Technology changes rapidly, thank goodness. Without that innovation would dry up and we would all be stuck with fax machines next to our desks.


Unfortunately, for companies, since technology changes rapidly that means they have to keep up with their customers’ expectations around technology or else look out of touch. The inherit challenge in that oh-so-obvious statement is that companies have to understand where technology is going, budget and staff for ongoing updates to technology, process, policy, and operations, and understand their customers expectations to get that right.

That is a big challenge on lots of levels. Each company will need to set expectations with its employees and its customers for how fast it is going to stay up with technology. If you look out of touch, how out of touch are you willing to look? And does that build trust with your customers or detract from the experience? Will it impact your business?

Next week we will look at how hard it really is for companies to make these kinds of customer experience related changes. For today let’s look at a three recent experiences I had with organizations that were at least a decade out of date on service technologies:

  • FAX US
    Last week I was looking for one of my favorite quick serve food chains, Chipotle (see Away from Chipotle I get Burrito  Ordering Anxiety for more on that), on a major thoroughfare outside of Boston on my way to a meeting. It is one of those roadways that has 4 lanes on each side, a dividing fence in the middle, and no easy way to make a U-turn if you miss your destination. I had already used my phone (not while driving) to locate the closest Chipotle and was heading towards it.And . . . I missed it! I checked the time and calculated that I had enough time to find a turn around, go the other way, turn around again, come back, order, eat, and get to my meeting. Clearly I needed that burrito. While I was executing this 3 mile turn around I thought “I wonder if I should pull over, order my burrito online, pay for it, and then just run in and pick it up? That would give me more time to eat it. . .  No. By the time I do that I will be there.”Ordering online is an option at the Chipotle I frequent so I just assumed it was an option at this one too – until I walked in and saw this sign

Anytime I see the word “fax” I immediately think – “Really? Isn’t there a carrier pigeon option?”  

I remember when fax was the best technology to use to transfer things faster than using postal mail and I also remember that that has not been the case for at least two decades. Fax is my business nemesis. Anytime I see instructions to “fax this in” I try to find away around it or consider not using the product/service.  I think fax is a greater burden than postal mail. It requires owning a fax, actually it requires owning a fax that has toner in it, or going to a faxing place and paying $5, or subscribing to an electronic fax service and using a device of some sort of capture the image of the document. It also signifies that even if the company tweets or has a fantastic web site, their operations are a little behind the times. 

    A few months ago, I realized, over a weekend, that I needed a hair cut. First thing Monday morning, 8 AM, I went online to find the number for my hair stylist. I only see her every 3 – 4 months so I don’t keep the number handy. I expected the shop, a pretty large salon, would be closed that early but was surprised to find them closed on a Monday. I listened to the recorded message about their hours and prepared myself to leave a message.Scheduling an appointment through voicemail is never easy but at least I could get the ball rolling. I would leave the times and dates I was hoping for and assume we could sort it out over a two calls.The announcement ended with the guidance to call them back when they were open. No beep. No beep? What? I couldn’t leave a message? Huh. I went back to the web site to try to send an email address to make an appointment or use an online booking tool. Neither were available.I knew what was going to happen: it was going to take me about a week to get this appointment booked. When I am available to call and I remember to call it is likely going to be early morning or on Monday when the salon is not open. It is going to be near impossible for me to remember to call during their specific hours so I can talk to a person.

    And that is exactly what happened. Finally I schedule the call on my calendar so I remembered to do it at a time that was convenient to my hair salon. At my next appointment I asked the owner why one couldn’t leave a message in voicemail and he said: “We shut off the recording part of the answering machine because too many people were leaving us messages and asking us to call them back to schedule appointments.” And since he wasn’t saying it with an irony, I argued my case for customer-convenience or customer-oriented technology.No change in technology or policy at the salon yet, and I do think about that every time I pay the high prices, but I stick around because of loyalty to my hair stylists.

    Recently I needed to make a doctor’s appointment and was optimistic they might squeeze me in that day or the next few days. I assumed the only thing that would prevent that would be their schedule. I called the office to make the appointment. The receptionist told me that I hadn’t been there in a year. I said something akin to “I know. Isn’t it great?!” assuming my good health was worth celebrating. Unamused she explained that I was now considered “inactive.” (I had no idea you could go “inactive” at your doctor’s office.)

Me: “Oh, well could you make me active again because I’d like an appointment?”
Her: “No,you have to come in here to see us to be taken off inactive. Then you can call again to schedule the appointment.”
Me: “I have to walk in there?”
Her: “Yes.”
Me: “Is there any other way we can get this done because I’d like an appointment soon?”
Her: “No, they have to see your insurance card.”
Me: “Oh! That’s easy – the information hasn’t changed.”
Her: “No, they need to hold it.”
Me: “Really? Can’t I take a picture of it an email it to you?”
Her: “No.”
Me: “What about a fax?”

You know it was desperate when I asked to fax it. To her credit she held her ground and I did indeed walk in there (and then I made a note to find a new doctor).