In the fourth quarter of 2005, Forrester Research conducted a survey of more than 100 companies with annual revenues of $200 million or more. According to Nate Root, the author of the resulting study, one trend became crystal clear: Respondents want to shift more customers to self-service channels like in-store kiosks, telephone systems and the Web.

They also said that they perceive usability improvement as the key method of moving those transactions.

“Companies with significant investments in self-service channels usually have pretty clear metrics on how many customers choose self-serve and how much each of those interactions costs,” said Root in an interview. “So they have good visibility into which types of changes ‘move the needle’ on self-service volume. Their experience trying to move that needle has shown that usability improvements, which are usually relatively cheap and quick to make, are better levers to pull than rewards and loyalty programs, which are usually big, expensive projects.”

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