When automated teller machines (ATMs) were introduced, many customers were wary because they were afraid of errors and uncomfortable interacting with a machine rather than a person. It didn't take long, however, for customers to learn that the convenience of the ATM was too good to resist for a large number of transactions, which allowed banks to change how branches were staffed and open ATMs essentially as micro branches to serve new neighborhoods.
The latest continuation of this trend is the growth in web-based customer self service, allowing customers to find answers to questions and solve problems online rather than on the phone. Most of today's consumers grew up with ATMs and are more comfortable interacting with companies online. They don't like to wait in phone queues or be transferred from one customer support person to another.
Parature, from Microsoft offers a combination of online knowledge base, live chat, and multi-channel customer service. It's the new ATM for today, offering businesses, government agencies and non-profits a new way to interact with people and improve the quality of service.