Bad economy good for self-service?

Seems intuitive, doesn’t it? Companies are looking to spend less on service delivery and accelerate their efforts to move interactions to online channels or point-of-sale kiosks. But what about consumers? Well I recently happened upon a new consumer spending survey from Opinion Research as reported in InternetRetailer. Pretty interesting but not so surprising results:

  • Overall, 77% of respondents say the economy has changed the way they shop, with 45% spending less, and 24% looking for the best deal – but 22% said they will spend more this year on the Internet. 36% say the Web accounted for a larger share of their purchases last year, and cited ease of locating items (25%), better discounts (19%), time savings (14%) and convenience (13%).
  • In terms of complaints, the top frustration with online shopping is not being able to speak to anyone who can answer questions (25%) – interestingly “I can talk to a person when I want to” was the #1 factor in creating a positive experience with self-service in a study Harris Interactive did several years ago! Apparently many companies have just not gotten that message.

Granted these latest data points are more about online shopping than customer support. But I’ll claim that the distinctions between the two are increasingly blurred. Especially as more companies look to turn their contact center into a sales center, and marketing and support leadership is forced to come together to create a “whole” experience for their customers online.

Even the big CRM and e-commerce platforms are following suit, as functions such as order management, logistics and campaign management may come from the latest version of Siebel, or an integrated e-Commerce platform like IBM Websphere Commerce.

Of course, just because every flavor of application (or hardware!) may eventually come from Oracle or SAP, and their modules span more and more of the customer lifecycle, doesn’t mean they offer business users complete control over the service experience. Or have the agility to configure a solution on the fly or adjust course mid-stream. But THAT is a topic for another day.