pbSmart™ for Small Business

Too Many Layers


too many layers of technology

By this point, readers of this blog will have realized that I am a huge technology buff. I am firm believer that high-tech devices, useful websites, apps, and different communication mechanisms make life much easier — when used right. In this post, however, I want to talk about the need for less technology.

Diminishing Returns

Economists often talk about the law of diminishing returns. In a nutshell, it means that we reach a point at which adding another “thing” benefits us less than the previous one. Seem abstract? It isn’t.

Consider food. Let’s say that you haven’t had a chance to eat all day and it’s nearing dinner time. You go across the street and buy a hot dog. Maybe that awoke your hunger so you eat a second and a third. And you keep going. According to the law of diminishing returns, your body didn’t need that fifth hotdog as much as it needed the first and second. If you keep going, hot dogs will soon start doing you more harm than good—unless, of course, you’re in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Penny-Wise, Pound Foolish?

Now that we’ve done our Econ homework, let’s switch gears. We all know that many businesses do not use enough technology, a subject worthy of a book. And then there are those with the opposite problem: they make the mistake of relying too much on the latest bells and whistles. Let me give you an example.

I currently go to a gym in New Jersey that is actually part of a regional chain. A few years ago, the chain decided to centralize its operations through a number of different automated systems. So, every club’s maintenance requests, temperatures, and TVs were controlled exclusively through technology. If the temperature in the club exceeds 80 degrees (as it has been before because of a mechanical problem), the chain’s employees at my local club cannot do anything about it other than “call corporate.”

Needless to say, members aren’t too happy when this happens. Few people need help working up a sweat at the gym in July. Our frustration heightens when some well-meaning high school kid tells us that he literally can’t touch the dial. He can tell his manager, who fills out a ticket that ultimately gets routed to “corporate” (queue sigh.) As a result of this wholly inefficient process, something that ought to take five minutes to resolve takes more than a week—and chains of unnecessary phone calls.

Simon Says

I have no doubt that some bigwig at my gym’s corporate office believes that centralization via these systems saves the company a few bucks. And, for all I know, maybe that’s right. After all, some rogue employee might jack up the heat in the winter. The gym’s systems currently prevent that.

At the same time, though, placing too many human and technological layers between your customers and employees is the pinnacle of foolishness. The goal of workplace technology should not be to keep costs at an absolute minimum. Nor should you make it difficult for employees to satisfy customers, especially by doing incredibly simple things.


What say you?

In a future post, I’ll return to this subject.

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Phil Simon is a recognized technology expert and writer. He is the author of several books including, most recently, The New Small. He can be followed at http://www.philsimonsystems.com/. Phil is not a Pitney Bowes employee and shares his insights on this blog as a paid contributor.

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