I was talking to my mother this morning. My parents recently switched their cable/phone/internet provider and were having all kinds of trouble, including billing issues. They were also billed by their insurer for shots that should have been covered. In both cases, when they tried to get help from the company, they were greeted by the ever-so-popular “press 1 for…” And of course, in both cases, many minutes were spent attempting to actually speak to a live person.
That got me thinking about our “connected” world. Technology has created a lifestyle that generations before us never thought possible. We may not have the hover cars of the Jetsons (yet, though I’m still waiting for them!), but our techie lives have created a generation that is always accessible, available, and in contact. We’re connecting through posts on Facebook with friends, family and, in some cases, customers and clients. We’re constantly checking and responding to e-mails. Tweets can inform millions what we think, how we feel, or what we ate for breakfast. FourSquare is telling everyone where we are. We can be reached by phone wherever we go because they’ve taken on the American Express tag line–we don’t leave home without them. We are connected like no generation before us.
This same technology is allowing companies to reach out to customers and connect with them, frankly, honestly, openly, without the corporate messaging. It’s a whole new playing field in which everyone with a keyboard has a voice, and will be heard. And it also gives us an excuse to forget how things were done in the past, because we are so focused on using all those tools that are available to us today. We can e-mail a thought to a client at 2 a.m knowing they’ll receive it first thing in the morning. We can respond to a customer who didn’t like our services through a tweet while we’re running to a meeting. We can hold meetings through web cams from across the country. We can watch the video of a family reunion that we were unable to attend. This connectivity has freed us and given us more ways of interacting with so many people in our lives.
But it’s important to remember that a post on Facebook is no replacement for a hug from a parent, laughs shared over a glass of wine with a dear friend, or a handshake with a client. The connectivity has given us a virtual world, but it’s not a replacement for in-person experiences. Those can never be replaced.