You may recall that I wrote recently about booking a hire car online. The problems with the drop down menu were an insight into what can go wrong if your technology doesn’t deliver.
I’m happy to say that I made it to the airport and the hire car was there for me. Huge sighs of relief all round. Sighs of relief that turned to a smile of satisfaction when I was told that the minivan I’m to be provided with was a bigger and better model than I’d ordered - at no extra cost.
I could consider the question about stock, or even a glitch in their system, resulting in the absence of the model I’d requested. But, hey, I’ve got a bigger car and it was at the right airport. So I take the keys and lead the way as the head of family and all round hero that I am.
Now, don’t get me wrong. What I discovered next did not, and has not, spoiled the trip. In practical terms it’s a mild annoyance and certainly not of earth shattering importance.
And yet, as another metaphor for the interface between your business and your customers (and the way technology is crucial to that), it’s of some significance.
Let me explain.
The minivan has buttons for (and the manual in the glove box confirmed it has) powered, sliding doors. It even beeps to tell you when the doors are opened. The problem is - there was nothing powered about it. It was manual. It needed pulling and pushing.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is not a dehumanising and demanding task. I mean, come on, how many car doors do you have that close themselves? The point is the minivan - in other words the technology - says it can do something, but it can’t.
So I wander back to the reception desk to enquire (and, if nothing else, to make sure that I'm not charged for breaking them when I return the vehicle)...
"It doesn't have powered doors," I'm told.
"But the manual says it does and there are buttons," I say.
"Ah, yes... but they don't work."
"Just so long as I won't get charged to repair them."
"You won't. They don't work," he says.
So in one fell swoop the car hire company and their technology had both over promised and under delivered. Simple as that. At one level.
On another level, though, this has the potential to back fire. Someone in the car hire organisation has decided that the powered doors will either be disabled or will not be fixed when they break. Which is okay until the minivan is on an uphill slope, at which point anyone without reasonable upper body strength (while twisting) is unable to close the sliding door! And we all know how litigious people are in the USA...
I sit outside the organisations I work for and, because of that, I have no agenda other than working with you, my customer, to establish what you want your technology to do, and then devise and implement strategies that will do (and then continue to do!) precisely that.
I was thinking about that as I closed that car door. The problem of the door itself was not, in truth, a problem for us. The problem was the promise it made me was broken.
Translate that into a bigger picture, relate it to your company’s technology and see it as a, for example, point of purchase, that your website says can be done in a click - but it can’t. Then you’re talking lost business and negative perceptions.
My business is about making you promises and keeping them. About making sure your technology keeps the promises it makes to your customers.
In other words, it’s about making sure your business opens doors. If you see what I mean.