About 6 months ago, we were at the worst part of the pandemic when I wrote our last blog. Since then, we’ve all experienced a wide variety of lifestyle changes, and businesses like ours are trying to acclimate to the new “abnormal.”
As businesses have reopened, we can now reflect on how service has changed for better or for worse. From my personal experience, my hat is off to the many businesses like restaurants which have adapted to take out and/or delivery as well as other means to survive with restrictions that make it like playing golf with one hand tied behind your back (I know how hard it is to play with two hands!) Efforts have been made to reduce contact with customers by using everything from plastic screens to QR codes for the menu. Tables are set up in parking lots under tents with waiters and waitresses serving food with facemasks and sometimes rubber gloves.
All this made me reflect on our fifth blog which discusses the difference between human service and technology. Back then, ordering from an iPad was the exception and I questioned whether this would replace human service. When I raised this question in a conversation with my youngest daughter Margot, she observed that patrons would be missing out on the “experience.”
Margot’s point was reaffirmed recently by a restaurant owner in New York City who lamented to me about the difference between “dining” and “eating.” When restaurants reopened at limited capacity, people came and ate. They didn’t linger and converse over a bottle of wine or connect with others dining next to them. They ate and they left.
I think we are learning from this pandemic that we really are social animals. We don’t like to be quarantined and need to share experiences with others.
Service is about connecting with people not just giving them food (or clothes!). Dale Carnegie said it long ago that people do business with other people. It’s about relationships and “relating” to others.
Margot is now a senior in college and said she just took an exam and it was the first time she didn’t know one person in the class. The old saying “you don’t know what you have ‘til it’s gone” applies here. We see how those relationships have value. We need to connect to people.
I think this pandemic has clearly answered the question posed in that post from 3 years ago. Technology won’t replace the human connection. It may substitute it for a time but we will go back to wanting, needing that personal, human touch.
So, as we begin to go into the colder months and the tendency to lean towards hibernating is more than usual, let’s remember the importance of connecting with others. Making the effort, even if it’s with a phone call to see if everything is ok will go a long way.
Key takeaway: Service is about connecting with people.