Looking Forward from the Service Museum
A quick trip to any museum not only provides an interesting picture of yesteryear, it reveals an instructive barometer on the ways we have changed. What would be the artifacts and displays in a Service Museum? And what would it tell us about the ways customers have changed?
In the not too distant past, retail stores had sales clerks on the floor (not just at the register), grocery stores had bakers, elevators had operators, gas stations had a mechanic, and mail-order catalogues were all-purpose and not specialty. Stores had layaway plans and returns clerks; banks had signature loans. Doctors made house calls and treated whatever malady they encountered.
What has changed? Obviously, there has been a dramatic push toward self-service. But, there has also been a swing toward reliance on specialists. We often hear “we don’t carry that item, check with…” or, “I need to refer you to…” or, “you might look it up on-line.” We now talk with an IVR or a robot instead of person, forcing us to use a language driven by the service provider. Our nods and “uh uh’s” no long mean “yes” since the machine cannot “talk with us” with the intuition of a person. We get self-service channeled and offshore directed.
The day of the all-purpose, full service experience has been altered to be the purview of specialists. Where did you buy your last stereo, telephone, or book? At a Wal-Mart or Sears or at a specialty store? As customers are unable to “take care of it myself” and are forced to deal with an expert, their standards of service excellence go up and out. That means customers assume competence of every expert and assume expert in every service provider. What steps are you taking to make all front line employees the smartest, best resourced, most empowered service providers on the planet?