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Thursday, September 9, 2010

How can you do e'r t'ing when you got n'er t'ing to do e'r t'ing with?

As usual, this morning on my way into work, I listened to the St. John's Morning Show on 640AM. I caught a story about how retailers in NL are experiencing a shortage in staff, especially since many students are currently in "back to school" mode. This is no secret; all over town, you can see "help wanted" and "now hiring" signs. Apparently, this year is even worse than normal, because the number of people entering the workforce is significantly lower than the number of people leaving the workforce. The guy on the radio (I forget his name, but I'm sure you can find the podcast here) speculated that in the coming years, we are going to start seeing more and more automated customer service, similar to what you see now in self-checkouts at Dominion and the self-checkin kiosks at the airport.

I thought about this for a little while, and although I don't like the idea of having all human interaction replaced by machine interaction, if no one else wants to work in these jobs, the solution probably lies within some measure of artificial intelligence.

Then, a Facebook friend posted this job ad that she found, and I wondered if part of the reason behind recruitment difficulties here might be the attitude of some employers. While I'm sure that the hiring manager had a good reason for specifying such requirements, most likely based on his or her experiences with previous, less than motivated employees, is this really the way to address the situation? In my opinion, if you are looking for an employee with a higher level of professionalism, you (as the employer) need to exemplify that same level of professionalism. You also likely have to bust out a little more than 2 bucks above minimum wage.

Otherwise, bring on the robots.


  1. First of all, I agree that customer service has, and will, become more and more automated. It's sad, but I've always kept the mentality that I will pay a little more if need be to be served by an actual person in my own little effort to keep customer service personable. I never use those automated checkouts despite being a bit of a techie.

    Shopping online is a totally different experience and I don't group it in with my efforts above.

    Second, whoa. That ad was needlessly articulate of what is expected in that job. I have no doubt that legitimate and interested talent will read that ad and move on.

  2. I use the automated services myself. It started out as a novelty for me, then I stopped using for a while, because I felt that I was taking work away from the human beings. Finally, I made peace with it, because I figured it's better to relieve workload from the current employees who are getting paid peanuts than worry about the effect automated services might have on hiring practices, because I feel similarly to you about the fact that customer service will become more automated, regardless. Look at banking, for example. All I want in the world is the ability to bank without ever having to talk to anyone who might judge me on the pathetic $1.73 in my account on the day before payday. But that's another story.

    Thanks for the comment!

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