Self-service technologies, in which human interaction seems a relic of the past

A very relevant column in the International Herald Tribune about "self-service technologies", this recent trend in service consumption. It deals with the potential damage to customer relationships. Of course, the author mentions automated phone system which are often a pain ("nine out of 10 consumers expressed anger over aspects of these systems").

If you want a boarding pass issued for a flight, you do it yourself. If you want to check out food at the supermarket, you do it yourself. Even if you want to buy toys, jeans, furniture, or best sellers, you find them and order them on the Web - yourself.

The world today is one of self-service technologies, in which human interaction seems a relic of the past. (...) The money a person can save by using self service varies widely. (...) But although the idea behind self service is to increase convenience for consumers - and to cut costs for businesses - the systems are not always all they are cracked up to be.(...) Also troublesome for those who may not care to use self-service technologies, like the elderly, is that discounts may be given to those consumers who do use them (...) "We preach to our customers that self service is just one channel to consider but not an exclusive one," Smith [managing director of Kynetix, a London-based consultancy that helps businesses adopt self-service technologies] said. "You have to have simple ways for consumers to get what they want, and that doesn't always mean self service." When it comes to the future, Smith predicts a more "proactive" type of self-service world. "You'll have a profile with an organization - perhaps a bank or an airline - and they'll notify you proactively about things you need to know about, whether it's a flight delay or an investment gone below a certain threshold," he said. "More and more, timely and important information will be pushed at you. "It's a way of the companies getting to you before you can get to them," he said. "And I believe this is the future."