Recently, I was at a hardware store getting supplies for a leadership development exercise CMOE was creating for one of our workshops. The store was silent. In fact, it appeared I was the only customer shopping. As I approached the checkout lines, I wanted the quickest way to pay and get out of the store. I had two choices that were placed before me:
Choice 1: Go through the self/automated check-out and interact with a computer and scan my own items.
Choice 2: Go through the regular check out and interact with a person.
I know this dilemma seems trivial, but as I was speed walking towards the options I debated. With eerie silence all around, my first thought was “Go through the self check out, it will be quicker and you won’t have to interact with anyone.” My next thought was “No, go through the regular check out, it will be quicker. The checker will be able get you processed faster because you won’t have to deal with a bunch of computer menus.”
I was drifting towards the self/automated check out when, the following thought hit me. “Come on Chris, you’re a people person, support job growth. You’re not going to go through the automated checkout for the sole reason to avoid human interaction are you?” That is when I went to the other check-out line and handed my items to the woman at the counter.
“Hi! How are you?” The woman’s response was so warm and friendly. I had a sense she was saying “Oh thank you for choosing me over that cold lifeless computer.” For some reason it re-confirmed to me that people are the greatest asset organizations have.
The following day, an article on MSN’s home page caught my attention. It read something to the effect “Death of Customer Service.” Since CMOE is fanatical about customer service, I clicked through to read it. The summary of the story was through the use of self/automated checkout machines, automated phone systems, and other automated devices, customer service would slowly erode away and before long, most people wouldn’t know what true customer service really looks like.
As I pondered on this article and my experience from the previous day, I thought about the up and coming generations of employees. Will people avoid face-to-face interaction or choose to go through the self/automated checkout because they feel uncomfortable interacting with someone they don’t know? I don’t want to sound like an extremist, but I believe phone texting, emails, instant messengers, and automated checkout counters among other technological advances will have a detrimental impact to up and coming generations.
Communication is an important skill needed in all aspects of life. By learning to communicate effectively, we can build lasting and effective relationships, solve problems before they become unmanageable, and eliminate confusion and misunderstanding that can occur. Next time you feel inclined to avoid direct interaction with someone, consider communicating with them on a more person level.