Self-service and Operational Excellence

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Self-service has become a key option many businesses offer to their customers. It is appealing to the customers who are eager to take on the onus to get things done at their convenience. It is appealing to the business for many reasons. The business shifts the work to the customer, enabling it to free up staff time to handle other tasks. It is an excellent approach to grow capacity without hiring more people.

There are many self-service models in the marketplace. They include the automatic teller machine, online customer support, self-checkout at retailers, and kiosks for ordering food and airline check-in. To ensure that the self-service model is truly enabling self-service and minimizing the human support required, there are several things to keep in mind.

  1. Keep it simple. Every customer has a different propensity to handle instructions. The target users of the self-service model need to be identified and understood. Use as few steps as possible so that they have little chance of getting stuck. Failing to keep the model simple backfires on the demand for support.
  2. Make the experience delightful. Users get turned off quickly when the experience is awful. Online shopping is supposed to simulate the fun of shopping in a virtual way, absent the touch and feel. If the search function is clunky or the view option mindlessly takes the shopper back to the top of a search stream, it is not efficient. Shoppers would abandon the site.
  3. Ensure the user is equipped. In designing the self-service, it is important to walk through the steps so that you have a clear idea on what the user needs at every step to complete the task. Don’t assume the user has access to the things that the business takes for granted. For example, a printer. Poor adoption of the self-service model undermines success.
  4. Make support readily accessible. It is frustrating when the user gets stuck and no help is available. Further, ensure that those in the support role are equipped as well to solve the issue immediately. Users are generally impatient and they want their problem solved as quickly as possible.
  5. Integrate and collaborate. The management of the self-service model might be owned by a specific group. However, the user touch points and every interface with the backend processes need to be shared with the areas impacted. Consult them for things that should be incorporated to verify the information flow, user profile update, and directions for follow-up actions are adequate.

From the operational excellence perspective, the introduction of self-service for external or internal users is a way to attain a higher level of productivity. To be successful, the user utility ought to be top-of-mind in the design. Otherwise, it would be a shift of work that pleases a few but generates chaos for operations support.

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