Living in a DIY World

Discussion
Apr 25, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It may be true that, if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. On the other hand, some say, being asked to do everything when you’re shopping, banking or involved in other tasks of daily life is getting to be a pain.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Americans are getting a little sick and tired of self-serve while filling up their gas tanks, banking or checking out at the store. They want someone to wait on them, thank you very much.

Nichols Fox is writing a book on the topic — The Case Against Efficiency. “We’re exhausted doing all this work,” she said. “There’s just so much that we have been asked to take over. I think we are reaching a breaking point here.”

Dennis Galletta, an information systems professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management, disagrees. “I think nowadays people are less patient. People not only want this technology, they demand it.”

Paul Croce, an American studies professor at Stetson University, says each position has merit. “It’s putting on the citizen, the non-expert, a task that is potentially complex,” he said. “That’s a responsibility that can be freeing but can be a real burden for a lot of people.”

Cherie Kerr, a public speaking and communications consultant for ExecuProv, said there’s a price being paid for all this self-sufficiency. “People are just not connecting as much as they once did, or as they should,” she said. “A lot of people do not want to talk to people anymore.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your views on the expansion of self-service technology? Are consumers getting tired of being asked to do it themselves?
Is the rise of self-serve technology matched by a decline in our ability to communicate with one another?

George Anderson – Moderator

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25 Comments on "Living in a DIY World"


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Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 10 months ago

The problem is (as others have already said) that there is little or no apparent reward for DIY behavior.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

The automation is fabulous for airport check-ins, where a 20-30 minute wait, minimum, used to be the norm. And God forbid we lose the ability to do our own routine banking transactions, and have to get in line for everything, behind the guy with “the problem” that takes forever. I think it’s balancing out quite well, actually. I’ve never been a fan of self-checkout, because about one time in three, whether it’s me or someone else, there’s “a problem” with the machine or the scanning or whatever. There are bound to be customers who want the personal contact, and if it fits your business plan in terms of cost and customer loyalty to offer more in-store help, by all means, provide it! To my experience, a majority of stores seem understaffed, and trying to find someone who knows where items are, or what policies are, is often extremely difficult.

Marilyn Raymond
Guest
Marilyn Raymond
15 years 10 months ago

I see the DIY World as just one more option for consumers. As more and more venues offer DIY – more and more of their competitors are offering enhanced service. Personally I see it as a win, win !

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

I think even the slow kids are starting to wonder why the prices go up when they do the work. Pump your own gas — the price of gas rises. Use your ATM and pay higher bank service charges on some accounts. Book your own flights and check yourself in online or at the airport and — if you’re a business traveler on a busy route — sit down before you read the ticket price. Too many of these economic savings might bankrupt you.

Dan Gilmore
Guest
Dan Gilmore
15 years 10 months ago
Consumers may wish to get a little more TLC in theory, but will anyone pay for it? The reality is that relentless cost/price pressure on retailers and other service providers means not only that DIY is here to stay, but that it is likely to increase (e.g., this is clearly where RFID will ultimately go in retail – ubiquitous self-service in many formats). People are expensive, and it is impossible to compete on price or profitability if you add the service when someone else has found a way to automate it generally or “outsource it to the customer.” Why would tomorrow’s consumer be willing to pay for it (e.g. pump your gas), when today’s customer won’t? There may always be a market for extra service for a higher price at the very high end of the market, but note that the only retailers that are thriving are the very high end and the discount. The mid-market won’t pay for service – their own budgets are too tight. The only exception is if it provides true… Read more »
Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 10 months ago

For me, it depends on the situation. I don’t mind doing everything for myself at a gas station, but maybe it’s just because I have gotten used to it. Self-checkout is fine when it saves you time, but so often it doesn’t, as was mentioned, due to problems with either the machines or people that can’t figure out how to use them. And why is there such a disconnect with companies saving money by us picking up more of the work, but no reduction in charges and, at times, even increases? If stores want more of us to use self-scan, why don’t they offer a discount for us to use self-scan and save them money?

