‘All Thumbs:’ The New Customer Service Era


We’ve all seen it, and some of us have actually done it ourselves. That moment when we’re so fixated on our mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, etc.) that we “disengage” from what we’re supposed to be doing, whether that’s walking, talking, or heaven help us, driving.

No, this month’s brief post, perhaps more a series of questions, isn’t about the pitfalls of texting while driving, or why we all can’t sit around the family dinner table at night without our smart phones or e-tablets at the ready. What grabbed my attention this month was Pew Research Center’s new study showing 24 percent of all U.S. teenagers using their mobile devices with a frequency the Center categorized as “almost constant.” Translated, that means the smart phone is nearly always at their side, always on, and nearly always being used, hence the word “constant.” The focus of the study was teens ages 13 to 17, a group most demographers now refer to as “Generation Z,” youngsters born after 1995 to a world they never knew existed without the Internet, or social media, or ubiquitous technologies like mobile phones.

So, this new study would suggest most of our next-gen service providers, assuming some go that direction for their vocation, will be out there “thumbs-a-blazing” a good portion of the time, right?

Further complicating things for me is yet another recent study by Gallup, a random sampling of more than 7,000 working adults showing only 31.7 percent of us engaged in our daily jobs in the first place. More than 68 percent of the remaining U.S. workforce is either “somewhat” or “actively” disengaged at our work; Gallup’s labels, not mine.


Each study and demographic background is hyperlinked above so you can read and formulate your own thoughts and questions, but here are mine:

  1. Many of us, and clearly this next generation, would claim we’re BETTER-connected through mobile technology and its related web-based apps, but does such use truly “connect” us? Or, might it possibly have the opposite effect – keeping us at a distance only spanned by the technology itself?
  2. Specific to the service sector, those jobs I refer to as “front-of-house” and customer-facing, will the next generation workforce possess the soft skills to succeed? Researcher Daniel Goleman references to some of that as “emotional intelligence,” or EQ (not to be confused with IQ). In other words, are we raising and educating this next generation to look others in the eye when spoken to, smile, and extend a firm handshake? Or, will a “smiley-face” emoticon suffice? Smiley
  3. And finally, with the entry of “Gen Z” to the workforce, we now face a new era where as many as four different generations will possibly be working side-by-side, each with their own way of doing things. How will some organizations prepare to bridge this generational, cultural, and perhaps technical divide?

For those of us who manage and lead organizations, the data from the new studies linked above should help you better frame-up your workplace culture and engagement initiatives, and better inform your human resource searches, staff development, and retention efforts. Those are areas where we simply can’t be “all thumbs.”

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