Training the “Educated” Consumer

Sections of this topic
    It’s not just cell phones and texting that has made for more strangers…

    Do we educate the consumer or train those who do, or should that even be the case? Now, the rest of this article is commentary and reaction to that question, hopefully to give us all something to think about.

    Anything you buy today you need to research on the internet and still you could buy an inferior product, but once it’s in your home, you still have to install it (obviously something technical), you have an army of “blogs, forums, FAQs, and expert communities” all ready and willing to help with sage advice.

    Not only is the public in need of this army, but so are the companies, making these products and taking advantage to cut back on their support resources. Who wins? Surely not the public except out of necessity. I think this is an accurate picture of the way customer service is today. My question is: does it have to be?

    Face to face customer service may be coming a thing of the past, but should it? When it does, we stop communicating and we stop caring about each other. More and more people become strangers.

    The “educated” consumer? We are so “educated” that we have to research the quality of products by looking at consumer reviews before we buy them. Call me a old fashioned, but I’d like to think a product will last a reasonable amount of time and I shouldn’t have to buy an extended warranty to get enough life out of a product. Those blogs and forums, FAQs and expert communities that were mentioned, I believe, were the public’s answer to poor customer service, especially in this computer age of complex electronic products.

    Customers were tired of calling the companies involved and not getting a satisfactory response. And, now companies are taking advantage. I get my answers there as well. I have always found it interesting that an employee of the company finds his or her way on the blog or forum and provides a solution or says the solution is coming out next month.

    The problem is bigger than just customer service. The manner in how we deal with others has been affected as well. It’s not just cell phones and texting that has made us more strangers. The workers on the receiving end, even the retail end, are developing an attitude of “if you don’t like it or it doesn’t work, bring it back.”

    Smiling Cashier
    The workers on the receiving end, even the retail end, are developing an attitude of “if you don’t like it or it doesn’t work, bring it back.”

    Most of us don’t remember when companies that made the products and the retailers who sold their products used to stand behind their products. That meant we trusted one another and we communicated so well we knew one another. Strange that a society that’s becoming overpopulated is becoming a society of strangers.

    I was watching my fifteen-year-old son, Aidan, today as he helped me out on the computer. Nothing major I thought. I wanted to compress some audio files. I’ll play the part of a bragging parent today. For him it was child’s play, literally. He whipped out his laptop, pecked away, found a few free sites, and over-solved my problem (if that’s possible), and provided me with two linked podcast sites. I was amazed and commented that he really had found his calling, and he looked at me and frowned, “Dad, that’s way too easy. Kidstuff. You’ve got to be kidding.”

    I wasn’t kidding. Here’s the part that matters to us. Do you know what’s hard for him? Talking to a stranger, or even someone he knows socially unless video games are involved. We hosted a German exchange student, Max, at the house. We expected Aidan and Max would be talking up a storm. Nope. Not in German anyway, which they both spoke. However, they both spoke the language of video games better.

    Aidan is super bright–like genius bright, and at 15 he’s already into college-level physics, philosophy and the humanities. So, caring about society and people should be pretty high on his list. Is he shy? Is he a nerd.? You could say that. He prides himself on it. In fact, he’s a lot retro. He’s also sensitive for a boy his age. But all this has to do with isolation from a real lack of face-to-face communication, not shyness. We love it when he has an opportunity to be involved face-to-face.

    It’s the same as the counter person or retail person who conducts business without caring what the customer thinks because that person doesn’t really exist in their world. Aidan doesn’t want any part of the world unless he creates it and I don’t think he’s alone. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a great kid, but he’s like so many others who are accepting the way things are. It’s not a phase we are going through. The devices will only get smaller, more complex and devious.

    When I lived in Tokyo for a while, as crowded as it was (and still is), people lived in their own little space rarely recognizing their neighbors. People walk with their heads down in a perpetual bow. We are learning that here, too, while we keep our noses buried in our devices. Friends walk by and we text them. My daughter has two friends with her in the back seat. Silence except for clicking. How rude she is I’m thinking. I don’t know which is worse. The noise of three excited teenagers or the lack of social skills. Turns out they were talking to each other the whole time. Via text!

    Our new toys and technology may have made the world more efficient in some ways, but some interactions in society still need a personal touch.

    A good cook still checks on his or her food occasionally, never leaving anything to chance, or kitchen timers and unequal oven temperatures.

    Hopefully, the holidays bring everyone together happily to socialize. Aidan was not so happy being dragged off for dessert at a friends house and stayed buried in a handheld video game for a time, but for the last hour, I think I saw it sitting on the sofa alone and he was sitting another room with people.

    All is not lost. We have to keep reminding people to keep holding their heads up. For the most part, we are not a bowing culture. Not that there is anything wrong with that in itself–unless it is caused by oblivion–like that of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand or us with our heads buried in our devices.

    Happy Socializing…er Training.

    For more resources about training, see the Training library.

    As the Host of the Blog site, I ask that you take a look at my new blog that focuses on other topics than training. My training/speech blog is still out there, but I’m letting it die in cyberspace. My best selling e-book, The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development is out. I need to tell you that I know Cave Man is not spelled that way and that is on purpose. The Cave is where we work, play and live. Read the book and you’ll get it. I hope to have two more following it soon.

    My futuristic e-novel, Harry’s Reality, is a look at what happens when society gives up control of the mismanaged dying planet to an evolving artificial intelligence. It is also available at any bookstore that sells e-books for direct downloads to your ereader, and directly through Smashwords. By the way on my blog site you’ll find clips from the novel as well as discussions.