Mind the Technology-Customer Gap

This time of year invariably serves up top 10 lists of retrospectives for 2013 and looks ahead to 2014, and Photizo has certainly published its share. As I scan these lists, because really, who has time to read all of them, I was struck by two seemingly divergent trends: increased automation and enhanced customer experiences — and the resulting technology-customer gap.

Last year, we heard so much about Big Data, Machine to Machine, and the Internet of Things (capitalized because they are Big Ideas) and how our lives are going to be enriched by all of the personalized, customized, and specialized goods and services these technologies will deliver. At the same time, we were bombarded with suggestions on how to increase customer engagement, improve customer service, and enhance the customer experience. After all, in this always on, anywhere/anytime/anyhow world in which we live, we have come to demand, and expect, instant satisfaction, without exception.

So, I have to ask you, when is the last time that data, a machine, or the Internet actually made a difference in your life? Isn’t it the way that these technologies are used in products and services that really made the difference? And how does technology know what to do to make a difference? By the people that design the technology. And how do they know? By asking the people that use the technology, product, or service.

My point is that while we can exhort the benefits of technology and evangelize the need to make our customers happier, unless we are bridging these two trends, we are not going to be successful. And people are the cornerstone upon which to build a bridge to cross the technology-customer gap.

In the imaging space, companies have jumped on the cloud, mobility, and digital workflow bandwagon, and we have seen a rash of cloud-based services, mobile solutions, and digital workflow offerings. This is all fine and good, but are companies really providing something new that will greatly enhance the customer experience or are they, in the words of my fondly remembered and sadly missed colleague, Steve Reynolds, “putting a shiny wrapper around the same old thing?”

Some food for thought as you digest the remains of your New Year’s servings of top 10 lists.

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