Our recent studies with open source content management platforms and discussions with executives in digital agencies in Europe has shown a clear shift from traditional digital marketing into more extensive digital experience and self-service functionality.
The main reason for this transformation is the change in consumer expectations – 90% of people expect for a brand or organisation to have an online self-service support portal, according to the study made by Microsoft. People are already used to visit the web site of the organisation, thus making it the logical entrance to the self-service.
The current ways of designing and implementing digital marketing sites are not enough to handle the new requirements of consumers serving themselves.
According to the same study, people on all age brackets (18-34, 35-54, 55+) expect the representative to know their contact, product, and service information and history.
Also, services with proactive service notifications are favoured across all ages. People under 55 have higher expectations for customer service than a year ago.
All these expectations require thorough and thoughtful approach to self-service portals. Consider the following three topics when planning a renewal of your consumer portals:
1. Know your consumers
Consumer insight is the most valuable information in planning a self-service portal. Everyone would like to serve themselves as straightforwardly and error-freely as possible – nobody denies that.
But when planning the portals, it is very human to take an inside-out view and think how your own organisation serves the consumers. Instead, you should reverse the situation and start thinking how and why the consumers are using the services – what are their goals, in which part of their bigger process your service fits in, and so forth.
We strongly suggest using service design methodologies and user research to gain deep understanding of consumer needs. We have successfully transformed, for example, e-commerce platforms by putting the end user in the center of the service. The results have been very inspiring, from financial perspective and also considering internal dynamics of the companies.
By focusing on the consumers’ needs and abilities to fulfil them with company’s services has changed the internal language to be more consumer focused. This has allowed the people to align their thinking with consumers and the ideation and planning has been more productive from the get-go.
2. Use data intelligently
Companies have massive amount of data, typically siloed in business systems that are organised by the internal organisation of the company. For consumers, the company internal structure is irrelevant – and even irritating, if they meet it unexpectedly and typically in negative fashion.
The raw data does help in sense making in the planning phase or when shown to the consumer in the service. It must be distilled into information that helps the consumers to make informed and thus better choices while serving themselves. Consumer confusion is one the major obstacles of growth in digital services and it must be tackled with the right use of data.
Everything boils down to providing the right information at the right places. This applies to the basic level, such as knowing the name and address of the consumer, and to personalisation, recommendations, and data fed to machine learning systems.
We have an office in Tallinn, Estonia, the capital of one of the most advanced IT nations in the world. Estonian government has a principle that it cannot ask the same information twice. Instead, the government IT architecture must be hyperconnected and the data model must be planned from the citizens’ perspective.
Consider this approach with your own services. How many times your consumers need to input their names or addresses to your systems, as they happened to be stored in another database the previous time they were input? Try out your services, you might be surprised.
And last, the effects of GDPR must not be forgotten. You may only process data that you actually need and have right to manage.
We strongly suggest creating a consumer-centric data model of your self-service portals to understand the collection points, flows, storages, and exports of the data. This mapping helps you to understand how the data is used to enhance the consumer experience and thus potentially increase the revenue of such interactions.
3. Select right platforms
We see the most advanced companies moving to services that combine digital marketing, self-service, and up-sell possibilities – all packaged into consumer focused and fluid experience accessible with all relevant channels.
Further, the data collected in the service is readily made available for the rest of the organisation and the siloed internal systems are hidden with an integration layer.
Not all digital marketing platforms are up to the challenge. They might lack application platform to implement extra functionality required by the self-service, or their e-commerce implementation is an external service glued to the digital experience engine. Both of these cause clunky implementations that reduce the smoothness of consumer experience and downright reduce your revenues at the end of the day.
We strongly suggest to use open-ended, flexible, and data-driven platforms. Further, we see huge benefits in using open technology systems, as they do not force you to follow commercial roadmap – instead, you can keep your destiny at your own hands.
Time to act with the self-service is right now. According to the earlier study by Microsoft, whopping 96% of consumers say customer service plays a role in their choice of and loyalty to a brand.
This direct correlation between superior customer service and brand loyalty should be in itself the main reason to focus and invest in intelligent and consumer-oriented self-service portals.
We do have also other reasons, including increased profits and reduced costs. If you want to hear more, get in touch.