For the first time in 18 months, the US Labor Department reported last week that worker productivity has fallen, prompting headlines declaring “It’s official: We’re all burnt out.” And as if on cue, frustrated flight attendant Steven Slater grabbed a beer off his beverage cart and slid down a JetBlue emergency slide into folk hero status. While the inevitable debates and questions have since emerged around the Slater story, the very fact that so much of America’s immediate reaction was a collective cheer reaffirms the Labor Department statistics. Although not nearly as dramatic as Slater’s declaration of independence, employees across the country are expressing their own workplace frustrations with lowered productivity, and economists are predicting that companies will need to begin rebuilding their workforces to shore up flagging productivity numbers.
At the same time, however, reports are showing that consumer spending is down, raising questions about the willingness of American shoppers to support an increase in productivity. Furthermore, one of the most popular articles in the New York Times during the week of the Slater incident (assuming that the list of “Most Emailed” articles on the New York Times website is an accurate gauge of an article’s popularity), is one examining the question of the relationship of consumption to happiness. The recession, it is argued in the article, has resulted in a shift in consumption patterns, with Americans saving more and spending less. And through this cut back in spending and consumption, people are beginning to realize they are happier. According to author Stephanie Rosenblum, research into the relationship between consumption and happiness has revealed that the acquisition of material objects and one-upping your neighbors with the latest gadgets does not increase happiness. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index further backs up these findings with poll results showing that after the initial shock of the economic crisis in late 2008 and early 2009, a sense of well-being among Americans has been on the increase just as these new consumption patterns settle in.
So, does this new found trend towards downsizing bode ill for the economic recovery? Not necessarily. What the Times article reports is that people are finding that spending on experiences produces a much more enduring feeling of happiness. Additionally, people are happier when they can plan for and savor a purchase for some time before they actually shell out the money for it, and outdoing others in consumption does little to increase self-satisfaction. Purchasing airplane tickets well in advance, for example, can provide months of happiness as you plan your trip (as I can personally attest as I look forward to my upcoming trip to the Big Island of Hawaii), as opposed to buying the latest smart phone or designer handbag. And although consumer spending numbers for July appeared to show little enthusiasm for material purchases, “experience” spending such as airplane tickets and lodging was up.
In order to adjust to this cultural shift in priorities, retailers and marketers are beginning to focus on selling experiences, and the importance of good customer service and making the customer feel special. When I go to the supermarket these days, there are cheese tastings and suggestions for wine pairings and side dishes, (and even the occasional live music on Friday evening!), rather than just aisles of sterile packaged goods. In the mail I receive catalogues that now offer up classes on how to enjoy my purchases, or recipes and other tips. The Customer Experience is back!
Not to toot our own horn, but here at iCIMS, the Customer Experience has always been our passion. The latest and greatest features are very cool to have, but they are even better if you can attend a free training session to learn how to apply them to your day to day work. Free Customer Support 24 hours a day, and a Customer Care Site for all to visit and share tips, information and access user guides and training libraries all contribute to the iCIMS Customer Experience. And furthermore, clients can build their own Customer Experience for their own candidates and employees by implementing the Talent Platform, and let everyone know about it by harnessing the Platform’s powerful CRM tools! Finally, before the harried pace of work begins to put images of making that emergency slide escape in your head, consider the savings in tedious busy work that a Talent Management Solution can offer.