Do We Really Know What Is Best For Our Customers?

I just read a post in which an author and speaker that I respect quite a bit poses a question about Self Service.  I will expand his Information Technology-centric question to include all Customer Service. At what point can we, the service provider / company owner or manager, proclaim to know what is best for the customer? 

As I wrote in an earlier post, Self Service quickly and easily becomes Customer Dis-Service.  I love Heather Armstrong’s phrase – Outsourced Caring – for when we deign to know what is best and force the customer to use a process that saves us money and time, but offers no visible value to them.

Returining to the self service kiosk example in the Supermarket…just today I went shopping for food and as luck would have it, I had too many items for the Express Lane and yet, significantly less than most of the other shoppers.    The self service kiosks were practically empty and yet I went to stand in line to have someone check my groceries.

Why?  Because I do not see why I should have to do the work for them.  Now, if they offered a savings, then, I would be more than happy to do so.  I know that grocery stores operate on a very tiny margin, however, they must do something in order to entice me to check and bag my own groceries.  If not a percentage off my total (1, 2 or even 5% off), then would not a coupon for next time work?

If we are going to ask the customer to do our work, we have to offer them something for it.  What are you offering?

Thanks for reading,



3 responses to “Do We Really Know What Is Best For Our Customers?

  1. Pingback: The End of Customer Service « Extreme Customer Satisfaction

  2. Brandon,

    Providing a means to self serve yourself in an IT instance is not a bad thing. Imagine calling a vendor for a major application that your business runs. I’ve had the dis-service of waiting on the phone literally HOURS before reaching a live person. If that same company had a well-laid out, easy to use knowledge base to search, I could have answered my 5 minute question without tyeing up their valuable technical resources.

    From my experience, Microsoft is an excellent self-service model. TechNet is thorough, updated regularly and covers several versions of their applications. You can find details on large issues, links to white papers and tech articles on very small issues. RIM is the complete opposite. Their knowledge base is hard to search, and doesn’t provide adequate results and sometimes contradicts itself based. They link mostly to white papers and install documents with VERY little for troubleshooting.

    As for the grocer, you need to consider your value of your personal time. How much is your time worth standing there waiting for the checker versus a little indignity of bagging your own groceries? I’ve gone to the local Safeway and waited 20 minutes for the checker where if they had a self-service lane (where no one shops) I could have been out in 5. Back to the family in a flash and pancakes on the griddle!

  3. customerservicevoodoo

    Great points, Eric!

    Self Service that is properly implemented and maintained gets mega-miles! ATMs and shopping on-line come to mind as things we take for granted. I loke the example yuo gave of Microsoft vs RIM.

    I personally have not mastered the art of scanning / checking produce, which takes me more time than waiting in line, however, I will Self Service at Lowes, Home Depot and other places where I only have one or two small items.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s good to hear from you again!


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