What is Self Service? Best practices and application examples

Ralph Bockisch
Ralph Bockisch
EcholoN Blog Customer Self-Service - What is Self Service? Definition, Best Practices - EcholoN

Self-service, a practice that enables customers and users to utilise services and information without direct assistance from others. It has evolved from a simple concept to an integral part of our daily lives in the customer journey. This introduction looks at the definition and origins of the self-service concept, its evolution over the years and its current importance and relevance in society.

Definition and origin of the self-service concept

Self-service refers to the practice of customers or users independently accessing products, information or services without the need for staff to provide or assist them. The concept originally emerged in the USA in the early 20th century, when Clarence Saunders opened the first self-service shop "Piggly Wiggly" in 1916. Saunders' innovative idea revolutionised retail by making the shopping process more efficient and giving customers more freedom and control over their purchases. The basic idea of self-service has since expanded and developed across different industries and technologies.

The evolution of self-service over the years

The evolution of self-service is closely linked to technological progress. From simple self-service shops to retail self-checkouts to online banking and virtual assistants, technology has exponentially expanded the access and availability of self-service options. In the 1980s and 1990s, the proliferation of computers and the advent of the internet led to a further surge in the development of self-service tools and technologies. Today, mobile apps, AI-driven chatbots and cloud platforms enable a seamless self-service experience in almost every aspect of our lives across multiple channels, from ordering groceries and banknotes to managing insurance and contract documents.

Importance and relevance of self-service in today's society

In our fast-paced world, self-service has opened up a new dimension of convenience and efficiency. The ability to access services and information independently and on demand meets the modern consumer's desire for autonomy and speed. In addition, self-service helps companies to work more efficiently by saving resources and freeing up staff so that they can concentrate on more complex tasks. In times of digitalisation and technological change, self-service plays a crucial role in designing accessible, user-friendly and sustainable services and products that meet both consumer and operational needs.

To summarise, the introduction and evolution of the self-service concept is having a significant impact on the way we interact, shop and do business. Its relevance in today's society emphasises the ongoing shift towards more efficient, customer-centric solutions that both improve the quality of life for individuals and promote the success of businesses.

Basics of self-service

The term self-service covers a wide range of applications and technologies that enable users to perform tasks and services independently without direct human interaction. These self-service options not only offer convenience for the user, but also help companies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The basics of self-service, including its definition and different types, are explained in detail below.

Definition of self-service

Self-service refers to any system or technology that allows individuals to perform services and tasks themselves without the help of staff or third parties. This can range from simple tasks such as selecting products in a supermarket to more complex processes such as online tax returns. The core idea of self-service is to give users the control and flexibility to fulfil their needs in an efficient way, with a focus on ease of use and accessibility.
Different types of self-service

Self-checkout in retail

Retail self-checkout systems allow customers to scan and pay for their purchases without the assistance of checkout staff. These systems reduce waiting times and increase efficiency in the checkout area, while providing customers with a faster and often more enjoyable shopping experience, improving the customer experience.

Online banking

Online banking allows customers to carry out financial transactions such as bank transfers, account enquiries and bill payments over the internet. This form of self-service offers unparalleled convenience and availability, as customers can manage their financial transactions anytime, anywhere, without having to visit a bank branch.

Self-service portals for customers and employees

A self-service portal provides a centralised platform where customers and employees can access various services and information. For customers, this can include managing subscriptions, submitting support tickets to Customer Service or retrieving product information. Employee portals make it possible to submit holiday requests, update personnel information or utilise training resources.

EcholoN Service Portal as a central platform for customer and user service

The EcholoN SelfService Portal offers you tools and many options to optimise your customer service in line with your requirements and needs. From the simple provision of a centralised intelligent search function to FAQ pages, the multidimensional and associative knowledge database or AI chatbots for the digital interactive exchange of answers and solutions. The EcholoN service portal as a central platform for customers and users.

Virtual assistants and chatbots

Virtual assistants and chatbots use artificial intelligence to help users with recurring and common queries via text or voice input. They can be used in a variety of areas, including customer service, product recommendations or technical support, and offer fast and personalised interactions.