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 10 months ago
Living in the DIY world is largely a function of which generation you claim to belong to. Far too many “boomers” simply have not merged into the fast lane of the information super highway. Oh, yes, we act like we do. We have cell phones, and many of us have PDA’s. The elite have Blackberry and Bluetooth devices. And lots of us have even found out we can handle online banking. But, honestly, we aren’t in the fast lane. The next generation is. I watch customers approach the self service check out lanes at Home Depot….there is fear in their eyes. Conversely, I see younger folks walk confidently up to it, use it, and even help the relatively available troubleshooter employee to solve any scan problems. Why have self service efforts exploded lately? Is it because iron-clad market research gave even the stodgiest company irrefutable evidence that it’s not only WANTED but NEEDED? I think not. I think that the studies I’ve seen are mixed, and that under the right circumstances, in the right socio-economic… Read more »
David Zahn
Guest
15 years 10 months ago
Consumers want to feel in control of the process. (Many of us are actually “shopping” for electronics, clothing, housewares, etc., but do not like to be “sold” to – when asked, “May I help you?” Most of us shrug it off and say, “No thanks, I am just looking.”) The issue that confronts our industry is that, all too often, the level of customer service is BELOW expectations and becomes a detraction for the successful transaction. Rather than be frustrated by our lack of control (Why is it taking so long? Why can’t they figure it out and just get this done?, etc.) – we opt to control it ourselves. Of course, that does require a certain amount of expertise or competence. (Anyone willing to operate on themselves?) Scanning products at a checkout, pumping gas, choosing seat assignments on the plane are within most people’s confidence levels to complete successfully without assistance. As for the comment about the lack of social interaction that is now lacking from our lives…I don’t buy it. We are still… Read more »
David Pava
Guest
David Pava
15 years 10 months ago

Given the deplorable level of service in most retail establishments today, I would rather serve myself, expedite the process and avoid the frustration.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 10 months ago

Self service via technology is positive for those who grew up on it; and understand how to use it. But, some people see this self service as cost cutting, and faceless interaction, which is bothersome.

There has to be a balance that companies utilize based on
their customer base needs, and not to cut cost / labor out.

Aren’t Baby Boomers willing to pay for service, and attention?

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 10 months ago
Virtually every psychological theory tells us that what we want more than anything else in life is to be loved and to love, to be respected and valued, etc. etc. So let’s see if we can put this together with customer service… Retailers want to meet customer’s needs and to have them happy and loyal – so what they do is have them interface with machines rather than people. Can machines make people feel loved, respected and valued? YES I say, Yes! On automated phone systems, for example, have the customer key in their first name so the computer can say it back to them dozens of times while they stagger their way through the ‘press this, and press that’ process. Something like, “Very good selection Ian. You’re obviously a focused and brilliant decision maker. You’ve only six selections to go.” And let’s take a cue from old psych experiments with monkeys where infants were raised by terry covered wire mesh mother substitutes. Cover ATMs and check out machines with warm fuzzy material, preferably in… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

The expansion of the technology is great for the consumers, giving them the options they demand. Where I think retailers go wrong is not taking advantage of the savings of time by their workforce to enhance service for when you don’t want the option!

Taking advantage of technology, for the most part to improve customer service, enhance the experience and create a new type of shopping environment, has not been the focus of retailers. It’s been merely a cost savings option. Those that connect technology and service as an advantage could experience an overwhelming positive consumer response.

