Consumers Demanding More Self-Service

And intrigued by concept of "mobile wallet," surveys show

DAYTON, Ohio -- As more North American consumers use self-service in their everyday lives, the latest research from self-service technology and solutions provider NCR Corp. shows that an increasing percentage of individuals actually favor businesses that offer "do-it-myself" options.

The third annual NCR Self-Service Consumer survey, conducted by BuzzBack Market Research, revealed that 86% of U.S. and Canadian consumers say they are more likely to do business with a company that offers the flexibility to interact using self-service—whether via the Internet, on a mobile device or [image-nocss] at a kiosk or ATM. That's an increase of 11% over those who gave the same response in last year's study. Moreover, 56% say their likelihood to use self-service has increased over the past year.

"These survey results are symbolic of what lies ahead for self-service," said Bill Nuti, chairman and CEO of Dayton, Ohio-based NCR. "The self-service revolution is real: consumers demand it, businesses depend on it. Whether we are banking, shopping, traveling or interacting with a healthcare provider, more of us look for, and expect, self-service as an 'essential convenience' that improves our overall experience. Businesses and governments have only one choice, and that's to offer more self-service alternatives—and to offer them across a spectrum of channels, including online, mobile and point of service."

In addition to being more likely to do business with enterprises offering self-service, 66% of the survey respondents say the availability of self-service technologies creates a more positive perception of the deployer's brand.

"These factors—'likelihood to do business' and 'brand perception'—together have important implications for customer loyalty, which certainly deserves to be a key criteria for any organization's self-service strategy," Nuti added.

The survey also shows that consumers clearly value the ability to use a combination of self-service channels—their PDA or cell phone, the Internet and touchpoints such as ATMs or kiosks—to improve their overall experience. For retail transactions, 97% surveyed would use a combination of such self-service channels to handle a transaction or service. The findings are similar for banking (95%), travel and hotel (94%) and healthcare (89%).

Speed, convenience and ease of use are identified most frequently by respondents when asked why they would choose self-service over personal assistance in each of four industry sectors:

Financial (faster, 70%; more convenient, 67%; easier, 52%); Retail (faster, 68%; more convenient, 64%; easier, 52%); Travel (faster, 63%; more convenient, 61%; easier, 60%). Healthcare (faster, 53%; more convenient, 50%; easier, 47%).

Among other factors consumers cite as reasons for choosing self-service are heightened privacy and greater control. This is especially the case in the healthcare industry, where 46% of respondents say privacy is a priority for their interest in using self-service.

According to Nuti, these consumer findings suggest that despite accelerating adoption of self-service across a variety of industries, the true potential of the technology may still be untapped in many cases. "Businesses that will profit most from deploying self-service solutions are those that go beyond viewing it as simply task automation," Nuti said. "The real payoff begins when enterprises use self-service to re-engineer their business processes and customer service delivery and, ultimately, to transform their business models."

Separately, a new Harris Interactive study finds that mobile phone users are increasingly comfortable making banking and purchase transactions while on-the-go. The survey finds 16% of mobile phone subscribers already use mobile banking services, with 60% of these people using the services at least once a week. Many others presently not banking and buying on-the-go expressed interest in mobile banking, with 35% open to checking bank account balances and transferring funds via their mobile devices. A third of those surveyed (33%) also said they would like to receive text message alerts from their financial institutions.

The survey also finds that on-the-go mobile purchases are on the rise. About 25% of mobile phone users with mobile access to the Internet now use their devices to buy goods and services online via a credit card. One in five respondents (20%) said they would like to someday use their phones like a "mobile wallet", where charges would be billed directly to their mobile accounts. In addition, ten% of the survey participants said they would consider wire transfers and stock trading via their mobile phones.

"Today's mobile devices are the springboard for a whole raft of services, with huge pent-up demand for mobile commerce capabilities," said Joseph Porus, vice president of Rochester, N.Y.-based Harris Interactive. "If security concerns can be quelled, the sky's the limit with consumer acceptance of mobile banking and purchase transactions. It's a very intriguing prospect for the near future, considering how people have already embraced a variety of mobile technologies beyond simple phone communications."

Among those surveyed, the biggest barrier affecting consumer acceptance of mobile banking and commerce is security concerns over personal data. Two-thirds (66%) of those interviewed express apprehension about using their mobile phone to transmit sensitive financial information. Nearly the same percentage, (63%) report fears about this medium exposing them to potential fraud and financial scams. And 61% also worry about losing a mobile phone containing personal financial information. Other consumer concerns with mobile commerce include questions about usability (43%), reliability (37%) and the speed of the wireless network (23%).

"While the survey indicates people have concerns associated with using mobile devices for financial transactions, it's similar to the evolution of the Internet as a viable tool for banking and buying," Porus said. "We expect mobile technology to only improve and become even more secure in the coming years. This should ease people's fears and make mobile commerce appealing in the future."

Click hereto view selected Harris Interactive Technology Report 2008 research associated with mobile commerce.