Pay attention people: Finding the balance between tech and talk

Like most people, I’m sure we have all witnessed those who have let technology rule their lives to the extent that they become completely unaware of their surroundings.

Case in point.  I recently saw a compilation of videos where people were so busy texting or engrossed with their smart phones that they walked into windows, ran into parked cars, stumbled off curbs and the list goes on.

After laughing at the complete idiocy of these people it occurred to me that as a society we really have crossed the threshold that makes tech so important to us that we literally can let it block out everything and everyone around us.

The real question to be answered, however, is have we lost something in the process?

My wife and I recently went out to dinner with some friends and at the restaurant the couple was continually on their smartphones texting, and otherwise engaged with it rather than with present company.

Now, I would blatantly call their manners rude and annoying, but it caused me to think about my earlier question about what was lost.  In this case, the opportunity to share an uninterrupted conversation and the possibility of wanting to go out with this couple in the future was a foregone conclusion.

It also made me ponder the other side of the question: What has been gained?

Since we have teenage children, it is a relief to be able to communicate with them about curfews, their plans etc., without the need for embarrassing phone calls.  Score one for technology.

It is nice to be able to get in the car or travel to a new city and have instant directions courtesy of the mobile navigation apps.

It is also nice to be able to show all the nearby attractions and restaurants without the need to track down a concierge.

I also like the mobile app capability that my credit union has so that I can easily check balances, transfer funds, and even apply for a loan if need be.

Obviously the list goes on regarding the many benefits our current state of technology provides. But it still lends the question – at what cost?

My wife recently joined the FitBit craze with her co-workers. So everyday it is a competition to see who can get the most steps.  The side benefit of the FitBit is that she is in better shape. The downside, however, is the constant monitoring of the app to see where everyone else is and what she needs to walk to stay ahead. It drives me crazy!

Again, cost\benefit.

I recently had the opportunity to visit with one of my premier customers, where they showcased their latest branch design.  It incorporated walk up video teller stations and a concierge desk to help visiting members.

Additionally there was a very amazing office where a member could sit down and videoconference with a member service rep and accomplish everything they needed to open a new account, take a loan out, change account information, etc.  Of course, our ECM solution played a small role in enabling this, but the point being made here is this:

Our credit union partner clearly understood the fine balance between technology and the need to preserve the human interaction experience.  Those in the branch that wanted to converse with a live MSR could do so either in person or via video conference.

What a great balance. The credit union accomplished both objectives and in the process was able to streamline its operations and leverage the capabilities of its technology to meet the needs of both its tech savvy members and the traditional member service relationship others cherish.  It also reduced head count, which made the credit union far more efficient than a traditional brick and mortar branch.

After seeing the success of this modern branch, I think I have reached the following conclusion: Technology has given us the freedoms to interact and conduct the business we need to without the physical constraints of yesteryear.

However, the price we need to pay is the understanding that like everything that is good, we need a healthy balance between our inherent need to be engaged with our fellow human beings and the impersonal nature of our interaction with our mobile devices.

Nothing earth shattering there, but sometimes its good to step back and realign our priorities.

Now if we could just get people to shut the phones off while driving!

How has your credit union found the balance between technology and human interaction?

Scott Cowan

Scott Cowan

Over the past 25 years, Mr. Cowan has held Executive Technical Sales and Management positions with several Fortune 500 companies including: Fiserv, Qwest Communications and Nokia Internet Communications, Network Security ... Web: Details