Human Resources in a Self Service World


July 20, 2010

There are only so many people in life that I want to have a relationship with.  My family,  friends, and some colleagues make the list.  In addition, I want to have people like doctors, hairstylists, and neighbors know enough about me that they qualify as relationships too.  But beyond that, do we really need to be forming relationships with every person we come into contact with?  Personally, I get irritated when a waiter or waitress wants to sit down and chat me up while taking my order at a restaurant.  Why?  Because a majority of the time by doing this they ultimately mess up my order.  And, if I am at a restaurant, I want to be visiting with the people I am there with, not a random person on the wait staff.  Sound harsh?  Well, it’s just one area where I want my service to be fast and efficient, but not a relationship.

The real disconnect comes from the fact that we are taught that in order to give good customer service we must connect with the customer or client.  We must think how they think, know what they want, provide service higher than their expectations.  That is all true, but in 2010 as we are moving into a self-service world for many transactions,  as organizations we need to have our eyes open to the areas where we can implement this to actually provide better customer service.

As organizations, we need to connect with customers where THEY are.

We can start by implementing technology to help customers who are technologically savvy. From the self check out lanes at grocery stores and other retailers to the applications we can now download on our phones that help us take care of quick, day-to-day tasks, this is a real improvement for many customers who are capable of quickly taking care of their own transaction.  How often do you walk into a bank to have a teller wait on you?  A majority of consumers are using ATMs, debit cards, and online banking to take care of their own needs.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the day where I have a self service option where ever I go.  And, that includes human resources.  There are just some functions that can be automated effectively like obtaining forms online, submitting leave requests, changing personnel data such as addresses and phone numbers, etc.

One benefit is that you have one subset of customers who can quickly take care of their transactional needs and this frees up the employees to spend time with customers and clients who need personal attention for more complex issues.

What do you think?  Do you want to have a “live” HR person every time you call?  Where will customer service and HR go in the future?  Where should it go?


  • Waiters/waitresses trying to chat you up? That’s downright rude and NOT providing good customer service!!!

    In my line of work, many people wil try to use the term “friend” to take advantage, whether it is to skirt price increases or try and justify constantly not keeping appointments. That just rubs me the wrong way. I have built deep bonds with customers I have been with for years, but they are still professional relationships. I rarely venture outside of that…

    I guess I am old school- I like talking to the person I will be dealing with. While I do like some self-service options, I also don’t like it becoming extremely complicated to reach customer service when I have an issue that can’t be solved on an automated phone system or website.

    Great thought-provoking article.

  • Cracking up, Trish! You hit upon something I teach in my communication seminars: the Golden Rule vs. the Platinum Rule. People think, “Gee, I like being chatted up by my server/cashier/dental hygienist — other people must like that too.” Wrong! The Platinum Rule, of course, says “Do unto others as they would have done to themselves.”

    I agree that more things in HR could be automated; I do think it’s good to offer people an easy-to-find option if they need to talk to a live person (When in doubt, I usually just press 0 or # … more often than not, it works).

    Thanks for saying what many of us were thinking but were too timid to say.

Comments are closed.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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