In 2021, a Dutch supermarket chain, Jumbo, created a special checkout line – it was designed to be slower and give people the opportunity to chat with each other and the cashier. It has received rave reviews, and Jumbo is now rolling it out to all their stores.

Part of the reason for this is that many people are lonely. So much so that the UK government a few years ago created a “Minister for Loneliness”. Japan has something similar. More people live alone than ever before – although being alone and being lonely are two different things, of course. It’s possible to be lonely in a crowd. Which is why society and companies need to think of ways to engage with people who feel lonely and need some connection.

Companies should provide options: (1) automate my engagement with you – I don’t want to connect; (2) give me a minimal human touch, or (3) I choose to chat.

How would this apply to your industry? Would it be something your customers would pay a premium for? Or could it just be a wonderful societal contribution you could make?

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TRANSCRIPT

More people live alone now than at any other time in human history. Smaller families, people living longer, but outliving their life partners. The UK, in fact, even has a Minister for Loneliness in their cabinet. So come with me to the future where we see what might happen if companies and countries start to take this seriously.

My name is Graeme Codrington, this is Throw Forward Thursday, and jump with me into the future where you have three choices when you are interacting with an organisation. Whether it is phoning a call centre, whether it is going to the shops, or choosing a checkout lane, your three options are very simple.

One is automation, interact with a machine, interact with the chat box, and do your own checkout.

The second option is minimal human touch. I’d like to speak to a human, please. Would a cashier please help me to cheque out?

The third option and this is the Throw Forward Thursday option, is I’d like to have a conversation, and I’d like to spend a little bit of extra time having a human engagement here, please, I don’t just want the transaction over out, I’d like to have a little bit of interaction.

So, when you phone a call centre, you choose the option which includes a real chat conversation. When you go to the supermarket, you can more casually and slowly make sure that you do the cashier’s job, but the cashier is trained and enjoys having a little bit of a conversation.

I think that this is where we need to be going. It’s an option. It shouldn’t just be given to everybody. Some people want to be done and out, but other people need to engage with other people. And if we can provide that option and allow people to select that option, I think we deal with a really big social problem.

By the way, have a look in the show notes. You’ll see an example of a Dutch supermarket at the end of 2022 that is already experimenting with this.

Throw Forward Thursday, sometimes the future has already arrived, and actually, most often it’s not about efficiency and optimising capitalism, it’s about finding a human touch.

I’ll see you next week in the Throw Forward Thursday studio.

 

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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.

For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.

 

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