I remember being a kid and my Mom driving into "service stations." Our car would roll over a wire that rang a bell (ding ding!). The bell alerted a station attendant that a customer was here. The attendant would come out, walk over to the driver's window and ask "How can I help you?" While the gas flowed into the gas tank they would often check our oil or clean our windshield. This was called "full service."
Sometime in the 1980's we transitioned to stations that offered both full service pumps and self-service pumps. Now we pull in, pay at the pump, get a car wash and never need to talk to a human. (Sorry New Jersey and Oregon.)
Then the self-service concept went to banking: ATMs and debit cards, online billpay and account access. Here too, we can have a lengthy financial relationship with a company and never talk to a person.
Now the self-service, or DIY craze is everywhere. I can pay at the grocery using "Self Checkout." I can self-publish, self-insure, self-medicate, self-represent and self-help . I can navigate using GPS instead of asking for directions and order pizza online instead of calling.
The funny thing is, we don't mind doing things for ourselves that used to involve others. In some cases we prefer it. Yes, the self-checkout concept saves the retailer money. But it also saves me time waiting in a line. Yes, having someone pump my gas would be nice but not if the gas costs a lot more.
The web has accelerated this self-service trend even more. I can do research without going to the library. I can ship and track packages without going to the post office. My wife can (unfortunately) buy shoes without trying them on. More and more, customers are expecting to be able to conduct business of every kind on the Internet:
- Meet a date.
- Order flowers.
- Make a dinner reservation.
- Get directions.
- Pay the parking ticket.
- Change a phone number.
- File a restraining order.
OK, kidding. But your site does need to offer users the ability to "serve themselves" in every way possible. Can they currently pay their bill or renew a membership? Can they download brochures and applications? Or better yet, complete them online?
Make it easy for your customers to "self-serve" or they may become someone else's customers.
Labels: DIY, self service, web design