Forget innovation, get the basics down

Stop trying to be fancy and get the everyday stuff out of the way first.

As a technologist I'm always thrilled to be able to work with a computer whenever I go someplace.  However, it usually ends in despair because while everyone's trying too hard to make tons of money off of every click, nobody's covering the basics.  And not nearly enough people are asking the questions they should and then demanding answers. 

What questions should we all be asking?  Let's try these on for starters.

Why do I still have to tell my grocery cashier that my card is debit?  The devices are 2ft apart, surely they can talk to each other.

Why do I have to fax in my request to get internet payments turned on with my water company?

When I go to the doctor, why do I still have to sit there and fill out every form and put the same info in 7 different spots?  Seriously, it's just ridiculous that anyone still does this, much less everyone.

When I call tech support and type in my acct# while I'm going through the menus, why does the tech who answers never have that info?  What happened to all that typing I did?  Was it just to keep me busy?

Why when I take my box into Geek Squad do I still have to fill out a paper form and put all my info on it?  I bought the box from Best Buy and they already took all my info.  Why can't you just take it out of the same DB?  You're in the same store.

Ok, that'll do for now, you get the idea.  Basically, I'm just sick to death of computers being everywhere around me, but I'm still having to do so much by hand.  Now, it doesn't sound like a horrible thing, right?  But the problem isn't necessarily that I have to do it, it's all the repetition.  And it's my own info, so I already know it;  I don't need the practice.  The repetition comes in 2 forms. 

First, all the different forms that take the same info again and again have got to go.  You can't tell me that nobody who works for any of these places has ever said, hey, why don't we put this system online so our customers don't have to fill in the same info several times.  I bet they would love that.

The second form of repetition comes in the form of actual verbal repetition. 

"Sir, what's your address?"

"220 Turtle Creek Dr."

"240 Turtle Creek Dr., got it"

"No, that's 220... 2-2-0."

" Ok, I'm sorry, that's 2-2-0 Turtle Greek Dr."

"Wait, did you say creek or greek?"

" I said greek."

"What the hell is a turtle greek?  I said creek, as in a place where turtles hang out."

And repeat that same process with lastname/firstname, GroupID, DOB, etc.  It's just a painful process and it needs to go.

"Tell you what sir, why don't you go to our website and fill out the new customer form."

"I'd love to, thanks."

See how easy that was?

Guys, we should be way past this kind of crap by now.  There are so many things that should be done for us by companies and they're just not stepping up to the plate.  And part of it is our fault as the consumer.  We put up with it and it's mainly because as individuals we know better, but as a group we're just used to having to jump through stupid hoops to get something done so we allow them to walk all over us.  But we should be demanding that they change their attitudes and start taking us into account for more than just their cash cows.

You know who gets my money every single time in the past 20yrs?  Discount Tire, that's who.  Because every single time I go there they have my info at their fingertips.  Sometimes it's out of date because I've moved, but they never ask me stupid questions or make me repeat my info to make sure it's correct.  The guy just turns the screen around and says, is this all still correct?  I tell him the changes to make and we're golden.  And it doesn't matter which store I go into either.  They all have my info.  Now, why can't the rest of you be like that?  Why do I have to go around and around with companies who live and breathe and make all of their money in technology while a tire store puts you to shame?

Hell, Microsoft wasn't any better for the longest time.  I'm not sure about now, but even just a couple yrs ago when I signed up for MSDN it took 2-3wks for my order to go through.  Seriously guys?  I can't think of any reason why it would take that long from a technology company.  Put the order into your system, send it to the next system, and then send me an email with my login info.  Taking that long to sign someone up for an online service means that your process is seriously broken, and you've got people there who don't understand what technology is for.  I haven't had to sign up for a while so I don't know if it's been fixed, but even a couple yrs ago that's ridiculous.

So forget about the flying cars we were promised, and the robot maids.  Everyone get out there and start demanding that companies use their technology for something other than to just empty our wallets.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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