Robert McMath
Guest
Robert McMath
15 years 10 months ago
Part of the problem — like using the credit card machines in retail stores — is that most of the stores have a different way to use the machine. I know my wife and I put up with it, but dislike it because we leave the store feeling stupid because we can’t just put the card in and have the receipt roll out as we have paid. Usually the clerk has to tell us what we didn’t do or how to do this part or that! One has to go to the same store each time to finally get used to it. Occasional use doesn’t get you “trained” on each type of machine. LEAVING A STORE feeling stupid doesn’t engender love for that store or chain. Same can be said for the self checkout. Each place where we go has a different system. Yes, we are an older couple, and, frankly, the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” seems to apply. We find using self checkout more time consuming with people… Read more »
Tillman Estes
Guest
Tillman Estes
15 years 10 months ago
DYI is here to stay. We are a society where human interactions are trivialized to the point of being unnecessary. Regardless of increasing cost pressures for retailers, or a perceived enhanced experience for the consumer, or reducing time “behind the problem guy,” we are avoiding people. We, as the end user of this technology, are attempting to move away from interactions. When we are in the company of strangers, we can “do as we please.” We go out of our way to avoid others: we pay for gas at the pump, use remote ATM’s for banking and even subscribe to “do not call” lists. As we surround ourselves with an automobile, we tend to cut off others as though they do not matter, crank up the radio (even when we cannot hear emergency vehicles) and blame the rest of the world for aggressive driving. When we are in public areas, we will use remote communication devices at the expense of those in close proximity. DIY is here to stay… now leave me alone !
Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Self-scan at my local Jewel is a wonderful thing — and I actually feel my service experience is enhanced — WHEN the self-scan pod attendant is there smiling at me and has already punched the “approved” button necessary to allow me to purchase an adult beverage. It is NOT an enhanced experience when the pod attendant, who is often doubling as the front-end supervisor, is down at Check-out Seven approving someone’s check and I have to wait three minutes for them to get back.

The mistake retailers are making is confusing “self-scan” with “self-service.” We are happy to do more of the “work” when it actually makes things faster/easier for us. But we do not want to give up service in the form of helpful suggestions, attentiveness and speedy problem resolution.

Christopher Fink, CMC
Guest
Christopher Fink, CMC
15 years 10 months ago

Studies continue to point to three consumer wishes for in-store service: Directions, information and ideas. Given differences in store lay-out (and growth in format size), consumers can’t find things. Next, seeking a solution, consumers want product information (will this product fill my need?). Finally, consumers say they enjoy shopping where they can get ‘ideas’ (new menus, fix-it recommendations, variety suggestions, etc).

When ‘price’ isn’t the retailer’s marketing angle, the fastest-growing formats appear to be offering enhanced service to meet the top 3 consumer service wish-list items. These formats are making money: So, they have figured out that retailers can spend on service and reap the sales rewards to make the practice a pay-out.

Benjamin Munoz
Guest
Benjamin Munoz
15 years 10 months ago
There is no problem with DIY. Automation is definitely a business enhancing tool (since it requires less headcount) and a consumer empowerment tool (if you want it done right, do it yourself). However, I would venture to say that the frustration that consumers are experiencing with DIY is poorly designed, confusing systems. Who enjoys using the do-it-yourself grocery store check-out lanes when you don’t know where to insert money, where to place coupons, where to receive your receipt or change, etc.? The machine has you looking all over the place for slots, knobs, and buttons. Or how about the gas station pump that always asks you if you want to purchase a car wash prior to prompting you if you want a receipt? I have accidentally pressed the wrong button and found myself out of $5 due to my oversight. Most consumers DON’T want to think when they are shopping for gas, groceries, paying a bill on-line, using an ATM, or an automated phone service. I believe if automation was self-intuitive and allowed for a… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 10 months ago
If self-service is an option, that’s great and the win win that Marilyn describes. It’s when it takes over and replaces service that the annoyance and problems start. Like Warren, I hate those times when there is a problem and you either end up being the cause or bearing the effect. It drives me mad to see people waiting behind me and I get even more flustered, trying to put things right. Equally, it drives me mad to be stuck behind someone who is struggling and holding me up when I’m in a hurry (actually, I hate waiting whether I’m in a hurry or not – just get out of my way and let me get on with things at my own pace, please). Just as frustrating is changing lines and then finding the one that I got out of cleared and I could have been done and gone. I know these things happen when there are real human beings serving as well, and furthermore when there are human beings but not enough of them,… Read more »
Jeanne Ambrose
Guest
Jeanne Ambrose
15 years 10 months ago

I dislike not having a person to speak with when I call companies. Many times, I choose the wrong number just to be transferred again and again. Sigh!

Lately, I dislike shopping for food. I put the food in the cart, I place the food on the conveyor for the cashier, I place the bags of food back in the cart, I put the bags in my car, and then I carry the food into the house. Geeze!

