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Mario -- I read your comment and I wonder: why does it have to be that way? Maybe it's because I've spend many years of my corporate career marketing financial services. To me being there for a customer is a must.

I think that part of the conversation is one of interest, as in is the company interested in being in that business? If so, is management willing to own accountability? Etc. I do like the folks at Wegman's a lot. The staff at Trader Joe's is pretty good, too. The environment makes me want to shop there. So it CAN be done.

Mike -- Bingo: "The implications of 'self-service' on business strategy and marketing models ought to be considered." What message are you sending? We've educated consumers and clients to watch the cues and act accordingly. Are you launching a big advertising campaign and then being cheap on the service side?

For five years I helped design Internet business models which were often based on the cost-savings of self service. The customer in turn began to expect that prices would reflect this cost savings in some measure.

Rightfully so the customer figured that if they were doing all this work they should be compensated with a lower price.

Another question that forms in my mind then is this: - "are we as business owners "OK" with the bifurcation of the marketplace into self-service, commodity-like sales experiences and high touch, premium brand-like sales experiences?

The implications of "self-service" on business strategy and marketing models ought to be considered.

This is a brain spinning worthy question - thanks for extending the conversation!

Keep creating,
Mike

Marketing for the big boys and girls will continue to be about sugar-coating the features of price, deals, ease-of-use and selection. Anything that has to do with human-relational experience will continue to be thin-coated and superficial...especially if it's a weak area of the company or the industry as a whole (like employee turnover is in retail). After all, is it not worse to give a strong impression and then underdeliver?

Even if I appear to be a bit pessimistic on the subject, there are glimmers of light in my eye when I consider companies like Southwest and Wegman's. Their indirect human marketing is a result of the development of a unique culture over years. Lastly when it comes to marketing the service, I like to look at the banking/financial services industry where friendliness, empathy, "I'm there for you"-ness and trust are quite important.

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