Customer Readiness vs Company Readiness

More and more in my work I’m seeing a chasm growing between customer readiness for new technology and tools and corporate readiness. Customers are demanding that companies be available to them in a variety of ways on a variety of platforms. Some of the new technologies and tools may be easy to use for the consumer, but require a heck of a lot more upkeep on the corporate side.

In most cases, I will err on the side of what the company can keep up with right now. Recently, I’ve pushed certain companies in certain areas (mainly music, film and wine) to broaden their horizon. The plainly evident current and future benefit of pushing past their comfort zone into new frontiers demands that they grow faster than planned into new things.

A case in point is Location Based Services (LBS). For the end user, LBS is simple and fun to use, with immediate benefits from connection with friends and colleagues to goods and services offered. For the company, truly integrating it into their infrastructure in a sustainable way can be torture. It’s time consuming. It requires a level of tech expertise they may not have, and hiring that expertise may exceed their planned budget. It requires a different type of thinking to use well.

When bouncing the ideas I have off of colleagues in search of better access to the folks behind the LBS companies for help, or sources for more cost effective ways to integrate, without fail I get “they have an API”. Well, yes, I am aware the LBS companies often have an API and that it is useful, but also that we must be vigilant in our awareness that not everyone is as tech savvy as we are. Most folks just want to use the tools simply while doing their jobs, and on occasion, an API doesn’t fit that scenario.

I can say that I am trying to sort out this very issue on a highly visible client right now, and that you can expect a follow up post on how we solve the problem for them, so that you can do it for your clients and businesses, too. Right now we’re having an easier time integrating some even more bleeding edge ideas for them than we are making an LBS API part of the client’s routine infrastructure. It’s a good thing I love a challenge.

My request for LBS services like Foursquare and Gowalla is this: broaden and empower your customer service department as you grow. Right now you don’t have the staff to answer customer level questions, and that is turning people away from integrating your very cool tools. Think ahead to folks that may not have the budget for someone like me long term or an on staff tech genius. Make your API documentation so simple my grandma could do it (granted, my grandma was pretty darn smart, but I think you get my drift). When you can, make widget style implementations of all aspects of your API. Your growth will show it. People and businesses want what you are doing.