The front page of USA today announced something that I told you, my loyal readers about nearly 6 years ago – that supermarkets are beginning to trust their customers. There are more and more self check-out tills going in to supermarkets all over the USA and the UK.
The fundamental principal that sits behind this is one is easy. If you trust your customers then they can just check themselves out, rather than paying people to swipe something over a scanner.
I first broke this story several years ago in the UK when my local store started handing out scanners. That way I could just scan my goods as I picked them off the shelf and then put them straight in my bag. Flying through checkout at the end. Brilliant.
That’s not the story; the real story is how some stores are actually taking this technology out.
Why remove technology? And what are they replacing it with? People!
Yup, people are making a comeback. Companies are trying to differentiate themselves on service and to do that you need people.
The problem for me is this; the spotty diffident youths of today have forgotten how to serve. As a direct result this, the whole service thing could fall flat on its face.
The other day, I was checking myself out in a Stop and Shop in the USA and an item triggered an alert. This required a spotty oik to come and reset the machine. He grunted in my general direction, scanned something and then disappeared back to the conversation that he had been having before the machine so rudely interrupted him.
This morning I was ordering coffee from a hole in the wall drive through. The speaker blurted out a string of monotone sounds, which I slowly deciphered as English. Having ordered my coffee, I pulled around to overhear a conversation from the two year old teller saying “he thinks I am Jose, why does he think that?” about the customer behind me. Perhaps because you try so hard to sound the same?
I believe that customer service is the future, I am sure of it. The more that people rip service out of the system, the more I believe there is a market for service.
BUT, you need people that understand service to carry out these roles, and that is becoming a rarer and rarer commodity. The days of people considering that great service is an art have gone and these days, spotty oiks go to universities and leave with dreams of being video technicians, journalists or multimedia engineers. How’s that working out for them?
We should be teaching people great customer service. It’s a dying art.
Ian Hughes is the CEO of Consumer Intelligence, a market research company that is dedicated to helping its customers make intelligent decisions using the best possible insight.