These different types of self-service technologies reflect the diversity and flexibility of the concept. By automating common routine tasks and giving users control over their interactions, they play a crucial role in improving the customer experience and increasing operational efficiency.

EcholoN Blog Customer Self-Service - Advantages of Self-Service

Advantages of Self-Service

The implementation of self-service technologies offers a range of benefits for both users and companies. These range from increased efficiency and time savings to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, reduced operating costs and increased availability of information and services. These benefits are explained in detail below.

Increased efficiency and time savings

Self-service options automate standard transactions and processes, which leads to a significant increase in efficiency. For example, self-checkout in retail or online banking allows customers to complete transactions faster without having to wait for staff to be available. These self-service options reduce waiting times and allow users to complete tasks on their own schedule and without time constraints, resulting in significant time savings.

Improving customer satisfaction and loyalty

By offering self-service options to their customers, organisations enable a more autonomous and often more satisfying experience. Customers appreciate the flexibility and control they get from self-service, which leads to higher satisfaction. This positive experience can strengthen customer loyalty, as satisfied customers are more likely to remain loyal to a company and use its services or products again.

Reducing operating costs for companies

Self-service technologies can help companies to reduce their operating costs. By automating routine tasks, such as cashiering or answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) through chatbots, companies can save on human resources or utilise them more effectively. These cost savings can then be invested in other areas of the company, such as improving products or services.

Round-the-clock availability and accessibility of information and services

Self-service technologies enable almost unlimited availability and accessibility of information and services. Customers can access services such as online banking, information portals or customer support at any time of the day or night. This round-the-clock availability not only fulfils modern consumers' expectations of constant accessibility, but also improves the overall customer experience by making it easier to access the information and services they need.

To summarise, self-service technologies are a win-win situation for customers and companies. Not only do they improve efficiency and customer satisfaction, but they also help to reduce costs and make services more accessible. These benefits make self-service an indispensable part of modern business strategies and customer service offerings.

Challenges and solutions in self-service

Although self-service offers many benefits, there are also challenges that organisations need to address to ensure an effective and secure self-service experience. These challenges include security concerns, data protection, the digital divide, ease of use, integration with existing systems and the provision of training and support for end users. These challenges and possible solutions are described in detail below.

Security concerns and data protection

With the increase in online transactions and the storage of personal data in self-service portals, security concerns are also growing. Companies need to ensure that this data is protected against unauthorised access and cyber attacks.

How can this be counteracted?
Implementing robust security protocols, such as two-factor authentication, regular security audits and data encryption, can help to increase security. Companies should also educate their customers on safe practices when handling their personal information.

The digital divide and user-friendliness

Not all users have the necessary technical skills or access to technology required to utilise self-service. This can lead to a digital divide that penalises certain groups.

What can be done?
To bridge this gap, organisations can develop simple and intuitive interfaces and offer alternative ways to access self-service, such as telephone hotlines or physical kiosk systems. It is also important to provide user guidance and assistance to improve the user experience.

Integration of self-service technologies into existing systems

Integrating self-service technologies into existing business systems can be complex, especially if these systems are outdated or were not designed for integration.

What is a possible approach?
Thorough planning and evaluation of existing systems is essential to identify and resolve compatibility issues. The use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and the choice of modular self-service solutions that are easily customisable can facilitate integration.

Training and support for end users

Some users need additional support to familiarise themselves with new self-service technologies and use them effectively.

Companies can provide comprehensive training programmes and easily accessible support resources, such as online tutorials, FAQs and live chat support. By ensuring that help is available when it is needed, organisations can drive adoption of self-service technologies and ensure a positive user experience.

By addressing these challenges and implementing proactive solutions, companies can maximise the benefits of self-service while ensuring a secure, accessible and user-friendly experience for all users.

Technologies behind self-service

Providing efficient and user-friendly self-service options is made possible by a range of advanced technologies. From artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to mobile technologies, apps, self-service kiosks and cloud-based solutions, these technologies form the backbone of modern self-service systems. The key technologies and their areas of application in the field of self-service are described in detail below.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are core components of many self-service technologies, especially in the development of chatbots and virtual assistants. These systems can understand and respond to customer queries and learn to improve their responses over time. AI and ML also enable personalised recommendations and support automated data analysis to gain insights that help to further improve the customer experience.

