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And Technology to Serve Me
Columnist Marianne Cotter contends with her increasingly high expectations as an online consumer.
Posted Jun 30, 2000
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I have spent much of the last two years immersed in a culture that says I, as a customer, control my online relationships. That the Web seeks to please me. That the Internet is a mere conduit through which my every whim is conveyed, received and fulfilled.

When taken to its logical conclusion, this idea reverses the notion that we as a culture worship technology. Technology, theoretically, worships us. After all, we created it by breathing binary code, silicon and venture capital into its CPU. We nurtured it with improved bandwidth, faster processors and second-round financing. And quickly, it assumed a life of its own with a single mission: to serve its creators. And as creators (collectively speaking), that makes us gods of the technology universe. Or in my case, a goddess.

A goddess, admittedly, of an imperfect universe--a universe in progress. But that doesn't stop my expectations from soaring. I spend unconscionable amounts of time doggedly tracking a piece of information online that I can obtain instantly from an earlier creation, the telephone.

This obstinacy (goddesses can be obstinate) nearly led a friend and me to a bitter disappointment--ironically on April Fool's Day--when the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) began selling tickets to its two September Shakespeare plays. With actor Ralph Fiennes in the starring role of both plays, competition for the weekend performances would be fierce. Since BAM has a ticket-ordering feature on its Web site, we thought we'd go straight to the source and at 7 a.m. precisely, when ticket sales opened, we logged on and submitted our order.

Fortunately, my very astute friend read the fine print and realized that by the time our cyber order was processed (three days) the coveted weekend performances would likely be sold out. However, the aforementioned telephone got us directly to Ticket Master, which processed the order immediately. In this case, Ticket Master's highly refined telephone order processing system was much more efficient than the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Web site. And, when you think about it, a goddess should have known.

So the goddess was not amused (goddesses can refer to themselves in the third person). Yet, she did not question her creation. Why?

For one, the big payoff. The information provided on www.bam.org far exceeds anything the general 800 number offers. For the goddess' benefit BAM online offers historical information (a model urban arts center, BAM is America's oldest operating performing arts venue), a seating chart, a calendar of upcoming events with descriptions and biographies, copious directions and transportation options from all over the city (handy for visiting goddesses), a description of the BAM café and much more. While the site lists educational programs, sadly, there is no information about BAM career opportunities. Even goddesses have career aspirations.

Second, for the joy of seeing one's creation progress toward a state of perfect customer service. I fully expect that someday I will log on to the BAM site, which will have anticipated my desire and prepared an order with tickets and preferred seating to the upcoming Shakespeare play. Once I confirm the order, I will be connected via Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) directly to Ralph Fiennes, with whom I will discuss the merits of the play at length (goddesses have high expectations). When the day of the performance arrives, I will receive an e-mail with the weather report, clothing suggestions (umbrella and galoshes), directions and cost of transportation or parking. Then after I've had a chance to digest the performance, BAM will again arrange a VoIP conversation with Ralph who will anxiously inquire as to my satisfaction with the production.

It pleases the goddess to be worshipped.

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