We live in a wonderous world full of knowledge and accessibility. We have information overload. If you need-to-know something, your likely first step is to run a Google search. Seemingly every time my kids ask a question these days, I say, “I don’t know. You tell me. Did you search it yet?” This reliance on technology has giving me reason to pause and reflect upon how much better technology has made our lives. It has. But it has also created other problems that we live with every day.
Pandora. I like music. I enjoy all genres. I try not to narrow what I listen to. My musical preferences change based upon my mood too. I set up several stations on Pandora, each reflective of my varied tastes. There’s my Grateful Dead station, my Allman Brothers station, my Parliament Funkadelic station, my Jimmy Buffet station, my Jazz station, and my Juanes station. I do enjoy those Latin rhythms. My wife is Hispanic, and I know enough Spanish to get myself in trouble. But, that’s an entirely different story.
Pandora now plays me Spanish-language ads. It may be one way to get me to upgrade to the premium service, or more likely, it was an algorithm glitch.
Those glitches happen all of the time. We’ve been promised that AI is the Holy Grail. It’s supposed to learn our likes and interests and predict (and predict). I’m beginning to think that it’s mainly about predicting where we’ll spend our money, not anything altruistic.
Passwords. If you log on to a social platform, your bank app, or any e-commerce site, you’ve been prompted to enter your password. While it’s easy to remember a password, you likely have multiple passwords with symbols and capital letters and numbers mixed in for security’s sake. You’ve probably been notified of a data breach or you’ve received a text or email requesting that you log in and change your password. Security experts suggest you change your credentials with some level of frequency. I have 187 sites with varied user names and passwords. Maybe not 187, but close.
How can anyone remember that many user names and passwords?
I don’t. I have a printed document with all of the user names and passwords listed. There are apps and devices that store that information, but they can be vulnerable too. So much for secure information. I’m beginning to think that everything is a false sense of security.
Retail and Restaurants. I had to pick up a few items at the home store. Typical stuff…batteries, air conditioner filters, wood glue, and a couple of light bulbs. No big deal. I thought I’d get in and get out. It was an uneventful experience. I found what I was looking for and headed towards the registers. There were lines of people waiting to check out. There were also a couple of self-service kiosks completely available. I thought I would save some time. How hard could it be to scan a few items and get out the door?
I stepped up to the screen and began scanning the first item. The barcode reader was having trouble. So I swiped it again. Then, the register rang the item up twice. I really didn’t need two bottles of wood glue. One would suffice for our little arts and crafts project. I looked around for an employee for assistance, but no one was readily available. I moved on.
I continued scanning the remaining items while still looking for assistance. Then, an alert sounded. Apparently, I didn’t put the item in the bag quick enough. Finally, a person came over to assist. She never said anything to me. She stepped in front of me, swiped her badge, pressed a few numbers on the keypad, and walked away. I had to call her back to remove the duplicate charge. As I walked out, I looked back towards the registers that had the long lines. The lines had cleared. I shook my head, frustrated at myself. Had I been just a bit more patient, I would’ve had a much better shopping experience.
Instead, I provided free labor without so much as a thank you for my work, or for the money I spent.
I made my way home and got a craving for French fries. I know. It’s a weakness. I pulled into McDonald’s and parked. I don’t do drive-thru’s. I don’t really know why. They just seem to be slow, and it feels like orders are never right. I went inside and expected to walk up to the register to place an order. Instead, I found sleek-looking kiosk. My first thought was, “I’m not sure this is very clean, and I really don’t want to touch the screen.”
I toughed it out using the knuckle method rather than risking a fingertip press. I followed the prompts, and was a bit overwhelmed with the number of offerings. I just wanted a small fry. I glanced up and saw no one available to help. No employee. No manager. An older woman was confused with the kiosk next to me. A dad, totally overwhelmed by his energetic toddlers, could barely get them to hold still let alone stand there so he could place the order at the kiosk. By 2020, self-service ordering kiosks will be implemented at all US McDonald’s locations. I’m beginning to think that companies have completely underestimated the value of service.
Technology is wooing. It promises to simplify. It invades all aspects of our lives for better, or worse. We cannot avoid the pervasiveness of technology, but we can learn to use it in conjunction with a human touch; rather than instead of a human touch.
David Rose is a Partner and VP of Talent Acquisition with YELLLOW DOG Recruiting, a firm focused on placing leaders in the hospitality and service industries.