MBA Research

Trend #14: Self-Service Orientation

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: self-service orientation.

Workplace Implications

Customers expect businesses to anticipate their desires and needs and to proactively meet them through self-service options. This includes, but is not limited to, online, in-store, kiosks, etc. Online, customers are designing their own footwear (Nike), customizing their computers (Apple and Dell), creating their own pizzas (Pizza Hut), and creating their own vacation packages. In-store, they are placing their own food orders at the table (Chili’s and Applebee’s), creating their own sandwiches (GetGo), and handling their own hotel check-in at kiosks (Crowne Plaza). Throughout the business world, customers are serving themselves using interactive technology (

Lower-level jobs are disappearing or being refocused so that employees need to be problem-solvers rather than order takers. They need to become lifelong learners who are willing to adapt to changing technologies and processes rather than being locked into “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” This agility is currently challenging businesses as evidenced through decreased productivity despite technological gains. The future workforce has to be able to shift gears quickly, work on multiple projects, learn and adopt multiple technologies quickly, and challenge how they can be integrated into processes to improve customer service and satisfaction.

Classroom Implications

Teachers need to keep students updated on the impact of a self-service orientation, providing real-life examples across industries but especially within careers that previously seemed immune to displacement. Students need to be challenged to think critically about its impact on jobs and the new ways that they will need to add value to an organization. Student groupings should be changed frequently so that students are exposed to multiple personality types. Project requirements should be modified so that students expect change in classroom activities and have to operate in new ways to respond to the unexpected. Students should be challenged to provide multiple approaches to achieving the same outcome and identify the situations which would warrant use of one approach over another.