• September 1, 2006
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Downtime Is Dead

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The idea of disconnecting from a personal or professional network during downtime is, for many busy professionals (especially in micropolitan areas and larger), as unlikely as being able to take a three-week vacation. And when consumers' days are filled with all work and no play, it makes communicating with them even more difficult. Sadly, 43 percent of Americans spend some time working while on vacation, according to a July survey of 700 United States workers conducted by office-furniture manufacturer Steelcase. This number is nearly double the percentage of employees (23 percent) who stated they worked on vacation in 1995, when the company conducted a similar survey. There's no question that technology is making our lives easier--we're more productive and more efficient than ever, in almost every part of life. Somewhere along the line, however, a shift (or duality), occurred: Instead of simply making our lives easier, technology has simultaneously made life more complicated. Because we can accomplish more with technology, especially remotely, business is moving faster and more demands are placed on us. Technology has helped to deepen our culture's instant-gratification bent, and not only interferes with our vacation time, but also with our attitudes toward our daily downtime experiences, such as driving. I used to enjoy driving quite a bit. I appreciated invigorating rides with the wind in my face, great music, and the open road. And I found the more serene rides, in which my mind could wander, to be therapeutic. I still like to drive, but my enjoyment isn't the same. I never gave it too much thought, but I figured it was me having matured--a car and the open road just wouldn't appeal to me as much as they used to. Other recent research shows that a general change in societal behavior is also changing our attitudes toward driving, and, I suspect, other downtime activities. According to a poll released in August by the Pew Research Center, about 70 percent of drivers enjoy driving, while the rest think it's a chore. This is down from 1991 when about 80 percent stated they liked driving. The top reasons for the shift? Traffic and the behavior of other drivers, the research states. Interestingly, high real-estate prices have influenced traffic patterns, according to the report. As more people move deeper into the suburbs for more affordable homes, congestion and commuting times increase. But it can be argued that technology has changed the behavior of drivers. When drivers are yammering away on their cell phones they aren't able to give their full attention to the road. What's troubling is that people have such an insatiable need to satisfy their desire for instant gratification that they're willing to put themselves and others on the road at risk. There are a couple of CRM issues that can be gleaned here. First, make sure your company is helping customers resolve problems fast. Second, if your company can, in any way, help customers gain back their sorely missed downtime, now is your chance. *** Please watch for our CRM Market Awards issue next month, in which we honor CRM vendors and customer companies with CRM Market Leader, Influential Leader, Rising Star, and Elite awards. Winners will be presented with the awards at the destinationCRM 2006 conference, which runs September 17-19 (see page 27 for more details). David Myron Editor-in-Chief dmyron@destinationCRM.com
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