There’s plenty of talk about the many ways in which consumer services will change during the upcoming decade. No one can predict with certainty what life will be like in 2030, but using recent history as a guide, experts believe they have pinpointed the five major transformations we’ll see between now and then. What’s on the list, and why are these dominant trends so important? There’s more about each of the five trends below.
Some are closely tied to new technology, while others might be called anti-tech, as least in the way they operate. One thing that has been happening over the past five years in the retail sector, for example, is the full-scale transition to digital systems. Even in brick-and-mortar stores, all transactions, from inventory tracking to sales stats, are digitally captured and remotely stored.
In most cases, all the fresh customer service trends are direct descendants of systems and processes already in operation. What makes them new is the fact that they’ll finally become ingrained ways of conducting business, leaving the old world behind once and for all. In no particular order, here are the five significant consumer-oriented changes to look for from 2021 onward:
Phones Answered by Human Beings
Have you called the help desk of a major corporation lately? A few years ago, you were guaranteed to hear a robotic voice take your incoming call, ask you a few robotic questions, and then robotically shuffle you off to the proper department based on your responses. The next step usually involved yet another computerized voice asking you more questions and hoping you were satisfied before sending you to an actual human being.
Nowadays, things are beginning to change. Consumers become so disgusted at the lack of personal interaction, they complained, loudly, to corporations. After a decade or so, the companies began to take notice and change the way they do business. In 2019, it’s possible, about 3 out of 10 times, to speak with a human on your first attempt to call a major company’s main phone number. Thirty percent is not such a good number, but it was up from around two percent just a few years ago, and it’s getting better. A few members of the Fortune 500 even advertise that you’ll reach a real person on your first attempt to call the main office or one of their many consumer information/complaint lines.
Smart Package Lockers
Gated housing developments, apartment communities, condo complexes, employee work areas, university dorms, and dozens of other places where groups of residents receive packages are benefiting from smart package lockers, like those offered by Smiota. They offer the convenience of 24/7 delivery and pickup. With resident managers and corporate mail offices searching for a way to outsource the headache of processing incoming packages, this new segment has taken hold.
Smart package centers are custom-built units of small to large lockers, all managed by a central computer pod that lets delivery agents place items into numbered lockers for residents to pick up at their leisure. Built-in security measures, based on scannable codes and PINs, make it so that only the package recipient can get into the numbered locker. System-wide software alerts recipients when they have a delivery. Analytics tell apartment managers and other property owners how efficiently the system is working and who has or has not yet picked up their packages.
A typical bank of lockers includes several large, medium, and small compartments and can be tailor-made for any size of ordinary residence or any number of employees. There are even refrigerator and freezer lockers for food and medicine deliveries that must be kept at or below particular temperatures.
The Coming Cash Scarcity
The so-called death of cash began about five years ago in East and West Coast cities of the U.S., a few European capitals, Tokyo, Singapore, and a handful of other global financial centers. One academic study took a look at how many transactions at a typical shopping mall were conducted in cash, credit, and bank debit cards. From 2011 until 2016, the percentage of cash transactions shrank from 22 percent to 4 percent.
Most economists think that cash will be almost entirely absent from retail life by the middle of the next decade. What’s taking its place besides credit cards and other identity specific forms of payment? Crypto-currency, of course, which threatens to fully replace nameless cash transactions and become our new de facto currency.
One of the fastest-growing retail sectors is loosely referred to as privacy products. They include many unusual items that help individuals who want to avoid being photographed, logged, tagged, tracked and traced. With cameras everywhere, especially in the retail space, sellers of facial recognition defeating gadgets and gizmos are making a fortune. Some of the more popular products that are already making waves include ultra-light, clear masks that are able to scramble recognition software, anti-tracking devices that keep prying beams out of wallets and purses, and special cases that deter phone trackers.
A whole new service has begun to flourish in light of all the big brother technology in operation: identity preservation assistance. These companies earn their fees by helping to scrub your social media and online footprints. They also show you how you can continue to conduct business online using a ghost identity and avoid leaving any trace of your real self for hackers to mess with.
High Touch Personal Services
In what anthropologists call another tech backlash, there’s been a recent surge in demand for personal services like massage, esthetics, meditation instruction, martial arts classes, group yoga lessons, one-on-one exercise training, and more. Massage, in particular, has been one area of the services economy that has grown along with the continued advancement of technology. It seems people want to find a way to return to their human roots in the face of telecommuting, telelearning, and the lack of authentic interpersonal relationships.