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The Ultimate Reward – Time or Service?

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The Ultimate Reward – Time or Service?
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We are increasingly living in a self service world. I have to admit that I remember a time when gas station attendants pumped our gas and when we didn’t have to swipe our own credit cards or “enter our PIN” to complete a purchase. There is positive progress in some of the changes that have taken place in retail settings, but concepts like self checkout in grocery and home improvement stores  have been hard for me to swallow. My reticence might be based in personal opinion, but some large retailers have had second thoughts on self checkout as you can read in the discussion here.

Retailers, banks, gas stations and others have all taken individual steps to introduce technology into the customer experience. The premise is always to add efficiency and convenience to the purchase transaction and, of course, the changes are in the “best interest” of the customer. Why then do we often notice that the customer experience at many retailers is devoid of a vital substance – human contact – rendering it bland and impersonal?

I wrote about time as the ultimate reward months ago in Loyalty Truth and still believe that any brand that can win back some free moments in my day is worthy of my attention. Offer me a shortcut, share a lifehack, get me into the “short line”, and I’ll be more engaged than ever with your brand.

Time may be the ultimate rewards currency, but in this do-it-yourself world, service might not be far behind. My experience last week at Ikea sparked an idea that could have traction with consumers if implemented properly by loyalty program sponsors.

If you are familiar with Ikea, you know there are some great products available and that euro-minimalist style can be had at a fair price. The only problem is that the price does not include assembly. Last weekend, I purchased a chest of drawers for my daughter’s room. Arriving home, my son and I stared at 3 six foot long boxes labeled 1,2,3. We started by opening #1 and found instructions that had to have been written by a cartoon illustrator. There were pictures but no words. The pictures were all in black and white, the details of which were lost in faintly printed graphics.

If not for a sense of perseverance and that it was Mother’s Day weekend, I might have decided to give up and pay for assembly. As it was, we endured the process, only to reach a dead end where we discovered that some pieces of the drawers were not included. To Ikea’s credit, one phone call and a return trip to the store earned us the replacement pieces and we finished up the project. Still, my time and weekend was impacted in an unpleasant way.

The spark that fired was my realization of how much I valued the service too often missing in today’s retail shopping experience. IF Ikea were to launch a loyalty program, I would like to think that premium tier members would receive assembly and delivery services on the house. The same idea could apply to almost any retailer.

As a consumer, how much do you value pumping your gas, assembling your furniture, or receiving the extra care you deserve from a frequently visited retailer? You never know till you ask and I think it’s time that retailers begin to explore the question.

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