digital customer service

Self-service is a magical concept. Think about the monumental leap that we’ve achieved by empowering customers to complete a process or resolve an issue on their own. Mass adoption of the internet has made self-service a true reality. 

Prior to web experiences, the best examples of a customer completing a process entirely on his/her own was a supermarket self-checkout, or an automated phone call where we could pay our bill by entering a credit card number with our dial pad. Today, we can get a mortgage, buy a couch, resolve a bank account issue, or have a meal catered entirely with point and click (or tap).

That said, if the self-serve experience becomes complicated, we’ll still want to communicate with the company somehow. I’m not going to debate whether connecting with a chatbot or a person is a better way to resolve the issue, or whether messaging with a customer service representative is better than speaking with one. The thing that baffles me is how we still have phone numbers displayed on websites or mobile apps. 

We can host a 20 person video meeting through our browser on Google Hangouts but if I have a question about an insurance policy online, I have to dial a 10 digit number that takes me entirely away from self-serving? Why can’t I speak with someone about the policy directly in the browser? Someone who immediately knows who I am, why I’m reaching out and can guide me to resolution right on the website.

A phone number on a website or mobile app is like a DVD— it was the best way to watch a movie until the internet made it practically obsolete. There are certainly some ways that we can avoid calling that on-screen phone number (see: live chat) but these experiences are rarely in line with the excellent self-serve options that we have access to. 

Customers have become accustomed to the ease of self-service. These web experiences put us 75% of the way to true digital commerce and service. The remainder is digitizing the communication experience. 

When was the last time you dialed a phone number to get in touch with a friend or family member? Why are we still doing it with businesses? If we see the phone number on a billboard, a TV ad, or an old post-it note then mayyybe… but a phone number on a screen? May as well pop in a DVD instead of tuning into Netflix.