Thursday, March 30, 2017

Technology: Pt. II: Will It Ultimately Defeat You?

Let's not let technology defeat us.  - Anonymous 

I remember back when I was young, which was only a year ago, promising to myself I wouldn't turn into one of those older people who are so easily offended and shaking their fist at everything, complaining about the good old days when (insert here) was better in some imaginary way.  So every time I now feel irritated by something, I find myself stopping and questioning it, to see if it's really something worth complaining about, or if I'm just turning into that thing.  I don't know; I'm fine to let other people decide for themselves.

So I was passing by a little convenience store this morning, one where I often pop into for a diet something or other while out on midtown errands, and I was stopped in my tracks by a swivel office chair (and a not very nice one, I feel a strange need to add) poised ferociously in the open doorway, with hand-written sign taped front and center onto the facing side of the chair back, shouting at my direction:  

System Down!

Um, OK, well with so many thoughts going through my head within the scant two or three moments I stood there astonished, and even a little bit inconvenienced, I could barely wait until I got home tonight to write them all down and share them with you. Although I promise I didn't shake my fist, not even once, I do feel a need to comment about what seemed to be the matter:

  1. The exclamation point.  In other words, not only are we not selling you anything in our store, but we really, really mean it. We mean that if you have any doubts at all, yes, we really, really want you to go away and not leave any of your money here, or whatever it is you've come here to do. Technology has defeated us. Now go away! 
  2. The sign in the first place.  If I were the owner of any business establishment, I would not relegate my failure of ability to any sign. I would be standing myself in the doorway - and apologizing profusely to all passerby, for the entire deal. I just would. 
  3. Physically blocking the store entrance way.  This is beyond words. Didn't they realize that not everyone who enters a store is there to buy, but also to look? True, at a little convenience store, about the only thing to browse for is a new type of Snickers bar, but you get it.
  4. The texting employee, seated ten feet back into the store, looking up at me in the doorway for almost one full nanosecond, irritated through body language that someone had actually approached the de facto armed security guard/chair complete with sign and exclamation point, then resuming her texting with one hand and giving me the international symbol for "dead" with the other (a very brief, back and forth chopping motion to the side of the neck). It gets better....
  5. The technology which had simply defeated them.  This is the sad part, because I am certain no one at the store, at any point, thought, "Gee, we could have taken in $3000 more today if we'd just did what stores did way back in the 1980s, and take cash out of peoples' hands as they willingly gave it to us, but that's not our job to work that hard, so..."  As the employee appeared to be in her mid-twenties, that means she had not lived long enough (and thus shopped long enough) to have experienced a retail outlet of any type where people simply handed over cash, a drawer was opened, and change was provided. That seems sort of like what happens in a cash register today at some of the more antiquated retail establishments, with the critical difference that most of today's cash registers are seemingly all connected to software which records all sales on a server or a cloud - even the cash sales. This type of technology, like many products and services bought and sold, wasn't known to be needed until a very friendly and smiling salesperson somehow convinced retail business owners that it was actually needed (unlike, somehow, what has only been needed in stores for the past several thousand years - which is someone who knows how to make change), but there we have it. So when the cash recording software has failed, no one thinks of creative ways to, um, gratefully take the customer's money, make change, and write down on a little piece of paper the details of the transaction. Perhaps even using the extra time required to connect and interact with the cash paying human being who may be a regular customer there (these people used to be the most valuable type of customer around, but now they seem to be treated as if they have a plague of some sort).

So there it is. System. Down.

Where have you seen this in your own workplace, on your estate? What system, realized or imagined, has crashed your service delivery and placed the people who give you money every two weeks back out in the cold?

Here's one for you. Two colleagues of mine have been recently trying to get me to purchase an app for a wine and cheese pairing program. They tell me it saves lots of time, because your smart phone is always with you, even while serving at the table, and you can just stand there in front of the Principals and their guests and check to make sure you are pouring the right wine, and if they have any questions about the wine, you just whip out that iPhone again, to their delight, because the best part is - they say - is that it lets them all know they're not out of touch with all the latest gadgets they have recently discovered to, um, well, spend their boss's money on.  

I let these two colleagues know I once read a book on wine and cheese pairing, and leaned quite a lot from it, and I now carry that knowledge in my head, which is also always with me - even while serving at the table.

I'm not sure that I convinced them.

I see lots of online domestic job ads which implore, "must be comfortable with technology," "must be Crestron, Mac and PC proficient," etc... etc...  

What I don't see in these ads, yet I should, is "Candidate must understand both the practical uses and the limitations of all technologies on the estate, and be able to demonstrate during the first interview the specifics of their own personally developed backup plan for providing a seamless level of service when all systems on the estate crash. Those candidates who cannot demonstrate both a current sufficient knowledge of all technological systems AND an adaption to pre-current technology on a moment's notice in order to provide the same comforts and conveniences to the Principals and their guests - will not be considered further." 

Has technology defeated your service delivery today?  Don't let it!

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