They say that love is blind (whoever "they" are), and they aren't that far off. When smitten, we tend to, if not forget about most everything else, at least relegate it to a lower rung on the "importance in life" scale. In the past few years most industries, including the travel industry, have been having a love affair with technology. We've been buying it, using it, and talking about it almost as if nothing else in the world mattered. I have spoken at conferences in 23 countries in the past three years, and the topic of technology has dominated, if not consumed, the agenda at every single one of them.
Technology is important. But the issue is: Has our infatuation with technology gotten out of proportion? Has it so consumed our agendas that it is taking attention away from issues of equal or greater importance?
Who Is Technology Helping? Since we probably all know about the many positive qualities of technology, let me point out two of its potential downsides. First, too much of today's technology is being embraced for the convenience and efficiency of the seller or service provider at the expense of the customer or service receiver. For example, while some phone management systems actually provide added service to callers, the vast majority manage callers for the convenience of the recipient. Or, how about the all-too-familiar "You can get that from our Web site" response to customer questions? Because of this shift in time and expense to customers, much of today's technology will never be truly embraced. The truth of the matter is that there are too many "chip heads" who have confused an ability to do something with a marketplace desire to do it.
The second potential downside to obsessing over technology is an inherent loss of personalization. With increasing frequency I am accessing Web sites that provide no option to talk to a human no matter how much I desire to have that option. More and more often I am calling businesses whose phone systems are purposely designed to protect their humans from any contact with me.
The bottom line: We are spending too much time and attention on technology at the expense of something that has always been the core of an organization's success - personalized, caring, customer or member service. No, it's not a new topic. No, it's not as sexy as "wow" technology. Yes, we've talked about it for years. It is, however, an objective where excellence is never mastered and where attention must never be abandoned.
It's this simple: The success of your meeting will always be less a consequence of the quantity and quality of technology employed than it will be of the way your meeting attendees were greeted at the door of the hotel, the reception they received at the front desk, the quality and timeliness of room service, the effort and care of the banquet and audiovisual staff, the quality and efficiency of your planning and registration staff, and the like. At the end of the day it is always the people who will matter most. It's time for a little more balance between service and silicon.