Where it makes sense in your contact center, self-service can significantly improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs. As such, the self-service option is now a must for contact centers.

Consumer research shows that time-strapped customers are more likely to patronize businesses that enable them to take care of their own needs through self-service devices. The digital age has transformed the way that consumers interact with brands; now they expect to be served where and when they choose. This requires companies to deliver seamless service through the integration of the Internet, mobile devices and multipurpose kiosks. Keep in mind, however, that consumers still prefer person-to-person contact for complex transactions.

Speed is at the heart of self-service demand. It’s also empowering, giving customers ultimate control over an experience. For businesses, self-service means saving money. Consumer Reports found that a typical customer service transaction handled by a live customer care Communicator usually costs between $2 and $10, compared with just pennies for, say, placing an order online.

Modern technology gets the credit for this effective savings in time and costs. But companies shouldn’t get carried away replacing human contact with machinery. Self-service shouldn’t mean no service. When a transaction goes sour, your personal touch may be the only salve for customer frustration.

Plus, self-service isn’t a great option throughout consumer markets. Every organization needs to assess the demographics of their own customers and how they interact with the business, and then tailor self-service options to their wants and needs.

In general, today’s self-service offerings have benefitted from growing pains resolved over the past couple of decades. This means that even older generations are fairly comfortable and accepting of properly scripted and easy-to-navigate interactive voice response (IVR) systems, for example. Furthermore, with the growth of mobile technology, self-service applications have become a way of life.

A downside of self-service to consider before diving in head first, however, is lost opportunities to engage customers and enhance their relationships with your brand. For some companies, a large percentage of client business comes from contact center phone traffic. Think about organizations that need to educate customers on products, for instance. A commitment to self-service may result in customers making the wrong decisions for themselves.

The challenge for each company is to use its own data to determine which live interactions are valued by the customer and which can be handled through self-service offerings.