used a bank ATM. Think about that experience. It’s simple, it’s to the point, and the transaction is completed quickly. An experienced user can zip through an ATM session in just a few seconds.

As we begin consideration of advanced self-service tools for IT support, it’s important to keep the both types of user experiences in mind. The whole point of self-service is to minimize or eliminate interaction from our staff. If our team ends up involved in a self-service incident, it raises the question why the customer couldn’t have just opened the issue up with the service desk in the first place.

The system needs to be very easy to use. That’s easy to say, but not always easy to implement. Too often, we let our developers build user interfaces or IT makes a lot of assumptions about how the customer works. It’s critical that any self-service solution be critically vetted by our customers – and not our ‘best’ customers, we need to look at the ‘average’ customer.

If you’ve implemented a self-service solution, how can you tell if it is effective? One way is to include a question on your satisfaction survey. Poll the incident and determine if self-service was available and ask the customer if they were aware of the tool. If they were aware, have a nested response that asks them why the didn’t use it. If they say it’s hard to use or it doesn’t work, then you might have a problem with your self-service implementation.

The idea is sound, and the concept is good. But all the time and effort building it will be worthless if the customer can’t or won’t use it.

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