I’ve been plagued by a question recently: what are the benefits of self service that make the concept actually worth the trouble? I mean, why is self service such a big deal, especially in the digital world? Let’s face it; it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance. We, as a society, are forced to juggle millions of tasks that are all deemed top priority with the expectation of completion yesterday. We all have accounts that need to be accessed to meet these task requirements, and self service can go a long way towards making that goal a reality. It’s not hard to see why, without self-service, when a short cut comes along to ease the burden of everyday life, we immediately pounce on the opportunity. Convenience, I think, is just one of the many benefits of self service, especially online.
Benefits of Self Service – Convenience and Security
Self service wasn’t always about accounts and passwords, though. I recall the days when withdrawing cash from a bank account required standing at the counter of the local bank and filling out a withdrawal slip. The teller smiling as they requested personal identification before handing over the cash. It was an exercise in interaction: it took a minimum of two people for me to get cash out of my account: the teller and myself.
Nowadays ATMs are the preferred method of account withdrawal. A quick human-less interaction that is both convenient and accessible 24×7, which provides the flexibility for us to fit this mundane task in our busy schedules. In a nutshell, this is one of the many benefits of self service – cutting other, somewhat unnecessary elements out of the equation. However, in this example, this convenience comes at a price. As we’ve all seen throughout the past few years, there are not always many safeguards in place for ATMs once someone has stolen your debit card and PIN.
How many times have we pulled into a gas station to fill up after running around all day and briefly thought about going inside to pay? The best of intentions typically leads to a quick swipe of our card at the pump and off we go! Little do you know, you may have just fallen victim to ATM skimming, and the next Amazon shopping spree is on you.
While convenience is one of the major benefits of self service, security is often the price that we must pay for it.
Threading the Needle Between Usability and Security
Every day we are asked to choose between convenience and security. More often than not, we tend to take a left onto Easy Street, even if the neighborhood isn’t always the best. Of course, this dichotomy between convenience and security is not limited just to ATMs and banking, but many of the most common aspects of our digital lives as well. Oftentimes, convenience can even lead to more security risks in the end.
For example, many Colleges and Universities are plagued by students finding convenient short cuts that undermine that security of an IT Department. Writing down passwords, using the same passwords for multiple logins, sharing accounts, and just being a general drain of Help Desk resources to reset a forgotten password are some of the man common problems that IT staff face on a daily basis.
These “acts of convenience” are a huge security risk and can be quite costly to an overall IT budget. This has created an urgent need to reduce a campus’s exposure to potential breaches caused by the student body desire for convenience at any cost. That is one of the typical benefits of self service – threading the needle between security and usability.
Many campuses have never enforced password expiration or adequate password complexity rules in fear of an imminent swarm of password reset calls that will bombard the Help Desk. This is an unnecessary risk that campuses expose themselves to every day. One of the still lesser known benefits of self service is to work towards eliminating this additional risk without uprooting the usability and convenience that end-users have come to expect.
The benefits of self service extend outside of the education vertical to just about any digital arena. Self-service Password Reset, for example, provides individuals in any organization with an easy way to manage or reset a forgotten password – creating peace of mind and increasing user adoption of even more stringent password policy requirements.
The benefits of self-service have come a long way, especially in the digital marketplace. Self service no longer means that you have to sacrifice security. In fact, the benefits of self service are that it only enhances overall security online. It’s really the best of both worlds; when self service is correctly applied to scenarios where usability and security need to play nicely, there’s no reason you can’t have both.