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Why Your Customers Might Want You to Just Shut Up

December 1, 2010  

Quick quiz: Have you ever walked into an airport, noticed that there is nobody in line at the check-in counter and still made a bee-line for the self-service kiosk? Better yet, have you ever waited in line for an ATM machine even though there was no one in line for the teller?

"If you answered 'yes' to either of these questions, you're not alone," say Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff in a post at the Harvard Business Review blog. Their recent research has revealed a fascinating new consumer reality: "Most customers these days demonstrate a huge—and increasing—appetite for self-service," they report.

Some of their findings:

  • Today's customers value electronic self-service just as much as using the phone to get help from a live person.
  • By and large, that holds true regardless of age, demographic, issue type or urgency.
  • A staggering 57% of inbound calls to companies come from customers who first attempted to resolve their issue on the company's website.

What makes self-service so appealing? The lousy level of live service being offered is one factor (if you agree with the fascinating reader comments accompanying the blog post).

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Comments

  • by Rick Falls Wed Dec 1, 2010 via web

    This makes the case that you should have some at least minimal internet presence to be answering their questions about your products and services without insisting that they contact you in person.

    We, as consumers, usually know what we want, and if you want to sell us what we want, you'd be smart to make the information that we want about your offerings as accessible as possible without requiring our direct contact.

    We're busy, what if we want to look up something about our intended purchases at 2AM? Are you there then to answer those questions? No?
    Too bad, because there's a good chance that someone else is.

  • by the_dean preempt Wed Dec 1, 2010 via web

    This could explain something I've noticed at trade shows over the last couple of years but had no way to define what I was seeing as a pattern.

    Traditionally people engage with people at trade shows as the primary reason to attend but I've notice a growing tendency of some attendees to "watch and listen" but not engage at any booth not just a few booths.

    Thanks for the article it gives me a place to start on my research at trade shows this next year.

  • by Anne Stephaniuk Thu Dec 2, 2010 via web

    Interesting post. Thanks.

    Need to be aware the conclusions of this study may not apply to you. Depends on your biz.

    I agree that you must ensure your self-service offering is solid because in many cases this part of the website (or phone service) doesn't work properly. Fix those tools and keep them fixed so if I want to do something I can without too much trouble and at any time.

    Don't necessarily agree with the lousy level of service we get. Companies are replacing people with technology because it's cheaper but not necessarily better. I find going to speak to a human being is faster and sometimes just more enjoyable.

    As for an example of excellent self-service with the personal touch...
    If you ever use Virgin Mobile and contact them for help, they offer excellent and very helpful service - every time for me. But that's what makes them great and differentiates them. Even if they aren't owned by Richard Branson anymore. (No I don't work for them.)

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