Augmented Service

I was recently asked, “What are your predictions concerning advances in customer service in the near future?”

While I’m not a futurist, I will tell you that, as a customer, I’m seeing the proliferation of augmented service. By this, I’m referring to ways that organizations are adding value (for which you may or may not pay a premium) to traditional offerings by increasing convenience and reducing wait times and customer effort.

Amazon has been an early adopter of this practice beginning in 2005 with the release of Amazon Prime, a paid subscription service that gives users access to free two-day delivery (one-day in some areas), streaming music and video, and other benefits. Amazon has also more than doubled its quarterly profits since acquiring Whole Foods Market in 2017 and implementing value-added tactics such as Prime member-only discounts and cash back on Whole Foods purchases for Amazon Prime credit card holders. More recently, Amazon has opened its first Amazon Go store in Seattle that offers an app-enabled shopping experience devoid of cashiers and accompanying checkout lines/delays.

Even my less-sophisticated neighborhood supermarket recently installed five parking spaces reserved for customers of its ClickList program, a hybrid service whereby customers order groceries online and pick them up at one of the designated ClickList parking spaces or request home delivery for a $4.95 fee.

Online ordering is the fastest growing segment for the $675B U.S. grocery market. So it’s not a stretch to predict that these types of investments – in the technological and physical infrastructure to facilitate the shopping experience for customers – will pay off.

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