How to integrate mobile self-service solutions: The benefits and challenges

By Jonathan Crowl

Someone on their smartphone talking to a chatbot using mobile self-service solutions

iStock

Self-service has never been more accessible to enterprise organizations. Retail brands have long ranked among the leaders of the self-service revolution, implementing self-checkouts and other mobile service solutions to streamline shopping and improve the customer experience.

The push for greater self-service functionality is largely driven by consumers. According to a survey from Ask Your Target Market, 56 percent of consumers said self-service kiosks made checkouts faster. Meanwhile, 54 percent said self-service solutions made shopping easier.

Self-service is about much more than retail checkouts, however. As mobile technology evolves, more sophisticated integrations of self-service are being embraced by brands across all industries. Customer service is one area where self-service solutions are streamlining operations, reducing business expenses and improving customer relations all at once. According to the CMO Council, the most important factor in a satisfying customer service experience is a fast response time: 75 percent of consumers value speed in their interactions. Ranking second in that survey was consistency across channels.

Self-service apps can improve enterprise performance in both of those areas. But the trick to successful self-service is integration. Here’s a look at the benefits and challenges of integrating mobile service solutions into your customer experience:

Identify the most pressing pain points

Self-service integrations will likely take place piece by piece, but enterprise leaders should steer early efforts toward the organization’s greatest pain points. Troubleshooting help can be a great place for a software company to start: Instead of eating up time on the phone with technical support, businesses can develop self-service guides to help consumers solve problems on their own before calling in for help. This doesn’t eliminate the need for technical support, but it can resolve some issues that would otherwise clog up phone lines and increase delays for other customers needing help with more complex issues.

Similarly, consider how chatbots can provide a form of self-service for customers who don’t want to wait on hold for the answer to a relatively simple question. While these queries might be simple from a technical standpoint, they’re a serious pain point for consumers who don’t want to waste time waiting for help. And the more quickly these self-service efforts are able to help consumers with simpler questions, the more quickly other customers with more complicated needs can be taken care of, improving the customer experience for everyone involved.

Addressing the top pain points also serves an important business function: By focusing on the biggest areas of need, CIOs and other IT leaders can build case studies highlighting the savings in time, money and resources, as well as data showing how customers are being better served. This can be valuable information if you need to show progress in order to increase your budget for self-service initiatives.

Build a cloud-connected, mobile-optimized portal

Self-service portals must be easy for consumers to use, but it also helps IT when these portals are built on specialized platforms. A centralized self-service platform allows for a broader range of solutions to be implemented, which is essential if you’re integrating cloud-based applications and tools from different vendors. These platforms are also valuable when creating a seamless self-service experience.

A secondary option is to utilize integration templates that can assist in integrating self-service apps without tasking IT with a full manual integration. These templates also make it easier to adjust your self-service offerings and strategy on the move, whereas manually built integrations are far less flexible. Ultimately, the more pressure you place on IT to build and manage a platform for self-service applications, the less flexibility your self-service portal will offer — and the more time IT will have to spend building custom integrations and keeping up on maintenance.

For most enterprise brands, it pays to invest in centralized platforms that make integrations easier to implement.

Invest in self-service solutions without cutting traditional customer service

When self-service tools can’t solve a customer’s problems, they need quick access to customer support. This is one key reason why businesses shouldn’t unload their traditional customer service offerings just because they’re expanding their self-service options. Self-service is envisioned as a strategy for addressing some — and eventually, most — of a consumer base’s customer service needs, but it’s unlikely to adequately handle every situation that might arise.

At the same time, there’s no telling what will happen when self-service tools are deployed. Businesses might find that they’re not as useful to consumers as envisioned, or they might not be adequately addressing the right pain points. In these cases, traditional customer service exists as a safety net, helping salvage the customer experience when self-service misses the mark.

Businesses can refine their strategy over time by creating data acquisition channels within self-service tools to learn more about customer needs and the efficacy of their strategy. In the meantime, the old ways of assisting customers will remain vital to the company’s operations.