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May 24, 2017

5 Trends in Consumer Demand for Digital Self-Service

Young woman using mobile device, Trends in web self-service

[Estimated read time: 4 minutes]

As customer expectations have changed, brands are feeling external pressure to deliver fast, easy, personalized, and intuitive self-service. Here are five self-service trends your brand must address:

  1. Speed of service is critical to customers
  2. Concept of "normal business hours" has changed
  3. Web sales and web-influenced sales are growing
  4. Liquid expectations are raising the bar
  5. Mobile technology has increased consumer comfort with virtual agents

Read on to learn more about these key trends in consumer demand for self-service options.

1. Speed of service is critical to customers

Customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent

According to Forrester, 77 percent of US consumers say “valuing my time” is the most important part of good online customer service. They’re looking for more than correct answers or a quick response times. They want a consistent experience from their first interaction to the resolution of their issue.

Even though valuing customers’ time is the best way to provide exceptional service, most companies are missing the mark. Three-quarters of customers believe reaching a live agent takes too long, according to a survey from American Express. What’s more, they have high expectations for speed of service. Are you meeting their expectations for responding to emails in four hours or less, social media in an hour, phone calls in two minutes, and live chat in 30 seconds?

2. Concept of “normal business hours” is no longer recognized by customers

In addition to desiring speedy service, consumers now expect constant availability. Whether or not your stores are actually open doesn’t matter – instant messaging, texting, Snapchat, and other elements of our on-demand world have conditioned us to expect immediate responses. Your website is live 24/7, so your customers expect 24/7 service. Especially for e-commerce websites, the customer’s perspective is, “If you can take my money 24 hours a day, you should be available to answer my questions, too.”

3. Web sales and web-influenced sales are growing

Speaking of e-commerce, it’s no secret that more and more customers are making purchases online. Forrester expects that online US retail sales will grow 17% between 2016 and 2018. However, an even larger part of the equation is offline sales that are influenced by online interactions. In 2016, web-influenced offline sales are expected to top purely offline sales for the first time ever to the tune of $1.6 trillion, and increase another 12% between 2016 and 2018. Even if customers are coming to your store to make a purchase, they are going online first. This trend requires that web self-service becomes more useful and more integrated into the customer’s journey.

US retail sales chart

4. Liquid expectations are raising the bar for interactions

Gone are the days where customers would only compare you to your direct competitors. Today’s customer compares you to all brands with which they interact. Accenture refers to this phenomenon as “liquid expectations.” For example, even if Apple’s products don’t compete with yours, customers are comparing your website to Apple.com.

Another example is Delta: if you call them to check on your flight, they identify you using your phone number and provide relevant flight information without requiring any other input from you. But the next time you’re shopping online and start a chat, you’re disappointed when the company doesn’t know who you are and instantly provide relevant information. You wonder, if Delta can do it, why can’t this website do it? Companies need to recognize that customers have liquid expectations, and adopt a broader, more holistic view of how customers interact with the world.

5. Mobile technology has increased consumer comfort with virtual agents

Raise your hand if you have talked to Siri, Google Now, Cortana, or Alexa today. Chances are, most of you have your hands up. The virtual assistants on our mobile devices deliver us relevant, personalized, contextualized answers to our questions. Consumers are comfortable with these intelligent technologies, and have come to expect similar experiences from the brands with which they interact. Customers expect that engaging with the virtual agent on your website will be as easy and relevant as talking to Siri.


These five trends make it clear that customers expect a lot from their web self-service interactions, and it behooves brands in every industry to improve the digital customer experience. For insights on how to achieve excellent self-service, read "7 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience Through Web Self-Service," and check out Astute’s knowledge management software.




[Infographic] Dos and Don'ts of Web Self-Service

Does your customer self-service experience stack up?

Check Out the Infographic