Customers dislike poor service and inconvenience and hence look for solutions that increase the value of their time. Today customers with more money and less time usually avoid difficult, slow business experiences that involve dealing with intermediaries. They are embracing 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week self-service systems in which they look for information and merchandise without the aid of sales personnel.
Self-service is rapidly forcing change on a huge sector of business, the intermediary or middlemen. E.g. real estate, insurance, travel and car purchase to auctions, parts sourcing, and retailing, very few intermediaries are left standing when buyers and sellers realize they can meet directly online. They are finding fresh opportunities on the Web, and they all will have to change how they do business.
e-Commerce is a big enabler of self-service and market leaders are giving customers the means to serve themselves whenever possible. For instance, the customers of Gateway Computer can assess their needs, then configure order and pay for new systems – in addition to getting limited technical support –without ever having to talk to a person.
Another example of self-service is online-trading. Companies such as E*TRADE and eSchwab make it easy for customers to trade by themselves without the help of a broker. Round-the-clock availability gives customers access to their account anywhere, anytime.
Before self-service can become a reality, a new infrastructure must be built and new protocols must be designed to streamline the process. Integration of processes will be essential for serving the customer well.