Mobile technologies and apps

Mobile technologies and apps have significantly simplified and expanded access to self-service services. Users can bank, book travel, order groceries and perform many other transactions directly from their smartphone or tablet. These apps not only offer convenience, but also features such as notifications and geolocalisation that further enhance the customer experience.

Self-service kiosks and vending machines

Self-service kiosks and vending machines are physical stations that are used in a variety of environments, from retail shops to airports. They allow users to purchase products or tickets, check in or retrieve information without human interaction. These kiosks are particularly useful in high-volume environments and can increase efficiency by reducing queues and enabling fast transactions.

On-premise, cloud-based or hybrid solutions and platforms

On-premise solutions are installed locally on the company's servers and are managed internally. They offer full control over the infrastructure and data, which can be advantageous for companies with strict data protection requirements.

Cloud-based solutions are hosted by a third-party provider and delivered over the internet. They offer high scalability and flexibility as resources can be customised as required.

Hybrid solutions combine elements of both approaches by providing certain services in the cloud while sensitive data is stored on-premise to fulfil security and compliance requirements.

Comparison of the advantages and disadvantages

On Premise:

  • Advantages: Complete control and security; no reliance on internet connections.
  • Disadvantages: Initial investment due to lack of local infrastructure; possible limited scalability due to lack of local infrastructure; requires local IT team

Cloud based:

  • Advantages: Lower upfront costs; scalability; automatic updates and maintenance by the provider.
  • Disadvantages: Dependence on provider; internet connection; potential privacy and security concerns.


  • Advantages: Flexibility of use; security of sensitive data while utilising cloud benefits.
  • Disadvantages: Can be complex to set up and manage; may require investment in both infrastructures.

The choice between on-premise, cloud-based or hybrid solutions depends on your organisation's specific requirements, resources, goals and use cases. While cloud-based solutions are valued for their flexibility and cost efficiency, organisations may prefer an on-premise or hybrid approach for security or compliance reasons. The decision should include careful consideration of the pros and cons of each, as well as the long-term strategic goals of the organisation.

By combining these technologies, organisations can develop powerful, intuitive and efficient self-service solutions that meet the expectations of modern users. By continually investing in these technologies and adapting them to the changing needs of customers, organisations can increase customer satisfaction and gain a competitive advantage in their industry.

Future trends in self-service

The self-service sector is constantly evolving, driven by technological innovations and changing consumer expectations. In the near future, several trends are emerging that have the potential to fundamentally change the way organisations offer and customers use self-service solutions. Four major trends and their potential impact on the self-service market are discussed below.

Personalisation and customer-specific experiences

The increasing use of AI and machine learning in self-service will enable greater personalisation of the customer experience. Future self-service technologies will be able to recognise individual preferences and behavioural patterns and offer tailored recommendations and solutions based on these. This personalisation will not only be limited to product suggestions, but will also extend to the adaptation of communication styles and the provision of individual support options.

Voice-controlled interfaces and virtual reality

Voice-controlled interfaces and virtual reality (VR) are increasingly being integrated into self-service applications. Voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant already make it possible to use a variety of services without manual input. In the future, VR technologies could be used in self-service environments to offer customers immersive and interactive experiences, be it trying on clothes virtually or exploring travel destinations in 3D.

Integration of social media and self-service

Social media platforms will play an increasingly important role in self-service by acting as an interface for customer interactions and support. Companies are already using chatbots on platforms such as Facebook Messenger to handle customer enquiries. In the future, integration could go even deeper, with seamless transitions between social media channels and business services to create a cohesive customer experience.

Sustainability and eco-friendly self-service options

Sustainability is becoming a key concern for businesses and customers. In the area of self-service, this means developing solutions that are not only efficient and user-friendly, but also minimise environmental impact. This could include promoting digital instead of physical options, utilising eco-friendly materials in the manufacture of self-service kiosks or implementing energy-efficient technologies.

