At a corporate communications seminar I attended a few years ago, the topic was all about the loss of the human touch when attempting to phone a company, that many customers or callers were getting trapped in "voice mail jail." But someone else observed that it was far more annoying when someone did not have voice mail.
This thought-provoking tidbit came in the other day. A study of online retailing reaches a similar conclusion; that is, we're secretly happier when we interact with a company's Website, versus actually shopping at a location. A study of retail customers last month by ForeSee Results and FGI Research found that a surprisingly large proportion - 86 percent - say they still prefer to make purchases offline. Yet, the survey found that satisfaction of multi-channel shoppers who both browse and buy online is significantly greater than for those who browse and buy in the store.
The lesson is that after many ugly moments in the early days, retail Websites appear to have matured to the point where they can provide a satisfying user experience. Sure, there will be plenty of pushback as Web services and SOAs are rolled out. But if designed correctly and intuitively, they may be your organization's greatest asset.