The Digital Changeover Disestablishes the Service Economy

Grafik:Matthew G
Graphic: Matthew G

The digital changeover is not just happening in companies, but encompasses other parts of society as well. Whether in the car industry, politics, or the education system- digitalisation is being implemented everywhere. But what are the consequences for the individual? Is the digital changeover disestablishing the service economy and what will come after it?

From a tertiary to a quaternary sector?

1970 – Boom time for the tertiary sector. This change in societal structure lead to an increasingly digital economy. At the same time, the tertiarization at the end of the 20th century required new competencies of employees: social competence instead of purely physical abilities.

As long as the customer goes into a store, wants to be advised, and has a personal conversation with the cashier, the service economy is not in danger. But what about the time when the customer is no longer reliant on personal contact?

Example – online banking: while my parents still go to the banker they trust several times a week, my generation does almost everything via online banking – support from a banker? Nil! The FAQ helps.

What will follow the service economy? Potential customers, who inform themselves about the TV they want to buy at Media Mark beforehand are symbolic of  the information economy that will follow, if you believe analysts or Bill Gates.

Knowledge at the cost of social competence

The constant changes to social norms and values which come with changes to social structures reflect this: social competence is no longer required to the same degree. The quaternary sector focuses more strongly on knowledge, information, and responsibility.

» My own experience has shown that this even in education, especially with the result of the Bologna process: facts are taught, quickly and without pause for breath. But social competence is left at the road side, to such as extent that even in the growing information economy the results of current surveys are confirmed: the German economy is increasingly dissatisfied with Bachelor graduates.” «


Consult and pay? I can do that myself!

In e-commerce, knowledge is king. Happily comparison portals, like Idealo, offer information in nice bite sized pieces. The customer gets an overview of the market and go for the best deal. Of course, this is just an example, but the change is moving towards offline purchases being prepared online more and more, as a recent ECC survey shows. People prefer to rely on their own research, rather than the nice sales person.

Cross-Channel im Umbruch – Das Informations- und Kaufverhalten der Konsumenten Vol. 7
Cross-Channel im Umbruch – Das Informations- und Kaufverhalten der Konsumenten Vol. 7

» The iPhone 6 bends in your trouser pocket? No one at the store told me that…I’ll get a Samsung device then. «

Apart from knowledge, responsibility plays an important role. Online banking is one example already mentioned, but self-service stations are part of it to. Although there is often a staff member at these stations, it is mostly people who can’t deal with the increased responsibility which goes hand in hand with structure change who make use of this support – force of habit.

Following the customer around

The digital transformation is not just the changeover from stationary to online, or a functional multi-channel concept. The digitalisation of companies has consequences for employee requirements. Further developments like e-government or digital media are bringing the digital transformation fully into society and encourage the growth of the quaternary sector.

But developments in e-commerce are interesting, for instance, checkout systems where customers can pay from right in front of the shelf. The sales persons’ task is to follow the customer and find information on the product. Of course, this is indirectly the same concept as comparison portals, which prepare information for the customer, according to the motto “have everything done yourself”.

Provide access to information – maybe the only possibility to keep the tertiary sector running? At least in online trade, people can agree on a pessimistic outlook for classic service providers.

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