Technologies Change – Underlying Needs Remain

Earlier this week, Amazon launched their larger version of the Kindle – an eBook reader – as a new way for people to read textbooks, newspapers, and documents.  Looking at this device, it hit me how bleeding edge this technology for reading books was a few years ago… and how standard it will become someday in the future.  Yet the underlying need remains the same – a human being reading a book, newspaper, document, etc.

Sometimes, it is easy to confuse the technology with the personal or business need being solved.  Technology can often make improvements to speed, mobility, availability, and cost, but it typically doesn’t change the underlying need.  In determining better ways to meet a need, I often find it helpful to get back to the basics and make sure I am clear on what need a feature or product is really meeting.  I started jotting down some other, simple examples:

From To Underlying Need
Hand-written Letter e-mail Written communication
Encyclopedia Brittanica, World Book wikipedia General source for learning, research
Corner drugstore, water fountain Facebook, MySpace, Twitter Grapevine, social networking
Jambox, Sony Walkman iPod Portable music
Hand-entered price labels Scanned UPC barcodes Compiling a price for purchases
A note on the refrigerator Text messaging (SMS) A quick note or reminder 
Payphone Cell phone Call when mobile

So how does this apply to the contact center? 

The migration from copper-wire, circuit-switched, traditional telephony in the contact center to the voice over IP contact center is well underway and has been for a few years.  Yet the underlying needs of the contact center remain the same – efficiently provide service to and contact customers, partners, prospects, etc.  The VoIP contact center provides a more efficient, cost effective technology to meet the same basic business needs. 

Technology improvements should allow us to spend more time focusing on the underlying needs being met and less time on the actual technology itself.

Matt Taylor – Blogger old enough to remember using a "clicker" (the original TV remote control)