Getting customers to engage in online self-service is an obvious route to cost reduction for most businesses. It reduces the burden on call centres and high street branches by taking away the need to perform simple administrative tasks which yield little incremental value from, or for, the customer.
In doing so, this frees up staff and resources which can then be employed in other more valuable areas. The added convenience for customers makes online self-servicing a clear ‘win/win’ for both parties.
But cost reduction shouldn’t be the only outcome companies look for when it comes to developing their online service propositions. Get the offering right and the online service environment can be something which delivers real customer value; increasing loyalty and even winning advocacy. This is something which few companies have really tackled and good examples are still few and far between.
One rare example I believe is Trailfinders, a company specialising in tailor -made holidays. I’ll start with a caveat before singing their praises. The Trailfinders public website leaves a lot to be desired. It offers the bare basics in information, ignores social and lacks a great deal of content that could be used to generate purchase conviction. A definite could do better. Book a holiday with them however and your given access to ‘View Trail’ a secure online customer service area which I believe is at the top of its class.
‘View Trail’ succeeds in several areas where other offerings fail. Firstly, it brings together the multi-channel experience in a way that feels like one-to-one personal servicing. Log in to View Trail after booking your holiday at the branch and you are greeted by a picture of the consultant that you have just dealt with, along with their contact details. This feels personal and goes some way to address a customer desire that we have often heard in research, ‘I want it to feel human’. It reassures the customer that they are being dealt with by an individual with knowledge of the booking and that there is a real person to contact if needed.
It also provides value added content that will keep the customer coming back long after the initial booking. By providing destination guides, the ability to book connections and transfers, storage for travel insurance policies, visa information and relevant alerts, Trailfinders succeeds in establishing an ongoing and valued customer relationship that goes beyond the point of sale.
None of these features are really at the cutting edge of technology, nor are they particularly difficult for companies to implement. What they really show is an understanding of what it is that I want as a customer and an understanding of the kind of user experience that will keep me coming back for more.