Can We Get A Little Service Here? Charge Me More For Real People, Please!

Can We Get A Little Service Here? Charge Me More For Real People, Please!

Can We Get A Little Service Here? Charge Me More For Real People, Please!

Is this what consumer customer service is supposed to look like in the New Normal?

I thought tips were for exceptional, actual service, not a way to help the employer keep wage costs down by us paying tip supplements.

Newark Airport, the passenger concourse is filled with restaurant tables and chairs.  On each table is a tablet device with the menu and ordering capacity. We order online and in due course our meals are delivered to us by an employee, someone we see just that once. The restaurants may be owned by the airline seeing the opportunity for an additional income stream, because we can pay with frequent flier miles or a credit/debit card. Welcome to the new world of lots of forms of monetized wampum. Meal completed, now time to pay. The tablet asks me to select from specific percentage/dollar amount of tip as part of paying for the transaction. Tip for what?   There was no service. If I do tip how is the money distributed?  I, for one, would rather pay a bit more and actually have some service and tip accordingly directly to the server.

Near the University of South Florida in Tampa, a well-known coffee/baked goods/sandwiches chain. I’m standing at the order counter. Taking my order and wearing a big smile, she took one step backwards to pour my coffee in a paper cup and one step to the right to secure my baked good. She swiped my credit card and shoved the receipt back at me with a pen. “Sign here!”, she said, “and indicate both the amount of your tip and the total to be charged to you. Elapsed time: 66 seconds.  I don’t expect service in a fast food place. I am happy to pay but not tip as a part of the owners’ formula for sources of compensation to the employees.

A colossally big hardware/builder supply store, Ft. Lauderdale. I am buying a toilet seat, an air conditioner filter, some batteries, and a screwdriver to do some minor repairs to a borrowed condo in which I have been holed up writing my newest book. The Customer Service line is so long it looks like people have been camping out for days. The line for the only live, human cashier is even longer. I elect to check myself out at a self-service kiosk. After all, there was no promise of service to begin with and my expectations have been fully met.

San Francisco at the end of a hair raising, $50+ cab ride up the Bayshore Freeway from SFO into The City. Enroute the cabbie did a solo ongoing monologue about Uber and the plummeting value of a San Francisco Cab Medallion. Now at our destination, the credit card machine mounted on the back of the driver’s seat in front of me, helpfully suggests tip amount as soon as I insert my chip credit card.  My luggage is held prisoner in the trunk until I complete the process of paying including the tip. I am not happy.

Lots of discontinuous technologies will be introduced in the New Normal. Much of it will have to do with elimination of the expense of employees. Some technologies will actually have something to do with customer service. Many will not. I will have to become facile in most of them for brief periods until newer ones are introduced and the cycle begins again and I need to upgrade my consumer tech expertise.

Am I objecting to the introduction of technologies into many aspects of our lives? I am not. I am objecting to the technologies limiting and driving our behavioral choices in the name of improvement. An article I recently read said there were 3 conditions which are required for computerization of jobs:

  1. The work is relatively stable and repetitive
  2. It can be easily quantified
  3. Social acceptance is present for the change to computerization.

I think I haven’t accepted.

How many of you out there are noticing an inverse correlation between the introduction of new (and often discontinuous) technologies and actual consumer service? What have you seen?  What are your examples?

Let me know, please.