Self-Serve: Are We Lovin’ It?

Tracy Borreson on September 14, 2016

We have definitely seen a shift towards self-serve in the past decade - whether that be online travel and hotel bookings, or the fancy new ordering kiosks at McDonald’s. But has this new world, of giving the power back to the consumer, made their lives easier or not?

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite apps:

If you haven’t used the site, then you should know that it’s probably the most effective way I’ve ever booked a hotel (and most bookings were done without any payment AND with free cancellation - just saying). Their hook is to “make it easy”, while having no commitment if you find a better price before the free cancellation date.

By promoting these types of features, they have become a requirement in my experience – an expectation.

So, while trying to search for a hotel in lovely Lake Louise, AB (that’s Canada), I was shocked to find that none of the available hotel options had the free cancellation feature – strike one on my expectation list.

And then, once I found a hotel in nearby Banff that was an acceptable option, I was disappointed to find that the communication between the app and the hotel failed, and my booking was not processed – strike two.

Now, luckily, I have had such a great experience with this app in the past that they had enough points in the bank to convince me to still use them, but the points were dwindling. Here’s the rub – you need to show enough value in your self-serve tool in the first few experiences in order to gain consumer trust.

Let’s look at another example; our favorite fast food chain with their new self-serve kiosks. My historic experience with McDonald’s (McD’s) is that I walk up the front, order a Big Mac Meal with no onions, pay for it, and enjoy; therefore, I would expect my self-serve experience to be the same - if not easier.

Unfortunately, this was not the experience I had. When walking up to the kiosk, I was confused as to whether I had to use it, or if it was just an option. Upon being coached by a lovely McD’s employee, I started with the kiosk, but got confused again – where can I find my Big Mac meal? Do I have to create a custom burger because I don’t like onions? At this point, my experience had become more difficult than my previous experiences, so the brand started to pull from my value bank for the rest of the experience.

Now, I should mention that, I’m pretty good with technology – maybe not the best there is, but I am for sure not the worst. So if that was MY experience, with the self-serve, has McDonald’s really made their overall customer experience better?

The moral of the story really comes down to what we, at SPLICE, have been talking about for the last few months – you must understand your customer journey before making any operational/feature changes.

If you do, you will have customers that are having positive experiences and interactions that continue to add to their value bank which is good for your business. If you do not, you risk losing your all-important current customer base and getting a poor reputation.

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