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Help Yourself

Customer self-service is finally catching on with consumers — and saving businesses a bundle in the process.

Nevertheless, over time, customers not only come to accept self-service, they usually end up demanding it. Forty years ago, who would have thought that drivers would willingly pump their own gas, or that shoppers would gladly ring up their items at the grocery store? What’s more, as the technology of self-service grows increasingly sophisticated, the difference between automated support and human assistance will undoubtedly narrow. “The ultimate goal,” insists Cousins, “is to make human and machine support virtually indistinguishable from each other.”

That goal, like the digitized voice on the other end of the phone, is getting closer to reality all the time.

John Edwards is a freelance writer in Gilbert, Arizona, and a frequent contributor to CFO.

The Self-service Economy
Web self-service and interactive voice response are cheaper than live reps.
High Low Average*
Web self-service $5.00 $0.25 $0.50
Basic E-mail 42.00 2.00 4.50
Automated E-mail 28.00 1.50 2.50
Web chat 57.00 3.00 7.50
Automated chat (IM) 27.00 4.50 5.25
IVR 12.00 0.85 1.85
Telephone $28.00 $2.50 $4.50
Source: Gartner
*Customer-support costs per incident

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