As technology improves we have to be careful of using technology at the expense of personal interaction.
As an example, many companies, for many years, have used an automated telephone system to answer their phones for them. One of my clients uses a system that, if I didn’t know peoples direct lines, would result in me never calling them because it’s too confusing and too frustrating to navigate. The money they save in not having a receptionist available to answer all the calls is more than lost in potential clients hanging up on their phone system.
Another example is using an auto-responder to answer your emails. Some people have their email set up so when they receive an email, an automatic message is sent in response saying “thank you for your email, it will be handled in a timely manner” or something similar. Personally, I would rather not receive that message and instead would prefer that it actually be dealt with in a timely manner.
Self checkout at stores is a wonderful feature to offer and I will almost always use a self checkout when available. However, this is something that should be offered as a choice and not a mandate. Banks who have eliminated their tellers and instead force the customers go to a computer to do what they need (and if necessary can pick up a phone to get a real person located somewhere else to help) can only compete on costs. While some people are comfortable with the technology others still want to deal with a person in front of them.
The thing that makes Wal Mart so successful is their use of technology in dealing with ordering and inventory. This is what allows them to price the way they do and also to place products where they do. If you can match this, then maybe the personal touch wont matter (because they don’t seem to be too worried about it) but if you can’t (and no one else seems to be able to), make sure that you don’t allow the use of technology to hurt your business. Many people feel that when a Wal Mart (or someone similar) enters their market, it will result in the small demise of businesses in the area. The reality is, many companies survive and thrive whether Wal Mart is there or not because while they might not be able to match the technology, they can surpass with the people.
Technology is WONDERFUL but don’t allow it to cause you to lose the personal touch.
Have a great day!