Behind the pace

I’ve just finished writing an article for Crikey on how businesses are well behind the pace in using social media. Then I called a new client asking where to email their invoice. “We don’t really have email,” they said. How can a retail business which has to coordinate four shops (plus who knows how many suppliers) possibly operate competitively with last-century technology?

7 Replies to “Behind the pace”

  1. yeah i cant believe that either – yet i find that often also
    the one i find funny is all the plumbers and the like who have their email address on their van or the like
    you would think by now they would have thought – hmm i really need a webpage…. i mean the internet has been here for only 12 years now and at least 7 of those mainstream.. oh well theres a marketing opportunity for people like me!

  2. @tim: I suspect the plumbers et al still get plenty of work via the phone, so they don’t see any value in a website. And a colleague reminded me that when she needed an “emergency plumber” she turned straight to the fridge magnet that’d been put in her letterbox — the one from a plumber, not the anti-terrorism one.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. If the plumbers around here are any guide, then they really should get email and websites to increase their income.

    Not because of the extra work it would bring in – they’re all flat out and working Sundays already – but because every one of them would have no hesitation in charging double to any tosser who contacted them via the internet.

    You can bang on all you like about twenty-first century technology, but what a plumber wants is a chance to talk to a real live client, so they can get some idea for what the hell is wrong by asking questions. Otherwise they have no idea how much time to schedule for the job. So the best-fit technology is a telephone – mobile on their end, who cares on your end.

    Just because some technologies are newer doesn’t automatically make them better suited to a task.

    Having said that, one of my pet peeves is that when I want to order an item that’s not in stock at a store, they always offer to call when it comes in. I’m rarely by a phone (I live in a place with no mobile coverage, and I work outdoors) and I always ask them to email me. Most can’t. Email for leaving a message is better for me (saves me writing down the message off the answering machine) and cheaper for them. Why the F$%k can’t most shops do that in 2007?

  4. @JP: That’s an excellent point about plumbers and the Internet, thank you. You’re right: new does not necessarily equal better.

    I must admit, I sometimes find myself spending ages crafting an email when a phone call would resolve the situation much more quickly.

  5. However, there are plenty of businesses that SHOULD really be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century…

    What gets me are the number of restaurants that don’t have web sites here in Adelaide. Of all the business types that would benefit from one, a restaurant has got to be near the top of the list.

    And not only no web site — when I ask them to just email me a PDF of their menu, they tell me they can FAX one to me, they don’t do email. Sheesh – my fax ran out of ink three years ago and I haven’t missed it since.

    And don’t get me started on bloody Medicare cheques or refund cheques from service providers. Cheques? Bits of paper I have to mail out again or stand in line to deposit?

  6. @KerryJ: The more I think about this issue, the more I think it’s just the usual problem of businesses failing to take a step back occasionally and look at what they’re doing and how they do business.

    For restaurants in particular, this must be tricky, as they’re focussed very heavily on the day-to-day performance of making and serving meals. When they look at wanting to “improve”, there’s a tendency to look at the little things — where they’re ordering produce, whether to offer a 10% lunch discount or an extra coffee. But they rarely look at the bigger picture and notice, “Wow, there’s now four other cheap pasta restaurants in our suburb, perhaps we ought to see how we can differentiate ourself in that marketplace.”

    In March 2006 I complained that Australia Post’s website doesn’t have basic information like when they’re open over the holidays. They still don’t.

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