Sunday, January 13, 2008
Like Daily Biz, I've been mulling over Toad's trend predictions and came up with one to add to his list:
#7- Return of Service to Customer Service
I was grocery shopping the other day and the clerk at the register discontinued her (loud) conversation with the clerk in the next aisle, made eye contact with me and asked how I was--for which I felt inordinately grateful.
Since coming of age in an era when waiters did curb-service and elevator ladies in white gloves opened gates in dept. stores, I've downsized my expectations again and again until now I anticipate almost no service from service workers. (The nice clerk's bagger was busy deciding what to order for lunch, so naturally I bagged the groceries myself.)
Perhaps service workers get away with almost anything these days because they are an endangered species. It used to be pumping your own gas would save you a buck and you could make the choice to pump it yourself or not depending on how energetic (or strapped) you were feeling. Now, self-service is usually the only option, and even when full-service is offered, it's inexplicably the same price, unless you count not having to tip. (Exception: it's illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey and Oregon--not sure what this says about lawmakers' view of constituents there.)
Once gas pumping went manual, banks began doing away with tellers. ATMs weren't popular at first--people were scared machines might issue wrong amounts of money, or they'd be robbed by passersby who'd push them aside on the sidewalk and grab the cash being excreted. A friend in the business worked on a bank in the 80s that decided their strategic point of difference would be no ATM's. Headline: Would you rather deal with a human or a machine? Needless to say, the bank went out of business. But now might be prime time for it to make a resurgence: ever try to get a cashier's check or deposit a big payout at one of those ATM-only branches?
I bet I'm not the only consumer weary of superstores making me check out my own stuff or airlines refusing to let me talk to an attendant before dealing first with a kiosk. I predict that consumers will begin to fight back, insist on service that's been lacking of late, even if they have pay a bit more for it. And, in a culture where social status is inexorably linked to monetary value, customer service might transform into a noble profession.
CS professionals might take a lesson from ad grunts who have been servicing customers with a smile for years. Another revision? Want that with fries?