Are We In a Golden Age of Information?
Are we in a Golden Age of information? I have to admit that I am being spoiled almost every single day. Every day, 99% of everything I can think of for which I do not know the answer I can find the answer. It is remarkable. I can Google darn near everything and find it. I can search through a “magnifying glass” on most of the website I use. I don’t have to go to the library or “call a friend.”
So that is a wonderful thing. I can get answers to almost all of my questions. But there are several questions I still struggle with on a daily basis. The most important one is “WHY?”
And no, the answer is NOT why not. That is much too easy. It is being lazy. Although I still think I have lazy tendencies most people don’t equate the word “lazy” with me. I do too many things, poorly perhaps, but a lot of things get done. Every day. And be fair to yourself too. You get a lot done every day as well.
But the WHY questions haunt me. Constantly. I have been cursed I suppose because I never got over the “why” phase of my life when I was growing up. Do you remember those days yourself? Why is the sky blue? Why is clear water in a lake black? Or as George Carlin made famous “why do we park in a driveway and drive in a parkway?”
Alex Schuessler coined a phrase I can’t get out of my head. We have gone from “Paper to Glass.” We have taken most “computer improvements” and moved from a six-part paper form (PAPER) we filled in with a pen and put the document on a computer screen (GLASS).
I have been involved with computerization all my work life. I took “computer science” as a minor at university. We used punch cards, FORTRAN and COBOL programming languages. I wanted to get a job as a computer programmer but IBM wasn’t hiring when I finished school. When I started in the business in 1969. I was hired to find and fix a problem with a computer software installation. The Parts Inventory, which was managed with a “Double Exponentially smoothly Poisson mathematical statistics model (Phew). I didn’t know it at the time but that turned out to be an unbelievably wonderful opportunity for me both professionally and personally.
Of course, we found the problem and fixed it. From that point on I was put into areas where there were some problems or difficulties or situations that needed to be solved. Looking back, I couldn’t have designed a better training program for my work life as a consultant. I was involved in “CQI” – Continuous Quality Improvement or “TQM” – Total Quality Management right from the beginning. Typically, however, is I had a question that I needed to have answered I either had to ask someone and they gave me their opinion or I had to start my own research. I did both and I had many men who were mentors or helped me along the way.
So today I don’t need to ask anyone other than my phone or my computer. But the WHY question still lurks out there.
I talk to a lot of people in the industry. I talk to leaders, managers, workers everybody. They are normally asking me questions. As in my classes and our employee development business, Learning Without Scars, I use the Socratic method of teaching. I rarely answer questions. I typically flip the question and ask what the person asking the question thinks is the answer. And normally they have a very good answer. BUT they lack confidence. That is a learned response. When we challenge the status quo, and want to make a change. There are a lot of people that are vested in the current methods and approaches. They dismiss your ideas out of hand. Many times, they make it personal and disparage you. In a normal manner we start complying and fitting into the current mode of doing things. That is really disappointing to me.
As a consultant I am being paid for my opinions. As an employee you are being paid to do a job. There is a real difference there. Happily, those days are coming to an end. We are on the cusp of a generational change in almost all aspects of our society and workplace. The Alpha Generation, Gen Z and Gen X and even the younger millennials will not accept the status quo. That is part of the reason for what Sonya Law calls “The Great Reshuffle.” That is what we call in America the “Great Resignation.” That somehow changes the onus of responsibility, doesn’t it? It isn’t because we wanted to have a more challenging job. It is that we quit.
We have many opinion surveys, from watching television with the Nielson ratings to the famous Gallup Polls. We seem to want to have reasons for everything. We want to understand why things happened. Gallup says that employees are leaving their jobs because they don’t feel that they are engaged at work in what they do. I liken that to a tool box. An employee has a “task” that needs to be done. They define the kind of tool that is required to perform the task. Think of a job description and performance standards and job prerequisites. They interview people for the job. They hire the person that they think is best for the job. In my way of thinking they “bought a tool” to perform the task. Then someone teaches them (they call it on the job training) how to do the job. Then they have the employee practice it and get faster and faster at it. They want efficiency in performance. That means speed. Then business establishes performance criteria – they call them metrics, for what productivity should be for any specific aspect of their businesses. One common metric is sales per employee. This is measured in terms of currency. Money. And the common thinking is that the higher the number the better it is. That might be applicable in some areas but how do you think it works in a customer service environment? The higher the sales per employee, that means there will be fewer people to do the job. That means customers will wait. It first became evident to me when we introduced “Call Waiting.” The phone would ring and ring because we didn’t have enough people to answer the phone. Do you remember “Can I put you on a brief hold?” Then we got to “Voice Mail.” We were told there would be a wait but would you like to leave a message and someone will call you right back. Remember that? Then I found some dealers had a radio type of message running while the customer was on hold. Some dealer actually had every call listen to the commercial before the call was answered. I was only 30 seconds that won’t hurt anything. Who are we trying to satisfy here? The company or the customer.
I am asked often – “why aren’t customers loyal anymore?” Or I hear “Customer Loyalty is a thing of the past” To both comments I ask – “What have we done to make our customers loyal to us?”
My conclusion is that we haven’t done very much to make our customers loyal.
Yes, we are in the Golden Ago of information. We can get answers to almost all of our questions. We still don’t have the answers to the most important questions. What does our customer want and need and desire? Until we start focusing on those questions pertaining to our share of the after-market business, parts and labor, will continue to decline. And please don’t forget. That is where you make all of your money.
I would hope that there is a tingling somewhere in your body. YOU are at RISK. Unless we start to concentrate on making our customers happy more than we concentrate on making money WE all will be at RISK. I think we need to get to work.
The Time is Now.