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The Mail on Sunday recently reported that the Post Office is to cut queues by installing ‘tap and go’ payment systems in all its 11,500 branches by the end of the year. While this initiative is no great surprise given the long lines of people one almost always faces at the Post Office, it does make you wonder if we are heading towards a service industry where there will be little to no human interaction at all.
Already gone are the days where you check in with the receptionist at the surgery on arriving for your doctor’s appointment. Instead, you face the challenge of fathoming the computerised check-in kiosks (which when you are feeling under the weather is no mean feat!). In fact, it is possible these days to do almost anything without actually speaking to a person whether it is checking in for a flight, cashing in a cheque or buying cinema tickets.
While this is all very well and good in some respects – being able to pay for your petrol at the pump or book train tickets online can be a great way of saving time and money – it does seem sad that these days we are having less and less human interaction.
Nowadays good customer service is less about a friendly chit chat with the nice lady scanning your groceries but more about efficiency. Consumers are not prepared to wait in a long queue or jump through endless hurdles to get what they want. They want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Ironically, staff are often needed to man self-service machinery as at times it can prove a challenge to operate – we have all been faced with the annoying ‘unexpected item in bagging area’ announcement when self-scanning at the supermarket!
The reality is that this type of technology is here to stay and set to grow. While companies and organisations will continue to employ people to man checkouts, Post Office kiosks and reception desks, they will also continue to look at ways of simplifying the service process, which will inevitably involve the use of technology. The onus is on us to ensure that good customer service continues to have a human element where possible, after all, however clever self service machinery is, the one thing it can’t provide consumers with is a service with a smile!