When companies take employees out of the equation, they’re essentially expecting the customer to take on a greater share of the work. And so the design of the technology matters a lot. Some self-service technologies can be delightful to use and others can be very challenging.
An example of one that’s often challenging is the self-service checkout. Stores are essentially asking customers who weren’t trained to do this work to take on the task. But then they added a bunch of sensors and fraud detection mechanisms that make the job more difficult than it would have been for an employee in the first place.
Technology lacks flexibility. When we’re interacting with a person and we’re having trouble understanding something, the person can adjust to us. If we’re having a misunderstanding, they can help clarify it. Technology really can’t do either of these things.
Essentially, there are few things that we think determines when a customer will willingly engage in self-service. First, customers have to know what’s expected of them. Second, they have to be capable of doing what’s expected of them. Finally, and this is one where a lot of companies fall off the rails, they have to see the value of expending the extra effort in order for it to be something that they would willingly engage in.