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Self-Serve Me Now

10 September 2020

Why self-service is the digital vaccine customers and organisations need both now and post pandemic.

We’ve all changed over the last few months and so have the ways in which we interact with brands. Face-to-face is on the decline, we are spending more time than ever online and self-service allows us quick control 24/7 so we can do what we need to do, when we want to do it. We explore 3 factors for great self-service.

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Challenging times

The consumer landscape is undoubtedly shifting. The public are nervous about visiting physical stores or offices, and some have simply changed their habits following lockdown. This pushes consumers to phonelines or online, but organisations are facing their own struggles. The mass deployment of homeworking isn’t always favourable when it comes to call centres – productivity is down whilst demand is up. 

Without a strong digital offering to turn to, customers become increasingly frustrated at the inability to ‘get things done.’

In the context of a global pandemic, the role for smooth, simple and quick digital interactions has never been so important to business and customer experience. Here are 3 key considerations for self-service.

toggle 01 – Simple online tools

Customer experience drives brand loyalty. You might not consider self-service to be highly interactive or involving but when it gets the job done, and gives back time to the customer, this will be a satisfying experience. By making more things achievable online, businesses can also free up phones and focus on those most in need.

Branchless UK bank, First Direct, achieved top customer experience ratings in 2020 across all industries and sectors, with 83% of customers recommending its overall service and online and app offering. In fact, it has been topping customer advocacy polls ever since it was first launched in 2009.

Its branchless digital/telephony approach demonstrates that through remote/ self-service contact, with simplicity and speed of service, customer satisfaction can be gained.

This approach speeds things up for organisations too. Alex Cook, a Director at EQ’s case-management business, EQ Toplevel, reflects on a face-to-face appointment booking system delivered online for the UK Passport Office:

 “Self-service appointments reduce the need to allocate staff to the function by using secure web-based diaries to record self-service bookings, handled alongside staff-made appointments to prevent double bookings.”

Valuable time has been freed up for teams at the Passport Office, and the technology is adaptable too. Easily configurable web-based tools allow the service to flex in changeable times. Alex continues:

“We’ve been able to extend the solution to accommodate appointments covering British embassies and consulates worldwide, including video-based appointments in times of Covid, allowing us to handle roughly one million appointments annually on behalf of the Passport Office.”

toggle 02 – Extend support

As many companies scale back their operations, the harsh reality is that thousands of people are sadly losing their jobs. The Office for National Statistics quotes 649,000 (2.2%) between March and June in the UK alone. Those affected are finding ways to make ends meet and are seeking financial support, with both the Government and financial services finding new ways to respond.

Experian has been leading by example with its open banking powered digital tool, the Affordability Passport. Allowing access to local authorities and charities, including Mental Health & Money Advice and Citizens Advice, the tool empowers people to share their account and transaction data. This then gives a fast overview of the individual’s financial circumstances and commitments, so the organisation can more quickly provide the support they need. For three months during the pandemic, Experian made the tool available for free.

This kind of innovation directly helps the individual assess their circumstance. But it’s not just the charity sector that are leveraging this technology. Now more than ever, lenders have a need for deep insight. EQ Credit Services supports some of the UK’s largest credit providers, with a loan processed on its self-service platform every 5 seconds. Last year it partnered with pioneering AISP, Credit Kudos, to bring open banking to credit assessments. MD Richard Carter says:

“Our platform enables lenders to hardwire responsible practices into the lifecycle management of their credit products. Deeper insights afforded by open banking data are game changing; they’re a fantastic basis upon which lenders can make fairer and more informed decisions about loan eligibility, both during the origination process, but also throughout the loan lifecycle.”

Knowing the need for integrity, digital self-service products give some discretion and speed of decision-making. Further down the line, the ability for lenders to quickly detect and act on vulnerability is key, as is the capability to offer loan payment holidays* and mortgage holidays**. Having the right technology in place, be it a case management or loan servicing platform, is essential in the success of all of these initiatives.

Extending support means different things to different organisations. But most would agree that being there for individuals at this time, in whatever way they can, is not only the right thing to do, but key to long term relationships. Those that can provide support in a useful and uncomplicated way will do best.

toggle 03 – Join-up and collaborate to help the vulnerable

Covid has shown us what companies are capable of in terms of serving a greater good when faced with adversity. Some experts predict a long-term rise in corporate collaborations, even amongst those previously viewed as competitors, in order to meet the challenges of the future.

One such example is the Death Notification Service (DNS). Any customer experience is heightened if an individual is experiencing tough times and/or is in a state of vulnerability. In dealing with the estate of the deceased, bereaved individuals will need to contact many businesses and organisations and repeat multiple painful conversations.

The Death Notification Service (DNS) provides a self-service portal, where an individual will only once need to inform the online service of the passing of their loved one. The service then acts as a conduit; informing all the other parties (such as banks and building societies) to allow the relevant administration to be actioned.

There is a real need for businesses to treat these individuals with integrity and allow them privacy. Self-service can help.

EQ partners with UK Finance to provide this service (which is free to consumers) and the initiative has been well received. Since its launch in 2019 the DNS has cut out the need for 75,000 phone calls or visits to branches and in 2020 to date, 27,643 people have used it to make 65,903 notifications to the members companies (end July 2020) saving an estimated 12,500 hours.

Projected usage of the service is expected to increase significantly to receive notifications of 20 percent of all UK deaths by the end of 2020 and the service itself has potential to evolve way beyond the financial sector.

Whatever our situation, we all share an appreciation for companies and organisations who can help us quickly, valuing those companies who allow us straightforward interactions with them. Businesses and organisations can work together to make things a little easier for the vulnerable.

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Looking to the future

In this time of consumer need, making the most of self-service is a must, as customers increasingly expect an effortless service across all their interactions.

Improving the digital experience in this way helps the end user and benefits organisations in both the short and long-term. Of course, there’s no substitute for the human touch at certain moments in a customer’s journey, but the individual’s ability to drive their own outcomes is becoming a prerequisite.

Our purpose is to care for every customer and simplify each and every transaction.

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* EQ Credit Services provides a complete end-to-end loan servicing platform which allows individuals to get the quick decision that they need for their online loan application.

** EQ Toplevel is at the ready to support mortgage providers.

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