Today's cutting edge companies can take stock in the "vanishing" of technology—vanishing in the sense that technology may not be visible to the eye, but it still exists and functions to the benefit of the customer. Disney has been doing this for years and others are catching on. Visit the wonderland of Disney. It's pure entertainment, it's tangible fantasy, it's magical. You won't see trash being hauled away. You won't see supplies being delivered to its many eateries. Thank Disney's complex underground network, where the reality of operations lies hidden beneath the walkways of Main Street USA. Just as Disney has cloaked its operations from customer view, companies today are melding technology into decor and presentations. While it was once a fashionable statement to show high tech, we are seeing the opposite occur in certain sectors of consumer marketing.
For example, The Chatham Bars Inn—a five star hotel located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts—has taken a lead in concealing technology visually. Wires, cables, computers, and telecommunications are woven into the resort's authentic preservation of early 1900 decor after undergoing an $8 million renovation. The beachside resort's labyrinth of information tools is barely visible to its many visitors. Laptops now sit unobtrusively behind the concierge's desk, replacing large monitors of only a few years ago. A comprehensive registration and travel software system took the place of outdated technology (http://www.micros.com). Service desks now feature monitors that are hidden below the counters so as not to distract from the aesthetic appeal of yesteryear. Conference facilities are wired with state-of-the-art features, yet to the unknowing eye, the T1 connections and AV tools are hidden below the surface. Technology should enhance service to customers, though not necessarily be seen. We can learn from leaders in the hospitality industry, since these companies survive on the intangible product of customers' experiences. How are you using technology to enhance the experiences of your customers?
Look at customers of cable television. They want the variety of many channels. If given the choice between a single wire tapped into the home versus the big white satellite dish in the yard, how many would choose the dish? In the appliance industry, many homes enjoy the convenience of a dishwasher. However, few families want to struggle to hear their favorite TV shows over the sound of one. Those in the appliance industry who have made the dishwasher less intrusive by creating quieter machines are enhancing the customer's experience and winning sales.
As much as technology proliferates every corner of our lives, we must realize that the next big change is in how technology becomes less noticeable and more integrated into the natural surrounding in which we live. Ray Kurzweil, in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, describes the creation of nanotechnology and how computers in the year 2010 should be able to process information at the speed of human brain functions—all for $1,000. In the future, this technology will make everyday items into microscopic luxuries. Imagine a shirt that's a radio with embedded chips, an alarm clock that only wakes the person it's set to wake, and rooms that feel a person's body temperature and adjust accordingly. Technology no longer has to be put in the customer's line of vision in order to be appreciated. Customers are looking to see how a company uses technology to make lives easier and more enjoyable. Customers want their experiences with companies to be less "techno" and more human. Are you working in this direction in your firm?
© MM David & Lorrie Goldsmith
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