Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Convenience vs. customized service

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this.  Call me old fashioned, but there are certain services which I'd rather be provided by the same person or team, in the interest of consistency and a personalized experience.

In the age of convenience, "get it now" seems to carry the day.  And sometimes you can have both; the convenience and speed of a drive through coffee place, combined with the ability to make your personalized order; the half sweetened mocha, no whip cream etc.  Zoom Care (and other clinics) offer speedy service, available at a variety of hours.  But you won't always have the same provider, and the cost may be higher.

In health care, I want to see see the same provider who has been treating me.  The exception would be for urgent or super routine care, where the issue is clear and easy; stitches, flu shot, other immunizations, strep throat.  This is a pretty clear case for me, where personal service is important.  And sometimes it may take me longer to get an appointment with a specific provider; the wait being a price I am willing to pay.

Similarly, most veterinary care for my pets, needs to be with the same vet.  In a rush, I once dropped my cat at the vet as she seemed to be in pain and was crying out when touched.  She is the most good natured cat ever, so this was alarming.  Because of my schedule and timing, I was not with her when she was examined, and she was examined by a vet  not familiar with her demeanor.  He was a good vet, mind you.  Talking with him later he said she seemed fine. When asked if she had vocalized during the exam, he said yes, but no more than any other cat might.  But here's the thing.  She would normally purr and snuggle during an exam.  You know, the kind of cat where the vet has trouble listening through the stethoscope for all the purring.  Had her regular vet been available, or had I been there, it would have been clear the cat was in pain.

Aside from health care, where else is the customized experience important?  Certainly for some, myself included, hairstylists might also fall in this category.  For Don, the buzz cut of his quickly disappearing hair can probably be done by most any stylist.  So is it personal care?

I suppose, if one had a vintage, finicky car,  the same mechanic would be important.  Or an old, quirky house; you'd probably want the same contractor working there and knowing the idiosyncrasies.  So, if we all lived in tract homes and drove recent model, mass produced cars, would service be easier, cheaper and still high quality?

What about professional services;  Lawyers, accountants, financial planners, and yes, real estate agents?  Certainly the more specialized the need, the more specialized the service should be.  And the need may not just be personal, it could also be location based.  So I don't just need an attorney who knows me, I need them to know the local laws AND me.  I need a property manager familiar with Portland's tenant protection rules, not just Oregon statutes.

Hotels are an interesting example.  They endeavor to provide customized options to an everchanging client base, at a reasonable or at least predictable cost. But hotels tend to provide choices, by which we can have a customized stay. Some hotels provide both foam and feather pillows, control over HVAC and/or openable windows, coffee set up in the room or at breakfast, room service or a dining room, valet parking or self-parking.  So here, the hotel doesn't know me, nor my preferences (and they don't need to), but tries, within reason to provide choices such that I can customize my stay.

Where are you willing to potentially compromise a customized experience vs convenience?  For me, I don't need the same car mechanic, do want the same providers for most all personal and veterinary care.  I'm fine being served by different folks at the pet supply store I frequent, and certainly don't need or expect customized service at the grocery store.  Though I don't use a dog walker, I think I'd want the same one.    And for professional services, yeah, I want personalized.

An aside about convenience and artificial intelligence.  Auto-fill in online stuff, is that a bonus or a pain?  On your phone, do you have auto-correction and "predictive" set to on? Do you let a program store passwords and credit card info?

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