Is it time for IT folks to sharpen the pencil?

Working in a small enterprise as we do that is dominated by a range of ability in the area of technology can be challenging. There is one thing, however, that we all always agree on — in most businesses it is all about customers, and nowhere more so than in hospitality.

That seems simple enough, but in some areas of technology there appears to be a lack of understanding of that principle.

There are TV comedy shows that always produce a giggle when a customer receives negative service on the basis that, “Sorry, but the computer says no.” Perhaps this is no laughing matter and an indication that the issue needs more attention.

We still see attempts at justifying charging for Wi-Fi. This is often on the basis of technology limitations or cost even when the customer has spoken clearly. More listening to the customer would demonstrate that we should be applying technical minds to delivering the product more efficiently and faster. Budgets, practicality and over-usage are not issues for the customer.

The issue of technology not reacting to consumers sufficiently, however, goes much deeper and has more history attached to it. Before the technical experts start getting excited, we would add hoteliers and operators also have to be answerable. For example, way back when we were introducing the first big computer systems in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we were positioning screens in locations that didn’t give the front desk opportunity to have face and eye contact. If all the skill sets had worked together the solutions would have been forthcoming sooner, but we still see installations today that are far from perfect.

It gets worse. When are we going to accept that so-called efficient recorded voice services are unacceptable to the customer? Even if the consumer could accept non- human service generally the systems are cumbersome, inefficient, annoying and do not often work properly. To compound the issue operations often play distorted, badly recorded and annoying music whilst you wait for unacceptable lengths of time punctuated by bland messages or marketing jingles for products you have no interest in. The repetition of this process simply serves to make the delay seem longer and irritate the consumer to the extent the phone gets put down. Technology in these instances is simply being used for convenience or cost savings. This simply serves to demean the real benefits of technology and waste its true power.

We even recently came across an airline website that had difficulties processing reservations on one of the most used browsers in the world. When challenged the airline simply stated that was the technology, and if we wished to use it then we should change the browser. We changed the airline!

To add further concern to the issue we recently experienced senior IT people who really believed they should be able and authorized to make all technology decisions in a vacuum, and other departments should learn to cope. This was on the basis that they knew best and controlled the budget. Thankfully not all IT executives think that way, but the fact that some seem to is of sufficient concern.

We believe technology can truly drive high levels of customer service, but all team players need an improved technical understanding. The different skill sets need to work more closely together, technology skills need to be accompanied by real customer focus and, above all, technical issues must never be used as an excuse for poor service and product. The companies that embrace this always seem to stand out and are successful.

What is your view? Are there uses and styles of technology that irritate you as a consumer? How have you met some of the challenges?