Ever more self-service experiences are being offered in our physical and digital lives, but it takes surprising skill to get them right.
Self-service is usually pitched as cheaper, faster, and more convenient.
However, the fact that enterprises can digitise their business processes does not mean that their customers will willingly embrace self-service.
According to research by Harvard University, 15 years ago fewer than 0.1 percent of US households had booked an airline ticket online.
Today it would be difficult to find a household in a developed economy that had not tried doing so at least once.
After a slow start, what transformed the online travel experience was the fun factor: the ability to play out the what-ifs, the last-minute options, and the mad-money escapes.
The experience in other areas has been different. Last week the OECD asked Ovum to speak to the leaders of various national tax administrations about the digital transformation of small businesses.
“We have spent a lot of time and money on making our portal attractive and easy to use,” confided one executive representing a country of more than 60 million taxpayers.
“But we’re not finding much uptake - people are still relying on intermediaries to file.”
Ovum’s analysis of often-fickle digital behaviour suggests that this experience is common. What often motivates us - in physical or virtual contexts - are the differing sensations of pleasure and fear.
So where does cloud computing fit? For many organisations, it remains scary. Amazon Web Services (AWS), perhaps the biggest proponent of self-service clouds, is now allying with Accenture to offer hands-on consulting and migration services.
Google is boosting its Google for Work indirect channel targeting SMEs and recently launched a partner financing scheme with the UK bank Barclays.
The cloud market is changing in many ways. The US–EU Safe Harbor agreement that US cloud providers used to self-certify that they could legally process EU citizens’ digital data is now invalid.
This realigns competition, notably in public cloud services, where few have been able to rival the US mega vendors. Deutsche Telekom recently announced a bid to rival AWS’s cloud services using Huawei technology and Ovum is aware of other European telcos planning similar initiatives.
How they sell will be critical to success. An Ovum survey of 135 telcos worldwide found that only one in 10 had generated 5 percent or more of their cloud service revenues via self-service rather than facilitated or direct sales.
As the cloud mega vendors start to invest more in on-the-ground partnerships, telcos are finding ways to solve their cloud cost equation.
They should be sure that this is not at the expense of the personal touch.
By Camille Mendler - Research Analyst, Ovum