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CRM: Customer Self-Service Systems

15 January, 2016 - 09:50

In THE “ORDER-TO-CASH” PROCESS: PART I, MARKETING AND SALES (M/S)  we saw customer relationship management (CRM) systems and how they can be used to improve customer management and service during the M/S process. We extend that discussion here by looking at another common feature of CRM systems—customer self-service systems. A customer self-service system is an Information Systems extension that allows a customer to complete an inquiry or perform a task within an organization’s business process without the aid of the organization’s employees.

Banks were probably the first industry to implement such systems on a broad base with the introduction of automated teller machines (ATMs). ATMs allow a customer to withdraw cash, make deposits, transfer funds between accounts, and so forth, without the help of a teller. Another place where similar added convenience has become widespread is the so-called “pay-at-the-pump” system for purchasing gasoline. In many cases, a human worker is not even required on-site, as a set of gasoline pumps are provided on location and purchases are made with either credit or debit cards. Telephone systems through which the customer selects options and enters account information with number keys are a common self-service application.


Internet systems that provide access to customers are now the norm in many industries. While these systems tend to take customers about as much time to use as telephone-based systems, studies show that consumers prefer Internet-based systems to the much-maligned phone-based systems. Internet-based systems also bring much more capability to systems. For instance, delivery companies (i.e., FedEx, UPS, etc.) now allow users to connect through the Internet and identify where their package is currently located, and if delivered, who signed for it.

A major benefit of these systems arises from the interconnection of customer self-service systems with enterprise systems. In some companies, customers can now check on their orders as they progress through the manufacturing process or even check on inventory availability before placing orders. Some of the more advanced systems also let customers check production planning for future manufacturing to determine if goods will be available at the time they will be needed.


Why are companies so interested in customer-self service systems and willing even to allow access to information in their internal systems? Quite simply, the payback on such systems is huge because of the reduced number of people needed to staff customer call centers. Reduction of staffing needs for call centers counterbalances the high human turnover in such centers, a result of boredom associated with the job.

Review Question

Why are customer self-service systems generally helpful in cutting customer service costs?