The Impact of Technology on Business
As I waited for my flight to Amsterdam today, I grabbed a bite to eat at the nearby café. It was a late afternoon flight that would get me in around 7PM. Just enough time to get dinner with an old friend, who was to pick me up at the airport.
The flight was set to leave at 4:30PM local, but as I finished my snack, an announcement stated that my flight was delayed until 5:30. At 5PM, though, the gate representative said that there was a mechanical problem that would require the plane be taken out of service and the flight would be cancelled. ‘We will have to rebook you,’ she said.
I was standing just a few meters away and watched as people shuffled and lined up like soldiers to talk to the desk agent, presumably waiting to get rebooked. It was like second nature; people just lined up. But then, the next phenomenon occurred, also second nature. Seemingly everyone reached into their pockets and grabbed a cell phone. Some, it appeared, were checking their email. Others, as I saw, checked the weather. And then there were still others, who just called the airline trying to rebook in less time than the time they would wait to get to the desk. I was part of the last group. I called to rebook realizing that there was only one last flight out that day and acknowledge I needed to attend a client meeting the next morning.
One by one, the passengers dropped out of line saying ‘I got booked on the next flight’ and little by little, their names appeared on a television monitor at the next gate under ‘Awaiting Seat Assignment.’ The more triumphant passengers said ‘Oh no, I didn’t call. I did it through my app.’
Technology has certainly changed the way businesses work. Compared to 20 years ago, the agents at this airline gate desk likely saw 50% fewer passengers for rebooking than before. That represents less stress on the employees, perhaps even less cost on the business since the rebooked passengers scatter to other gates, filling up the last few seats on their new flight. Each rebooked passenger represents one less overnight kit, or hotel stay, courtesy of the airline.
Teeth and Technology
In another example of technology and business, I recently tried a new dentist, whose website is something like ‘my teeth technology .com.’ They’re teeth. What exactly does technology do for you? As I sat in the chair, I watched a flat screen TV on the ceiling show me the day’s news. Further, the dentist had all sort of gadgets and tools I had never seen before. ‘Sonic cavity scan’ or something like that? What happened to x-ray? While the dentist was clearly kind and did a good job, I’m not sure I’ll go back. The bill was nearly twice that what I had incurred at other places, which I naturally attributed to the sonic cavity detection, and a bunch of fancy flat screens. An frankly, my old service didn’t seem to be of any less quality.
Mind you, I’m not saying technology is bad. It’s just different and how it impacts your customers is important. So despite such impressive success stories, technology can also hurt a business, particularly if the business is slow to adapt to change, and is resistant to technological trends of its customers.
Slow Boat to the 21st Century
My wife and I recently remodeled our kitchen. My wife, who loves to cook, was the decorator, and picked out the paint colors, counter top and tile color for her new ‘workshop.’ When she finally settled on a tile color, she found the supplier on the internet. As it turns out, they did not accept orders via email. In fact, while they had a website, they had no email address, nor a way to order online. I recall just a month ago the look on my wife’s face when she told me “I had to call and place an order. And they are going to send a receipt by mail. I just hope it’s the right tile that shows up, and that they wrote the address down correctly.” She then asked “Should I have gone with someone else, even if they were more expensive?” A week later, a letter showed up in our post box with a handwritten label. It was the receipt. A few days later, 40 kgs of tile arrived at my door.
Adapting and Avoiding
Technology, like it or not, is important to business. It can help businesses, as with the case of my rebooked flight and maybe with the dentist if you’re willing to pay more. And it can hurt businesses, as was the case with the supplier of my kitchen tile and their unwillingness to adapt. While being at the most cutting edge of technology may not be necessary, willingness to embrace even the basics can go a long way. It is clear and understood that not everyone loves or embraces technology at the same pace. But it is important to assess your business periodically to understand how you look at the use of technology.
Can it help you? Can it help your employees? Can it reduce cost? Can technology make you more competitive? Are you competitors or customers expecting for something you are not offering? And, when you look at your competition, how do they appear compared to you?
Technology has done some great things for society, and will no doubt bring about amazing possibilities in the future. And while it will help some firms accelerate, it will also leave others in the dust.
What are you doing about changing technology?
Multigenerational Technology Planning (White Paper)
What Your Customers REALLY Want (Blog Post)