The paradox of self service

Shift the grunt work to the customer -- brilliant!

Self-service is the holy grail of SOA, online commerce, and all things Web 2.0. IT Business Edge has just released a set of reports around the customer self-service phenomenon, which encompasses everything from online sales to retail and doctor's offices. For example, an NCR survey reports that 66 percent of people say they want self-service at the checkout to make shopping faster and more convenient. An AMR Research survey found that 34 percent of firms planned to introduce self-service applications.

There's no disputing that this is all good stuff, with lots of ROI potential. But think about it for a moment: Isn't it ironic that companies have actually shifted data-entry work to customers, and customers are ecstatically happy about it? 

Of course, there's the whole lower-cost aspect (sometimes, maybe), and the flexibility and immediacy of doing your own data entry. In the IT world, data entry is the gruntiest of the grunt work, hours of thankless and low-paid toil. I'm sure most enterprises are only too glad to get data entry off their hands. Now, the door is open to new possibilities: what other thankless tasks can companies shift over to customers? What an industry! What a world!

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