This week, I want to address customer service in retail stores.

I have been in Hong Kong. I had met up with a friend for a couple of drinks and then at midnight, having not slept for a couple of days and had forgotten to eat, I headed to McDonalds.

In my jetlagged haze, I stared at the counter rather blankly. Where were the tills?

I turned and realised that you needed to order using the big screens attached to poles. After 3 attempts to order my food, I was finally successful. A receipt gave me my number and I when the time came, I was called to the counter and I was given my order. It felt like Argos had got into school dinners.

It dawned on me that a prediction had come true.

Almost 20 years ago when I was doing my Marketing degree, I had an amazing lecturer called Ed Little. I loved his lectures and wouldn’t miss them come hell or high water. His passion was Services Marketing and he predicted the widespread use of self service.

His key point was that companies were devolving the service experience to the shopper / user. Nothing wrong with that you might say… but there are implications. Some of those implications are as follows:

Who should own the service experience?
Is it the customer or the provider (shop, restaurant etc)?

What happens if things go wrong?
Where does the fault lie? Is the age old saying “the customer is always right” now defunct? Who will the customer blame?

How does the customer’s failure reflect on the brand?
So, you have handed over part of the brand experience for the shopper to complete. If they cannot do it or you have issues, will that be positive for your brand or negative?

The answer to these questions will be different for every business but it is worth some consideration. Given that word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising, are you prepared to risk your brand reputation by watering down the experience?

The title says Don’t Like The Service? …. It is Your Fault! Deal With It!! The fact that the language option didn’t work properly and the fact that I couldn’t select what I wanted may be a McDonalds issue or it may be my issue. The blame will of course be passed to the shopper. Had there been a member of staff available to show me how to use it, that would be a little different. It is an education process after all. If I still couldnt use it, then that is probably my problem. Even so, someone on standby to take orders in the old fashioned way might help support the brand experience.

Next time, I might just give McDonalds a miss and find an alternative.

Until next time, as ever, thank you for reading.