Real People in the Wild
Some software developers use the phrase “in the wild” to describe when a digital capability is released to the public.
Evolution of the Drive-Up Concept
Have you noticed at your local Starbucks that live people are the least valued customers in the store? This assumes you can walk into a store. Drive-up and mobile customers are prioritized, often appearing to drop in for their grab-n-go order or speed through the drive-up lane at an expedited pace. When was the last time you walked into a Starbucks? Their original appeal beyond the coffee was a comfortable place to hang out and enjoy your coffee. Maybe you haven’t noticed; those comfy chairs are no longer central to the experience.
The drive-up adapted before our eyes. Chick-fil-A is the master of drive-through efficiency and can move hundreds of cars through a multi-lane lunch scheme that customers know will move quickly. But the drive-up concept of the 1960s has finally and unmistakably lowered the priority of the customer in the store.
Don’t hold up the line checking your order; keep it moving, please.
Holding a Place
Twenty years ago, I was serving as a defense fellow in the office of then-Senator Thad Cochran. As a fellow, I was on loan to the Senator’s office as part of an exchange program between the executive branch and Congress. The program helps further develop leaders across government by exposing them to different decision-making and problem-solving techniques.
An early observation during that tour was that people were often paid to hold a place in line for an executive or lobbyist to attend a forthcoming over-crowded hearing. A hearing is an opportunity to “run into” people of influence from across the government. Spending time in line was not a productive use of time, but being in the room at a hearing was. Why not pay someone a modest fee to hold the seat for you?
Today, hearings can be digested digitally through a scan of a transcript available quickly, or by watching the hearing live or as a recording on one’s own time. What’s missing from this method is the opportunity to “run into” some person of influence.
The exchange of fees for service like holding a seat was a classic example of supply and demand. Twenty years ago, smartphones were in their infancy, apps were not mainstream, and the concept of holding a seat digitally wasn’t a viable option. A human connection was required for this transaction to work.
The Digital Shift in Communication
How often do you now accept an invitation for a video call in lieu of a phone call, email, or use another digital scheduling tool to arrange a follow-up meeting? I’m guilty on all counts.
The pandemic forced us to accelerate adaptation to digital and “non-contact” means of service. The efficiency just makes sense and in theory, makes us that much more productive. But does it?
There’s something to be said about the value of incidental contact, sidebar conversations, and the openness to share ideas more deeply. When I engage with professional colleagues or clients in a live meeting, a seminar, or (even sometimes) a tradeshow, I always come away with something more and something unexpected. But the bonus can only emerge if the conditions are set to allow it to come through.
Some say success is when luck meets preparation. I believe preparation includes being in proximity to the colleague, prospect, customer, or client.
Technology can fill innumerable seams, but it can’t replace the essence of you.
For a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring® Circus of Federal Sales, and more information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.