I WAS fortunate enough recently, to be able to travel to Japan for a holiday and one thing I noticed was the contrasting styles with customer service and their attitude to entry-level jobs.
Where we have long since done away with service station attendants, for example, who come out and fill your tank for you, check your oil and clean your windscreen; there’s still a lot of that going on in Japan.
And they make a point of attending to those duties quickly and efficiently, jogging between cashier and car, completing the transaction with a smile and a kind word.
In stark contrast we see the big supermarkets in Australia, for example, doing away, in large measure, with checkout staff in favour of do-it-yourself, automated scanning machines.
It’s quite possible now to go through the whole process of shopping at Woolworths in Wonthaggi or Leongatha, for instance, without talking to a single soul. Is that good?
Surely it’s ‘Business 101’ down the drain right there.
And if you don’t think big business can make a mistake in favour of going after the holy dollar, you haven’t been paying attention to the banking industry Royal Commission.
Murray Goulburn’s demise is another case in point.
Sure the big supermarkets are saving money, and they’ll tell you, passing on those savings to you the customer in lower food prices. They might even tell you that good staff are hard to find and that many people actually like shopping that way.
But surely it’s also a danger for the big supermarkets to no longer have that direct personal contact with their customers.
The text book on running a successful business says this about the importance of building your relationship with your customers:
“Managing the customer relationship involves building trust with your customers so they’re less likely to buy from your competitors. Communicating with your customers is a good way to build up trust and improve customer satisfaction.
“Regular communication with your customers across all your channels is important in keeping them up to date with your business and helps maintain the relationship. It’s also important to communicate with your customers in a way that suits them.”
So will killing off the relationship with their customers come back to bite them?
And what about the loss of those great entry-level jobs for kids in our communities? How many people working in successful jobs today started their working life on a supermarket checkout? Probably thousands in the Leongatha and Wonthaggi communities alone.
Where will those kids get a start in the employment market now?
There’s hardly an industry sector or job today that hasn’t been affected by technological change, we know that, but the fundamentals of building customer relationships and being a good corporate citizen in your community are just as important today as they ever were.
What price customer relations?