Local ShoppingThe Evolution of Self-Service Tools

The Evolution of Self-Service Tools

The retail industry has undergone a significant transformation, shifting the focus toward digital customer service, marked by investments to provide self-service tools for customers. Self-service options have become increasingly popular among consumers, who are more comfortable than ever with technology, favoring autonomy in resolving their own inquiries and issues.

These prominent retail trends will shape the industry’s future. With the rise of technology and the growing demand for self-service tools, businesses must adapt and invest in providing these options to their customers. The shift toward digital customer service is here to stay, and retailers must keep ahead of the curve to meet the evolving demands of their customers.

This transition from traditional in-person customer service to digital self-service highlights these three key Retail Trends: 

  1. Customer Autonomy: Today’s customers include a mix of digital natives and digital immigrants who want to manage their service needs themselves. Ellie Crawford of Manhattan Associates states, “They don’t want to interact with an agent to change a shipping address, cancel an order, or track a shipment.” The need for independence and speed has encouraged companies to invest in tools that allow customers to perform these tasks independently.
  2. Reducing Routine Requests and Enhancing Efficiency: Retailers and customer service agents often get overwhelmed with routine requests such as “Where is my order?” or “Can you cancel this?” By providing self-service tools, businesses can free up their agents to handle more complex tasks that require human intervention, leading to increased efficiency of customer service operations. When customers can handle their issues independently, it reduces the strain on customer service agents and decreases the costs of maintaining large support teams.
  3. Eliminating Friction and Increasing Retention: When digital self-service becomes native to order management, friction is reduced for both customer and associate, relationships are improved, and both employee retention and customer loyalty increase. 

Retailers must now make interactions between customers and brands easier. I interviewed Crawford, the Senior Director of Product Management of Manhattan Associates, and she shared some exciting new possibilities and Retail Trends due to technological advancements and consumer expectations.

“Our unique Enterprise Order Management includes digital self-service that customers can use to help themselves, so there’s no need for associates to take on these simple tasks like tracking shipments or canceling items,” she said.

“With Manhattan’s digital self-service, customers and staff see the same updates about orders, making things more transparent and honest. Companies prefer to let customers see their order details so that they can answer their questions, and they are happy to make this happen.”

>>Watch the interview below<<


Crawford continued, “This digital customer service shift caters to the new breed of customers who prefer immediate resolution of their issues without waiting in line or having an agent call them back. These customers, often digitally native, value resolving their issues instantly on their own devices. 

“Digital customer service is no longer about managing issues but empowering customers and driving engagement. It’s about moving from reactive to proactive customer service. As more retailers realize this, the trend toward self-service tools will continue to grow, shaping the future of digital customer service.”

Here are six benefits of digital customer service:

1. On-demand Order Tracking and Last-minute Edits

A few years back, the primary digital offering was just order tracking, letting consumers know where their shipment was. Although simple, the ability to create a return or exchange on demand was groundbreaking. Fast forward to 2023, the basics of e-commerce have expanded to include a suite of self-service features that give customers greater control over their purchasing and returns experience.

2. Unique Features for BOPIS Orders

Crawford shared that the unique level of control they provide to customers for Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) orders sets Manhattan Associates apart. Customers can choose someone else to pick up the order, extend the time for pick up, or change the order to a shipment if the customer can’t come to the store.

“This is important because it solves a common issue for retailers—customers not showing up to collect their orders. Instead of losing sales when orders are not picked up, retailers can now offer to ship the product directly to the customer. This reduces losses and makes customers happier,” said Crawford.

3. Turning ‘No’ into ‘Yes’ with Ship it Ahead

When a store is out of stock, instead of sending an impersonal “out of stock” email, retailers can now check inventory across their store network and offer to ship the item to the customer. This proactive approach eliminates dead-end experiences and keeps the customer engaged, increasing the chances of a sale. It also gets the customer their merchandise while it is still fresh and not marked down or discounted.

4. Reversing the Logistics

Stores initially designed only to receive the merchandise and then sell it back to customers are now encouraging returns to the store. This strategy drives store traffic, offers upselling opportunities, and reduces return shipping costs.

And that’s important as a simple online return of a $50 pair of jeans can cost a retailer $33 to return online.

The ability to process returns in-store can save retailers significant money. The idea is to get customers into the store, and if the returned product is in good condition, it can be resold there or bulk shipped back to the distribution center, further reducing costs.

5. Transforming Clearance Items into Revenue

Often seen as less desirable, clearance items can also become revenue sources. Crawford shared that with Manhattan Active Omni, online orders can be routed to be shipped from the store with clearance items in stock. By doing so, retailers can avoid marking down items at the distribution center and instead sell the clearance items at a higher price, increasing revenue.

6. Improving the Return Experience

A bad returns experience can deter a customer from shopping with a retailer again. To prevent this, retailers must provide transparent and straightforward return policies. Free returns, expedited refunds, free exchanges, and self-service returns can all serve as selling points to reassure customers and encourage purchases.

Transparency is also crucial regarding pricing, shipping, and even carbon footprints. In the future, we may see the carbon footprint of next-day delivery vs. waiting a few days right on the checkout window.

In Sum

The future of retail is about good digital customer service that can reduce friction and increase transparency. Retailers can improve their service and profitability by offering customer-centric features to help themselves.

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