More and more, I fear we are losing the human element in our transactions in life. Luckily, quality customer service does still exist.

I was lucky enough to get taken out for two birthday meals earlier this week. For lunch, some co-workers, friends and I went out to a really nice, inexpensive place. You definitely get a great experience at 350 First in downtown Cedar Rapids--and look at that view in the photo above. Don't let its glitzy appearance fool you. A $10 daily lunch special, including beverage and tax, is unheard of but this place does it and does it spectacularly. The restaurant is on the 16th floor of the Doubletree by Hilton. Great food and attentive service. Try it out today.

The same was the case when my father and I had dinner at The Olive Garden. It was my first visit there in at least five years. They haven't lost their grasp on great food and excellent service at a reasonable price either, but what alarmed me is that they had self-order/pay kiosks installed at the tables. Again, it didn't lessen our experience with the human connection. There were tons of servers and few other customers there early on a Tuesday night.

One of our servers told us the kiosks were mostly to simplify the customer experience, by not having to wait to get your check, allowing you to get in and get out quickly. That sounds reasonable. However, as I said, you wouldn't have seen that as a problem based on the staff-customer ratio that night--which is a good example of great customer service.

I applaud these establishments as shining examples of still doing customer service right--putting the customer first and having enough quality staff to take care of us.

The "self-checkout" lanes at retail stores--the few not slowly and sadly going out of business--with their glitches and issues, are another subject --one where it was meant to make things more efficient but is often the opposite.

Which types of transactions have you found the best or worst customer service and personal experiences? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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