I grew up in the 50’s. I miss customer service A LOT. (Especially when I smell like gas because I fueled up on the way to work.)

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
15 years 10 months ago

I think the viewpoint of many boomers and above is that we are still paying more and getting less. If the retailers are saving more money through automation, they must be putting it into their own pockets instead of giving a little back, and, frankly, we resent that.

Pumping gas…we’re used to it by now. On-line banking and ATM’s…get with the program. Self checkouts…you don’t have to if you don’t want to – get in another line or go someplace else.

The “Me” generation and younger never really had customer service so they don’t know what it is. They’ll adapt easily to anything that’s helps them move faster.

10 years from now, as long as there’s room for my “Jazzy” to get in and out easily, I guess I won’t care what kind of service I receive (which is most likely none).

Zel Bianco
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

First, we can’t have it both ways – more personal service and low prices, although as Ryan points out, the low prices do not seem to be passed on to the consumer. As to convenience, there is no turning back. Between the consumer who is not prepared to pay when it is his turn at the counter, etc. and the clerk who seems to be getting worse each day, the self serve is a good option. My family uses the self check-out at the local supermarket and we are out in no time. I avoid a manned line at the supermarket, bank and airport as much as possible.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 10 months ago

I think the lessons here are two-fold: one, know your customer and offer the range of service levels that meet their varied needs. Both points of view are right – the world is too DIY and not enough at the same time – because they aren’t necessarily talking about the same people. Two, chuck the ‘disconnected’ pap where it belongs: the trash. Because I’m not spending extra hours waiting in line, because I telecommute, I have many more hours to spend quality, in-person time with my family. And because of IM, I have a closer relationship now with my brother who lives half a country away than I did when we lived in the same city – we talk more! Just because these people fear technology, don’t transfer your fears to me. Frankly, it’s depressing when the hotel front desk recognizes me on sight and knows my name.

Jan Owens
Guest
Jan Owens
15 years 10 months ago
Very much agree with nmbaird and sceman (did I get that right?) The need for personal interaction is rarely an all-or-nothing view, and different customer groups have different service needs and preferences. Personal interaction is appreciated when I need help — answer my question, get me a different size, perform a job that I find tedious, wait on me at a table when I’m tired and have my hands full of shopping bags, etc. etc. A service person is NOT appreciated when they are surly; put heavy sales pressure on; when they bounce the fruit down the conveyor belt; chat unnecessarily when I’m in a hurry and just want to get moving; etc. HOWEVER, the more that we can make self-help effortless and intuitive, the more we are happy to get the transaction over with and get back to higher-level priorities, i.e. family, friends, work, hobbies, etc. Except for customers who SEE retailers as their families, their social contact, etc., we really prefer to be on our way. We object to technology when it is… Read more »
Eric Blackman
Guest
Eric Blackman
15 years 7 months ago

There is room for both self-service and personal service in the retail stores of today. I will not buy gas from a station that does not have “pay at the pump.” I do not want to go inside when paying with a credit card. By completing the transaction myself, the cashier is able to help other customers who need assistance. The same goes for self check out at the supermarket. If I have 2 items, why should I wait behind another customer when I can check myself out in less than a minute? Self-service is not appropriate for many retail situations but most consumers appreciate the choice in those that are.

Ron Verweij
Guest
Ron Verweij
15 years 5 months ago
Have left Retail for a while and done a huge Self-Service project in the aviation industry. The lessons of Self-Service in Retail helped me a great deal in setting new standards in the project. Self-service is a healthy business case so expect more and more to be turned into Self-Service. Successful Self-Service is designed user centric and part of a well managed service plan throughout your operation. Customers behave different and expect other things when standing before a Self-Service device. Poor Self-Service is a copy of the manual process and won’t work as expected; good Self-Service is designed user centric and uses the technologies ability to personalise, visualise, inform but most of all keep it simple and efficient. The design itself is a complex conceptual process involving lots of disciplines but most off all dictated by user behaviour. Customers surprise me: no waiting lines, no moody service personnel; they can do it in their own tempo (old people for instance like that very much), 24/7 maximum capacity, etc. They like it. Even more interestingly, they… Read more »
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