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Lifestyle managers - made to measure?

Updated Thursday, 29th March 2007

A tongue-in-cheek look at some current developments in technology and lifestyle.

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This week's Money Programme advises Get Your Life In Order. Apparently we are all time-scarce and stressed by the demands of modern life. In the 1970s we followed Tom and Barbara to the ‘Good Life’; left work, commuting and the rat race generally to grow our own onions. Today, an ever increasing number of us are off to inhabit a virtual world through MMORPGs (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). A recent survey has found that approximately 1/5 of current players consider the in-game world as their main place of residence.

It’s a toss up as to whether digging up onions is preferable to waiting on the platform for a Virgin train to arrive and it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was pushing notes under colleagues’ doors to check whether they had received my emails. I am by nature suspicious of technology, so virtual worlds are probably not the solution although they do suggest a new way to ignore the cleaning. So, what about a lifestyle manager?

The programme describes how more of us are employing people to organise and carry out our more mundane tasks and there is certainly no shortage of suppliers. In the last month I have had about twenty fliers through the letter box offering services ranging from specialists in wheelie bin cleaning to the more comprehensive approach which offers to manage your lifestyle. The programme predicts growth in this latter area and suggests that the stress reduction and time gain can more than compensate for the cost. The implication therefore is that these will somehow be different from many of the other service organisations that we deal with.

As such services would be intrinsic to our lifestyle and often performed in our own homes they would require a degree of personalisation and customisation which are not present in many of today’s service offerings. The growth in demand for many services, however, has led to centralisation, standardisation and automation. Surveys and anecdotal evidence highlight that customers are generally not happy. Only last week yet another example of poor service hit the headlines as a whistleblower BBC reporter found that a major UK bank had ‘treated customers with contempt’. A study, currently being conducted by OU researchers, which asks customers about their experiences of negative service encounters, suggests that time and time again our objectives are thwarted and our negative emotions aroused by the problems we encounter with a vast range of service organisations.

So what happens when growth in demand leads to the scenario we are all too familiar with? –

Press 2 if you want to know why your cleaner didn’t turn up; 3 if you arrived at the hotel and your room had not been reserved; 4 if your dinner party was slightly spoilt because we forgot to hire the caterers and 5 if ……….Unfortunately our lines are likely to be busy due to an unusually high number of calls and if you could ring back at the weekend, or preferably log on to our website we will continue to offer the level of service which you can expect.

I’m off to dig some onions in a virtual world. The cleaning can wait.

Further reading

  • Outsourcing – what does it mean, and what makes is so compelling?
  • 24 hour working – discover what’s driving our long hours culture, and its impact on our health
  • Get Your Life In Order – One in ten of us now employs domestic help. The Money Programme talks to the people outsourcing their domestic chores, and investiagates the companies making millions out of this growing industry.
  • 'The Dancers at the End of Time: Researching the Future through MMORPGS' by Nick Gadsby, to be presented at the Market Research Society Golden Jubilee Conference in March 2007.
  • Mis-selling is 'rife' at Barclays
 

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