Sunday, July 21, 2013

Self Service Society

Have you noticed the shift to an increasingly self-service consumer experience?  Think back to when my parents and grandparents were kids and there was a soda jerk who would prepare and serve your soda and ice cream treats. 

Then we move to my experience of self-serve machines.  Soda, slurpies, coffee.  You name it, you can get most things yourself.

We are seeing this trend increase with self-checkout in the grocery store.  Pump your own gas (anywhere but New Jersey, one of the best things about the Garden State!).  Kiosks at Barnes and Noble to help you locate books.  As I think about my children's experience as consumers, I wonder if they will consider service the way I do?  Will they see the salesperson in a setting like the Nordstrom's show department as a help or creepy?  I took my young daughter to Bloop for frozen yogurt one afternoon and snapped some pictures.  The complete self-service nature of Bloop (and several other fro-yo places in town) had me thinking about how this shift should impact our work in school libraries.  How should our model of customer service change?  What practices and routines should we review?  What changes need to be made to make our students comfortable? 

Our Trip to Bloop
Pick your flavor
Pick your toppings

Thirtsy?  Help yourself to a water and pay at the register!
Enjoy!  Have fun!

So, to this generation, what does good service look like?  I think it looks more like what Queens Borough Public Libraries are doing using RFID technology than the clerk behind the counter?  What do you think?  

1 comment:

  1. I wrote a blog post a few years back on the service economy we are in. It isn't quite the same as what you are talking about in this post but the overall theme is sorta similar.

    Your question as to how we should approach a self-serve world is a good one.

    IMO, shifting to an all self serve society is a short term gain, long term loss. The convenience factor makes it very attractive. In our busy lives we can bank online, shop online, pay for our groceries ourselves and so much more.
    The flip side means more lay offs and future business models that require less human capital which benefits a only a few in a town or community.
    Also, and more of a philosophical viewpoint, a self-serve world shows how busy our lives really are. We are too busy to take five minutes to talk to a cashier. We are too busy to ask questions about a book, which is ironic because we will spend time reading consumer product reviews on Amazon but not ask someone who works in a book store for their input.

    Most importantly, self-serve is akin to the interstate system. Before the interstate, the roads ran through cities and towns. You could see which towns were bright and vibrant. You might also have to travel through some run down parts which gave your an idea of how others might struggle. It brought a level of social consciousness because it was visible and real. The interstate now bypasses cities and towns. We live from exit to exit without ever witnessing where real people live. We lost a level of consciousness of real society. The same can be said of self-serve. We don't get to hear the conversations with real people with real problems or tales of happiness. We just assume that every one has the same existence as us because we don't interact. We become an island of ourselves. Seven billion individual island does not move society forward.