I am a MadMen addict, and with the start of the new season, I was marveling at how much our society really has changed since the 60's.
We have more social equality, but actually less economic equalityAlthough many of the show's characters are very affluent, the post WWII decades were an era of unparalleled egalitarianism in North America. At the same time as economic equality was within reach, socially society was still quite stratified.
A brief vignette when our protagonist, Don Draper, walks into his office and practically tosses his briefcase and hat to his personal secretary, followed by his coat for her to hang, really highlighted this for me.
Today, the reverse is true. I live in a world where people are largely unwilling to acknowledge social stratification, but economic opportunity is highly stratified. A few people -- entertainers, sports figures, financial engineers -- gather a disproportionate amount of the total wealth in society.
I'm just as bad as you
In terms of customer experience expectations, this change has a couple of very real world implications.
The person who buffs your nails in a salon does not think of themselves as a lesser being. In fact, the clientele at the spa may well include those who have saved up for this kind of a treat: Baristas and others in relatively low paying positions.
It's hard to identify many occupations or professions that are still held in high esteem, regardless of their earning power.
For service cultures, this societal flattening means that many people are not prepared to engage in the kind of role-playing that dedicated personal service requires. So when you ask for something, you hear "no problem" instead of "I'd be pleased to get that" or "yes ma'am", or some similar nicety.
When we don't think others are better than we are, it changes the service dynamic. And I don't think we have really come to grips with this.
Because not only has the cultural environment changed, but corporations are resistant to paying good wages for front line staff, and aggressively automating wherever possible.
Isn't it ironic
This situation creates some serious irony. In our roles as customers, we wonder what has happened to service. But in our roles as service providers, we demand a level of respect, we don't want to grovel, we don't want to deal with people who are rude and impatient, and we resist any behaviors that would imply something less than equal status.
What's your take?
Am I imagining this? Or have you observed this too?