Monday, February 28, 2005

How's the service? Terrible?

Service is bad at the best of times. Bad news: it's about to get much much worse. Why?

The internet.

The internet is migrating all of the services we once had to travel somewhere to use. You want to buy clothes? No need to ask you helpful sales assistant about their latest special offers. Just point and click.

But what becomes of the helpful sales assistant? Well, the first thing is, they become a whole lot less helpful. They get trained less and, worse, less motivated to compete with their colleague.


While human sales assistants are a dying breed, it's the services industry that has been the main driver of economic growth for a large number of the major advanced economies in recent decades.

If a significant (and in recent years, growing) part of the workforce that lies behind a growing economy deteriorates on a mass scale then it signals a major deterioration in a large proportion of the labor force.

Ultimately, it will be the frustration of shoppers in department stores and people on line in Starbucks that will accelerate the complete migration of shoppers from the high street to the internet.


As with all social change, a lot of the change can only be brought about by social forces moving in the direction of that change. The ever-more sloppy sales assistant may well be the last straw.

Or they could just stand up straight, look fast and pretend to be professional!


All of this clearly begs the question, what becomes of all these sales people? This also raises the issue of what to do with all space currently taken by retail outlets.

One possible scenario would be for these buildings to become residential. This would help provide homes where they are most needed: in the inner cities. This might help initiate a new industrial architectural revolution. Such a revolution would resuscitate the manufacturing industry, bringing full circle the changes seen in the 20th century.

Perhaps the hands that serve us in the stores will be those helping to build the homes of the future in the not-too-distant future.

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