e-service creates a strong competitive advantage

Last week we participated together with Hendrek Kraavi (strategy and creative director of ADM Interactive –  Estonian leading web-design agency) – e-services and service design seminar in Tallinn.

Our aim was to provide some answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the consumer-expectations towards e-services today?
  2. How to plan, design and manage the customer experience in Internet?
  3. How e-services affect the profitability and create competitive advantages for a company?
  4. How to create a beneficial e-service for a customer and how this reveals process errors?

Some notes from our presentation

eServices_1

E-channel is no longer just a nice alternative, but is becoming today the core value of a company. Internet, offering almost unlimited alternative choices is supporting to lift the power from a company to the consumer.

It is increasingly difficult today to differentiate by product or price. Still … there is option to differentiate by customer experience – stand out by an e-service quality, which is more convenient for the customer and eventually also more efficient for business.

Many of the conventional services, or companies are entering the IT sphere. Associated with the development of information complexity and amount of data makes the craft excessively time- and competence consuming. The solution here is a high quality e-service environment that enables new, more valuable and meaningful customer service.

E-service gives the company more opportunity to be operational and accessible during rush hours, and allow for a clearer direct interaction with a larger number of customers. e-channel permits the capability for a company to be prompt, attentive and visible, willing to listen, to hear, and to assist customer whenever necessary.

e-service allows entirely new service types, products, which are not feasible in face-to-face services. E.g. – give more information, more flexibility up to the services where visual element is vital.

Therefore, when developing a new e-channel – think out of box! The worst would be if you develop channel, which just reflects conventional service process and is subjected to outdated bureaucracy.

e-channel must let consumers to be more close to your enterprise and provide more than conventional services. In this case e-channel is capable of giving really strong competitive advantage.

When developing e-channel – design customer service process and respectively adjust your internal processes. Do not forget it’s quite often small things you do that make a big difference

e-service as competitive advantage

Are e-services expected by customers?

E-commerce is evolving today into essential communication and consumption medium for consumers.

23% of American insurance customers are currently using a range of different online channels, including providers’ own websites and blogs, to research purchases. However, compared to other areas, the use of online channels is relatively low across the region. In Europe, 32 percent of consumers are already using online sources for research, and in Asia-Pacific, the mark stands at 39 percent.

However, the personal contact is still essential—especially when it comes to claims, as 50 percent in the Americas want personal contact throughout the claims process.[1]

Different recent studies in Estonia have exposed that e-services are considered vital by over half of the business and private customers. e-sales and -service channels have become for us important communication and comsumption output.

Recent economic downturn have had a significant impact on consumer behavior and preferences. Customer evaluates today more personal time and is therefore more willing to do purchase decisions without leaving home. But his decisions are made on the basis of in-depth information available on the Internet. Besides security are e-channels more trusted for quick access to wide information and convenience.

New opportunities have altered significantly expectations: consumer ecpects more transparency from the service providers, desiring to understand, for what he spends the money and why. He looks for smart and sophisticated services, but at the same time the ease and speed of the service setting. He is impatient towards incompetence and on other hand is ready to pay more for quality.

Client desires flexibility, convenience in service consumption and alteration of the rules just in an appropriate manner and degree. Such technical capabilities are provided by e-channels, where he is ensured the easy access to information, assistance, and he is given the opportunity to make his own changes to services.

One of the keys of e-environment is the ability and skill to communicate. The customer must get answers quickly, and even better, when other customers are included to the discussion. Comments are open to everyone, and the company is able to respond quickly and openly. Communication openness is positively affected by the combination with social media.

One of the e-channel basic goals is to win customer confidence, “thanks to the e-service channel, things are under my control, the company has gained the trustworthyness due to being transparent for me”

Why does the enterprise need an e-commerce channel?

E-channel is no longer just an nice-to-have alternative, but is becoming today the need-to-have core value. Internet offering almost unlimited alternative choices is supporting to lift the power from a  company to the consumer.

Increasingly difficult is today to differentiate by product or price. Still there is option to differentiate by  customer experience. For example standing out by the e-service quality, which is more convenient for the customer and eventually also more efficient for business.

Many of the conventionl services, or companies are entering with their services to IT sphere. Associated with the information development, complexity and amount of data makes manual customer support excessively time- and competence consuming. The solution is a high quality e-service environment that enables new, more valuable customer services and more sales.

E-services give the company opportunity to be operational and accessible during rush hours, and allows for a more clear direct interactions with a larger number of customers. e-channel gives the capability to be prompt, attentive and visible – willing to listen, hear and assist customer whenever necessary.

Tips on how to achieve the best results in e-services

Hereinafter based on experience, offers advice on how to avoid the common mistakes and how to achieve the best possible solution of selfservice for the customer and the service provider.

  • Selfservice has to be found conveniently at company’s website. Selfservice design language fits well into the company’s brand image so that the user gets the impression as Selfservice is seamlessly integrated. The boundaries of different Selfcare solutions are not noticeable and surfing between them is as smooth as possible.
  • Customers are given chance to decide on the most convenient service channel. For making choice client is shared with enough information – e.g. response times in different channels: web, phone, mail, direct contact etc. Nowadays, as a rule, more convenient service channels are at the same time the most cost-efficient for the company. Possibility of making choice helps the service provider to save cost and increase customer satisfaction (in case the company of course fulfills the given promise).
  • It has great importance that navigation solution permits convenient access to Selfservice, being safe at the same time. Customers will not start using the Selfservice, where the entrance is difficult or unsafe. Good accessibility is necessary to achieve Selfservice business objectives  – to get as many users as possible, ensuring a quick return on investment.
  • The logical structure of Selfservice offers as user-centered experiences as possible, through which supports brand loyalty. Focus on specific user sustains the Selfservice structural simplicity – avoiding unnecessary information presentment to a user.
  • Selfservice is easy to use. The customer feels confident because the navigation is logical and fast, the most relevant subjects are well-found, information is clear and understandable. If in doubt, the user finds quickly help or he can ask any question immediately via Selfservice (and gets prompt answer!). The client has a good overview of his activities in Selfcare: he perceives his position in navigation process and the length of a whole process. By ending the transaction (orders, etc.) the client receives confirmation and if necessary the instructions for the next steps.
  • The content of Selfservice is for customer easy to read and to understand. Web environment requires quick and convenient way to find the necessary information and carry out the transaction.
  • SIMPLICITY IS THE KEY OF SELFSERVICE!
  • Customer rating on Selfservice depends largely on the service provider ability to understand the customer’s needs – find out carefully what are the customer specific needs for your Selfservice solution. This is vital to optimize Selfservice on a regular basis, based on the customer’s real needs and their changes over the time. Client is given an opportunity to make suggestions in Selfservice. Analyse the customer behavior and respond to each customer recommendation – always thank customer.
  • Measure the customer activities fulfillment in Selfcare. Analyse unfinished transactions on a regular basis in order to find the logics errors in design or navigation shortcomings.
  • Take the time to shape the customer behavior in Selfservice environment! Customer should have a good motivator, to start using new channel – to change his habits. The motivator could be both – “the whip or the cookie.” However, the latter is always more pleasant acting through positive emotion. It is clear that opening Selfservice does not necessarily make customers using it just by itself. Human being is naturally lazy to change his current habits without specific reasons. E.g: service fee increase in regular channel could be a whip and promotions in Selfservice could be a carrot.