The Order of Service: the Practical Management of Customer Interaction
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractThis paper discusses a pervasive yet neglected form of social interaction, that between service staff and customers. Observational and video data from two different shop settings are used to explore three aspects of service interactions. First, queues are discussed, a mundane yet massively prevalent device for managing when and how customers are served. Queues depend on customers ability to 'work the queue', to be able to see who is queuing and their place in the queue. This rests not only on the recognition of queuing behaviour, but also its production by those queuing. Second, artefacts in shop settings have not only a material role, but are resources used in interaction. For example, the shop counter is both a surface to place goods, and a shared space between customer and staff where the placement of goods has meaning in interaction. Third, in the service interact itself staff and customers manage their interactions using rhetorical devices. Devices such as the three part list display can be used to show the validity of advice being given. From these observations we draw two conclusions: Behaviour in service settings has a strong moral component in that divergences from correct behaviour (such as queue skipping) are quickly sanctioned. This morality is from those in the setting, rather than an analyst's judgement, suggesting that the morality of economic markets can be studied as an endogenous feature. Second, customer service relies upon a prevalent yet powerful 'ordinary vision' - the skills of seeing, but also producing, the predictable actions that make up the order of service.