These future trends point to an exciting development in self-service, with the potential to both increase customer satisfaction and optimise business operations. By adapting to these trends, organisations can not only meet the needs of their customers, but also contribute to a more sustainable and technologically advanced future.

EcholoN Blog Customer Self-Service - Tips for implementing self-service solutions

Tips for implementing self-service solutions

Successful implementation of self-service solutions requires careful planning and strategy. To help companies do this, we've put together some basic tips that include best practices for choosing the right technologies, optimising the user experience, ensuring scalability and flexibility, and measuring effectiveness and ROI.

Best practices for choosing the right self-service technologies

  • Needs analysis: Identify the specific needs and requirements of your organisation and your customers before deciding on a technology.
  • Market research: Investigate available self-service technologies and evaluate them for functionality, integration, ease of use and security features.
  • Pilot projects: Conduct pilot projects to test the performance and acceptance of the selected technologies in a controlled environment.
  • Vendor evaluation: Choose vendors that not only offer technologically advanced solutions, but can also guarantee reliable support and service.

The role of user experience (UX) in self-service design

  • User-centred design: Develop self-service solutions with a clear focus on the user experience to ensure they are intuitive and easy to use.
  • Feedback loops: Implement mechanisms to collect regular feedback from users and use this to continuously improve the UX.
  • Accessibility: Ensure that your self-service solutions are accessible and usable for all users, including people with disabilities.
  • Personalisation: Provide personalised experiences based on user preferences and behaviour to increase engagement rates.

Ensure the scalability and flexibility of self-service solutions

  • Future-proof: Choose technologies that can be easily scaled and adapted to keep pace with the growth of your business and changing market demands.
  • Modular systems: Favour modular and integrable systems that allow new features and services to be added without extensive overhauls.
  • On-premise, cloud-based or hybrid solution: Use the solution that best suits your use case. This can be a cloud-based solution, an on-premise solution or a hybrid solution that covers the advantages of both worlds.

Measuring the effectiveness and ROI of self-service initiatives

  • Performance indicators: Establish clear key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the performance of your self-service solutions, e.g. usage rates, customer satisfaction and average handling times.
  • Continuous analysis: Use data and analyses to gain insights into user behaviour and the efficiency of self-service processes.
  • ROI calculation: Determine the return on investment (ROI) of your self-service initiatives by weighing the cost savings and productivity gains against the investment.

By following these tips, organisations can successfully implement and manage self-service solutions that not only meet the needs of their customers, but also help increase efficiency and reduce costs.


Summary and conclusion

The implementation and further development of self-service technologies has increased significantly in recent years, driven by technological progress and changing consumer expectations. This development has brought significant benefits for both businesses and consumers, including efficiency gains, improved customer experiences and cost savings. Below we summarise the key findings on self-service, consider its ongoing impact and look to the future.

Summary of key insights on self-service

Self-service technologies offer users the ability to utilise services independently, resulting in significant efficiency gains and time savings. These technologies cover a wide range of applications, from self-checkout systems and online banking to virtual assistants and hybrid solutions. They have proven to be essential in improving customer satisfaction and loyalty by providing convenient, personalised and always-on services.

The ongoing impact of self-service on businesses and consumers

For companies, the use of self-service technologies means more efficient use of resources and a reduction in operating costs. At the same time, it enables better scalability and flexibility in the provision of services. For consumers, self-service brings increased control and convenience by allowing them to utilise services on their own schedule and according to their personal preferences.

Outlook on the future of self-service

The future of self-service looks promising, with trends such as further personalisation, the integration of voice control and virtual reality, and an increased focus on sustainability and eco-friendly options. The ongoing development of AI and machine learning will continue to drive the capabilities of self-service technologies to create even more intuitive and user-friendly experiences. In addition, the increasing adoption of mobile technologies and hybrid solutions will ensure that self-service services become even more accessible and flexible.

Overall, self-service technologies are expected to continue to have a significant impact on the way organisations operate and how consumers interact with them. By adapting to changing technologies and consumer needs, companies can not only increase efficiency and customer satisfaction, but also secure a sustainable competitive advantage in their industry.

Solution: EcholoN Self-Service Portal | Service Portal