There was a time when you didn’t grab your own food items at the grocer. A shopkeeper would build an order for you after you gave them a list. At department stores, clothing and other wares didn’t have price tags, a counter person would price items on the spot and haggling would ensue.
Self-service innovations continued. As convenience increases, the role of service people decreases. This extinction extends far beyond retail. Every industry seems ripe for disruption. Transportation, entertainment, and real estate are all fair game, and technology companies are picking this low-hanging fruit with ease.
But convenience isn’t the only reason people are turning to tech-based solutions for their everyday needs. It’s because service employees, the foot soldiers for the old guard, are no longer cultivated to become representatives.
Cab drivers don’t know the cities in which they operate and they’re rarely on time. Department store employees are inattentive and unknowledgeable about merchandise. Grocery stores can barely manage cash register lines, let alone inform consumers on the merits of one brand over another.
Corporations wanted to make more money, so they underpay and undertrain employees, then they wonder why clients flock to an internet solution without the faintest compunction. These companies lost our loyalty long before disruptors came along.
In real estate, you can hold onto your value by going above and beyond as a beacon of reliable information and as a trusted source of council. Combine modern technology with timeless service, and you will never have to worry about disruption. Boutique brokerages have been able to flourish because the level of service they provide is unparalleled. Other brokerages have embraced technology with the enthusiasm of a nimble startup, and they are carving out niches in markets across the country.
There will always be room for service-centric enterprises. But any company that is content to cruise at the status quo should learn a lesson from dinosaurs like Sears and Blockbuster—their time is limited.