Since then, various large corporations and conglomerates have decided to train us in the art of self serve.
They say it's what we need, so we can move through lines quicker. It's actually a different way of showing how much they care for customers. No, no, of course it's nothing to do with their bottom line. No, they protest, absolutely no jobs have disappeared.
- Gas pumps
- Automatic teller machines (ATMs)
- Library book checkout
- Supermarket checkouts
- Hardware checkouts
- Buffets in restaurants
- Airline booking including seat selection, luggage check, boarding pass.
It's all very beautiful, but has the human side of lives been lost in the shuffle? And in basic practical terms, how many jobs have been lost?
The last question seems very difficult, if not impossible to answer. The training to “volunteer” and do the work that others did has been slow, gradual and insidious. It correlates exactly with the growth of technology, which most of us love - to a certain extent.
But some of those big conglomerates seem to be slowly learning that the masses want intangibles more than speed and impersonal transactions. There are many complaints about the Walmart self checkouts for instance. People hate them, and hate each other if there are too many items in their cart.
Walmart has thousands of these things in operation now. Sometimes there are no regular tills open, just self service kiosks. So customers dutifully find their own groceries, take them to the self serve, price them, pack them, and carry them out. Research shows in most cases it takes them longer than dealing with a cashier. On principle, I can honestly say, I have never used a self serve checkout in a supermarket.
Banking on customer service
The result was interesting, the local Community Credit Union all of a sudden gained a great number of local accounts, people who’d not really thought about them before. Old bank habits die hard. One of the new accounts was mine.
Yes the credit union has an ATM, and a drive through. But the difference is the Board is composed of local qualified folks. Decisions are local. You can go and see someone any time you want. And if you have a question, and don't want to, or can't get there, there’s Live Chat, and you're talking to someone at the institution, not in some far away country. The staff all take a turn. It's called customer service. Best of all, MY bottom line counts, because I'm a member. I have a share in the business.
There's push back on impersonal transactions, especially in the banking industry. Ever noticed how often mortgage folks in the banks get transferred, just when you got to know them a bit better? That's because their bosses don’t want them to get to know you! After all, that may lead to you asking and being given some slack when you need it. But just like in my case, I'll go somewhere where humans will smile at me, chat a little and I can see how hard they're working for me. I'll never see that with a robot.
Food for thought
Several chain stores have tried the self service approach but ripped them out again when customers simply wouldn't use them as they were supposed to. IKEA is one of them. Although the plan is still festering in the background. They are experimenting with an unusual security traffic-light system in about 1,000 self-checkout lanes in Germany—a trial that began in February, according to a report from Planet Retail. See, robots can't really determine shoplifters a lot of the time!
"Each traffic light is equipped with three lamps: a green, an orange and a red one. If the checkout is not used, all lamps are switched off. As soon as a customer starts to utilize the checkout, the orange lamp lights up and remains activated. Every time the customer scans a product, the green lamp flashes up so employees can see that the customer is scanning items," the report said. "The red light flashes up if assistance is needed. Once the customer has paid, the orange light goes out. If it does not, this means the shopper wants to leave without paying."
Wouldn't that shopping experience make you feel good? IKEA realised that customer service is best when customers have a skilled, seasoned cashier on the till. Robots just can't cut it as far as that’s concerned. Several supermarkets have removed their self service for the same reason.
Who knows where it will all end? Feel free to leave your opinion below.
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Thanks for the visit.
See you Friday.