Self-service in the retail, banking and insurance industries

Charlotte Malz
Head of Marketing, BSI

Speed is one of the key drivers of service quality and customer satisfaction. When they keep their customers waiting too long, companies squander valuable trust. Customer self-service is an essential concept in this context. With customer self-service, industries such as retail, banking or insurance can meet their target groups’ core needs with reasonable personnel costs.

Key points

  • Customers expect their issues to be resolved without waiting – this is where self-service comes in. With self-service, banks, insurers and retailers can increase their service quality significantly.
  • Self-service is not well suited for every request – the rarer or more complex the inquiry, the faster self-service portals reach their limits.
  • Sustainable digital infrastructures are a basic requirement for successful implementations.

Rapid resolutions for hybrid customers: There is no way around customer self-service today

Today’s so-called hybrid customers select various digital or analog channels to contact companies, depending on their preference. They don’t want to be limited to one path to resolution, nor do they want to wait very long. Rather, customers want to get answers to their questions independently and quickly, if possible, and they like to resort to a service employee’s help only when they are in a dilemma.

There are various self-service options available to them:

  • Knowledge bases and FAQs;
  • Chatbots and voicebots;
  • Portals and forums;
  • Customer accounts with functions to manage them and obtain information;
  • Self-service portals;
  • Mobile apps and widgets.


Are you still not sure how to integrate self-service options into your company’s customer experience management? Our white paper illustrates how to design a hybrid customer experience that delights your customers while putting your company in a future-proof position at the same time. Seven steps to a hybrid CX – our white paper explains how to do it.

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Since trust, reputation, and tradition are particularly important in insurance and banking, companies in these industries have been slow to introduce digital tools. Innovative e FinTechs and InsurTechs like to fill the gap. Banks and insurers can rethink their service concept and follow suit with self-service, therefore developing their strengths in the digital environment.

Retailers are uniquely positioned to combine their customers’ experience at their brick-and-mortar or online shops with consultation and service on diversified channels to create a holistic and delightful experience. Self-service is a key component of it.

Did you know? For 75% of customers, fast resolution times are critical for a positive customer experience (SuperOffice, 2020).

Benefits and drawbacks of self-service

Self-service options and portals can be an important customer channel that offers massive added value. But self-service is still only one of many channels. Plus, companies must use it properly.

From the corporate perspective

As soon as you have set up the functionality, it is ready to use without personnel costs, making your service more efficient and cost-effective.

Nevertheless, these self-service options may appear rather inflexible, as they offer little opportunity for follow-up questions or modified responses. This is where integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the processes comes in.

From the customer’s perspective

Your big advantage is that your customers can instantly become active and have plenty of flexibility, giving them a feeling of control and increasing their satisfaction.

However, customer self-service does have logical and technical limits as well. For example, if your customers cannot find the right answer in the FAQs, they will turn to the chatbot. If the chatbot, in turn, cannot help them since their request is too specific, your customer service team will ideally take over.

What self-service is ideal for – and what it is not good for

Self-service is perfect for resolving typical requests and offering low-risk and straightforward options. In addition, it allows your company to provide support outside of business hours.

Self-service does not work well for topics that require great trust, are particularly complex, or come up rarely. For example, customers who want to buy a comprehensive insurance package with specific conditions will need a broad range of options. But self-service offers should not be overloaded with too many response options.

Self Service solves problems: For 37% of customers, getting answers fast is very important, 30% consider an adequate level of knowledge and resources essential, and 24% merely don’t want to have to repeat their request or inquiry (Hiver, 2020).

Self-service requires a flexible IT architecture

You want to offer your customers a seamless, consistent customer experience. The systems in the background provide the prerequisites for this: Excellent service experiences require a powerful and well-thought-out IT infrastructure with all its elements interlocking as seamlessly as possible.

A uniform database

Retailers benefit from data that is always available, from order history to personalized communication. Insurers, on the other hand, need cross-departmental access to customer data, policies and documents. And for banks, secure and complete data is an absolute must and only possible if you uniformly store all customer data on a central platform.

Avoid lock-ins

Design your architecture to be flexible and sustainable. Flexible data platforms facilitate an “on-demand” data exchange and rapid digital innovation. Software solutions like the BSI Customer Suite offer advantages that include the most important functionality and are easily expandable with apps and modules.

Exciting: 71% of bank customers want to be able to interact through multiple channels (McKinsey, 2021).

Self-service in real life

Countless industries do well with self-service, regardless of their products. Here’s what this looks like specifically:

Self-service in retail

Retail customers can independently manage their purchases, invoices and returns. Also included are easy cancellations they can make any time during the day or night. For example, Brack, the retail company, offers customers an easy self-service option for returns, while the Walbusch department store has set up a convenient online account area. Hornbach, the DIY store, proactively answers its customers’ most frequent questions in detailed FAQs.

Insurance company self-service

Insurance customers can file online damage reports and upload the necessary documents. For example, HDI, the insurance company, has a comprehensive service portal available for its customers, while Basler Insurance offers customized online forms for every type of claim. ADAC uses a modular system that walks customers through the damage report step by step. As for channels, insurance companies like diversity there, too: At Basler Versicherungen, customers can get answers to follow-up questions directly through Messenger.

Banking self-service

Bank customers can open new accounts online, apply for loans, suspend cards and remove inadvertent suspensions with little effort.

Hanseatic Bank, for example, has a sophisticated app, while PostFinance leaves no questions unanswered with its FAQs and chatbot.

Conclusion: Actively examine your customer self-service

Self-service is a basic prerequisite for customer satisfaction, especially for common requests. You delight your customers with the flexibility they have gained and the increased convenience. An important prerequisite is a sustainable, digital infrastructure with no lock-in effects. Ideally, communication channels in the hybrid customer experience are designed with self-service options already seamlessly integrated as a natural part of the customer journey. Therefore, if you establish the right self-service for exactly the right customer requests early, your customers get true added value.

Are you interested in finding out how to successfully incorporate self-service options into your hybrid customer experience? We would be happy to share with you our broad-based knowledge about important trends in hybrid CX and our many years of industry experience. We look forward to hearing from you.

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