The revolution of self – service at the workplace and why it’s important

64 percent of customer service interactions will be enabled via self-service and 21 percent will include some level of agent-assisted self-service. Consumers increasingly expect to be able to solve most issues on their own, without having to reach out to a brand for support.

Sathyan Sethumadhavan Oct 17th 2018 A-A+

The concept of self-service has become a part of everyday lives. Let’s look around ourselves – every time we do an online transaction, buy shoes online, withdraw cash from the ATM, self-checkout at supermarkets etc, we are engaging with self-service technology. Self-reliant consumers led by millennials are growing in number and are becoming tech-savvy customers who clearly prefer the do-it-yourself (DIY) model.

According to Gartner, by 2022, 64 percent of customer service interactions will be enabled via self-service and 21 percent will include some level of agent-assisted self-service. Consumers increasingly expect to be able to solve most issues on their own, without having to reach out to a brand for support.

At the workplace, this “self-service” concept is revolutionizing the way employee productivity is handled. 91 percent of employees today want self-service tools in order to be more productive in the digital workplace. 

Organizations have already invested in enterprise products to manage scale of operations and self-service mechanisms. Many organizations start their journey of “self-service” by implementing a huge enterprise system, thinking that employees would login to systems to get their requests served. Industry analysts say that this model helps solve 10-20 percent of employee productivity requests. 

However, strengthening the self-service economy through platforms like knowledge bases, communities, and help centers have become the biggest challenge for many organizations. Making data available at real time is getting complex every passing day.

To help enterprises on these challenges, the new era which is evolving is the concept of pre-emptive customer service. As per a 2017 Forrester report on customer service trends, operations have become smarter, strategic and companies will continue to explore the power of intelligent agents powered by conversational interfaces. Agents will anticipate needs by context, user preferences, prior transactions and thus deliver pro-active context.

The rise of messaging and voice platforms are also a big booster and supports this new era of “self-service”. Enterprises now have the opportunity to create intelligent self-service experiences using real-time, understanding user patterns, identifying users and providing relevant information. Employees around the globe are excited about the new smarter way of “self-service”, where they can get on-demand assistance to information, whenever and wherever they need it. They are excited to interact with Artificial intelligence (AI) based systems via natural language processing (NLP).  With this, employees get data at their finger- tips including the mobile workforce, without compromising on security standards. Employee feedback will become increasingly real-time, in-context, and meaningful.

With AI and data, there is a huge scope of service intelligence at the workplace to handle routine tasks, so that people can focus on operational optimization, creative design, forecasts and plan for the future. This also calls for a cultural change with the operations team to let go of a few routine tasks and up-skill themselves to learn and include data as part of their daily routine and decision making. 

Here are some examples on how self-service, powered by mega-trends, is going to transform the workplace and make it future ready:

Recruiting – People love to buy and don’t want to be sold to. For example, virtual reality provides a live experience of the brand to consumers, intelligent assistants help manage interview schedule administration and initial screening as well as machine learning can be used to target the right candidates, source unbiased feedback and make decisions.

• On-boarding - Employees always want to feel special. With respect to self – service, tools such as virtual reality allows employees for a meet and greet with executives, as and when they need to. Intelligent virtual assistant can be used to make employees’ first day special, navigate through the organization for information, people and resources as they settle down in the company. Virtual assistants powered training programs which will be designed considering the interests and scheduled corporate training programs will also help in better onboarding of the employees through self – service technology.  

• Communication - It should always work – is the expectation. For instance, conference systems providing live translation for distributed teams to work together, AI meeting assistants to manage meeting schedules, voice assistants to provide a “No touch” meeting experience, machine learning to understand the pattern of hardware and system failures and virtual reality for long day workshops will be a major part of the future of self-service technology in workplaces.

• Helpdesk/Customer support - User experience should be quick and simple. Tools such as Intelligent virtual assistants powered by Natural language processing (NLP) will serve as a one shop solution to self-service information for policies, leave management, update insurance details, plan for the day, manage travel bookings, IT hardware and software, reimbursement & claims etc. 

• Productivity - Everything needs to be smart around me – is what every employee thinks. For example, IoT based solutions for employees, like hardware self-service via Kiosks, find me nearby “Printer” and the automatic door entry worldwide will help achieve operational optimization. Intuitive mobile apps and augmented reality for Indoor navigation will be used to navigate people thru the overseas office. Also, technologies like IoT based solutions for “No touch” meeting room experience, automatic use of lights, screens and hardware contributing back to greener environment will constitute to increased productivity in the future. 

• Staffing - Retaining talent vs meeting demands. Self-service technologies such as AI powered intelligent assistants pushing project information based on employee’s interest area, intelligent dashboards and recommended team composition for the staffing managers. Even technologies like machine learning can predict the pattern of employee interests, employee performance, 360° feedback, employee preference and business demands that will help in providing recommendations with unbiased information. 

Conclusion
Essentially, automation and self-service enable companies and their employees to be more empathetic, to focus on high value topics like customer experience, employee engagement, relationship management, workplace culture and decision making with data. Self-service also solves the scale for future and thus transforms the workplace: it’s more human now, but still immediate. 

Sathyan Sethumadahav is the Regional Head/Product Manager, ThoughtWorks India.

Disclaimer: This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributing authors and not of IDG Media and its editor(s).