Features from Meantime IT

Snooze on IT and lose your customers

If you’re over 30, chances are you remember the first time email was introduced into the office. Until then the fax reigned king, and if you visited a friend with a fax machine in their home you knew they must be kind of a big deal. But then email came along, and teams of office workers gathered around a monitor the size of a microwave oven to marvel as the admin manager declared, "So you just hit send and... it’s gone! No need to print!"

Then dial-up was replaced by ADSL and you could be online on your computer at the same time as you were on the phone; oh, the efficiency! And then there was broadband; oh, the speed! And now? Well, now you can watch movies on a hand-held three inch screen on a train travelling at 80mph, or you can speak face to face to your loved ones on the other side of the world from an iPad while you’re in the bath.

Fire up the flying car

As easy as it is to imagine that our generation is the one that has it best, and how difficult it is to picture what devices our future selves will be using to make our lives easier (Back to the Future Part II flying cars in 2015?), it’s a given that the advances in technology won’t grind to a halt any time soon. Consider the speed with which we’ve gone from typed memos with three carbon copies bashed out on an Olivetti typewriter and delivered by a friendly chap with a hand cart, to emails sent company-wide from a smart phone in an airport lounge (about the time it’s taken my daughter to be born in 1992 and get through her first year at university, if you were wondering).

Tackle IT head on

IT moves along at a frightening pace, and there are still far too many organisations which would rather step aside and let it pass them by simply because they’re too scared to tackle it head on. Last weekend, I went to dinner in a city-centre restaurant that didn’t take card payments. I didn’t discover this until the end of the meal and so had to leave my daughter there as ransom while I went to seek out a cash machine on a cold dark night. I certainly won’t be eating there again. Over Christmas, I ordered gifts online only to receive a letter three weeks later telling me the items were out of stock and my payment had been refunded. I won’t be shopping there again.

Put your money where your mouth is

There is simply no reason to treat customers in this way when the technology is available to process transactions on-the-fly and alert would-be customers to any potential problems immediately. We’re not talking billions, millions or sometimes even thousands of pounds; depending on the size and type of your operation a basic off-the-shelf package will manage stock control and process payments efficiently.

Look and learn

You don’t have to be an IT know-it-all to know what’s best for your business. Neither do you need to be a child of the 90s, when keyboards were more commonplace than pens in the classroom (and more recently replaced by touch-screen tablets). Simply watch, listen and learn. Remember the times you got great service, and ask yourself why that was. Did your order confirmation, payment receipt and despatch note all pop into your inbox within seconds of hitting ‘buy’? Did the delivery service keep you updated by text so you didn’t have to wait in all day? Has your bank been trailing the latest technology on prime time ads? Is it something you should be looking into?
Similarly, remember the times you were let down, because you can be sure that if you weren’t happy, other people weren’t either. If you recognise your own business practices in your experience, you know it’s time to change. The most heartfelt apologies in the world won’t mean a thing if they’re happening every week, customers will vote with their feet and go elsewhere.

IT isn’t rocket science. (OK, sometimes it is.) But it’s certainly not a mystical, magical world of wonderment only the special few can understand. We can’t all be great coders or developers, just as we can’t all be great writers or painters. But just as we all need to read and write, we all need to be aware of the importance of IT, because it’s here to stay.