Will convenience be the death of conversation?

I have been to the shops five times this week and not one of these times have I actually spoken to anyone.

I used self-service checkouts every time. I didn’t need to ask for a bag or get my ID checked. No one said "Hi" or asked how my day was. It got me thinking - are we about to lose the human element of our shopping experience? 

Whilst I think being able to get in and out of the shops in under five minutes - it's great when you are in a rush. But what about when you live on your own and you haven’t spoken to anyone all day? As sad as it might sound, talking to the checkout guy is a nice addition to your day. I know I can hear you saying now “Well you can still choose to do that, just go to the checkout with a person”.

Well I ask you, how long until there are no people in stores at all?

It has been proven that self-service machines do save the retailer money. It costs a lot less to run these machines than to pay checkout staff. So, they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, but how much do the consumers really benefit? When it does go wrong - how long do you end up waiting with that red light flashing above your head before someone comes to help? How many times do you bag and un-bag your items because the checkout scales didn’t recognise it. I also kind of resent the fact that sometimes I feel like I am doing a job that someone used to get paid to do... I’ll take my pay cheque now please! 

Self-checkouts are labelled convenient and don’t get me wrong, when there is no queue and it goes right, it’s great! I am one of those people who think they can do everything slightly better than the person that is doing it for them, meaning slow checkout staff wind me right up.

However, is ‘convenient’ getting out of control?

Airports, trains, cinemas, fast food restaurants, shops... just think of the last time you went in to any of those places and had a conversation with the person serving you. And I don’t mean a life story kind of conversation. Just a "Hi, how are you? What can I do for you?" kind of conversation. I think soon, there will only be self-service desks, there will be no people. We will turn into a socially inept society with zero conversation skills. 

Is doing your weekly food shop one minute quicker, skipping the queue for your cinema ticket or not having to try and pronounce the food you are trying to order worth losing the human element in our lives?

Sometimes my answer genuinely is "yes". I want things as quickly as possible and as easily as possible. But what about all those people who are on their own and rely on that human interaction? What about the kids we are bringing up in a world of smart phones and 1-hour deliveries? What about their social skills and ability to have a chit chat conversation with a stranger?

Tags: Customer experience

Team S4RB

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