I keep reading articles about how fast the world is changing. I have to agree. The work world, the online world, the publishing world, the educational world— all my worlds seem to be undergoing major upheavals that the optimists call “creative disruption.” MBA types insist it is a good thing. It is one of the big, current, business buzz phrases.
I figure I can roll with it. Oh, every now and then a spell passes when I am not paying attention and I suddenly notice things are very different and I never even noticed them changing. That is disconcerting for a while, but I like to think I am adaptable.
A few changes I may never adjust to, however. These are basic attitudinal ones. Someone decides that something that matters to me isn’t important anymore. Basic expectations regarding the relationships between people, or between a person and a company she patronizes, are getting disrupted too because of this.
High on my list of these changes are the attitudes about privacy. The disruptionists seem to take the view that privacy is dead, and I should just get used to it. Online privacy is not expected anymore, they say. Besides, if there were stricter online privacy, they could not monetize their cool software by selling data about me to advertisers. Good heavens, we can’t have that, right? The whole internet revolution might grind to a halt.
Also pretty high on the list is a new attitude among businesses. It goes something like this: We are going to push off our work onto you, the customer, so that we can make more money. We are going to use up your time so that we do not have to pay people to provide customer service to those who buy our products.
I regret to say that this also came out of the technology sector, if my memory serves me right. When they got away with it, other companies followed suit. Big tech companies and big internet companies don’t even pretend they offer customer service by having someone in India pretend to help you. You are on your own. You have a problem with that software you bought? Here is the online self-help you can comb through, and the online community of other customers you can consult. Dig deeply enough, spend enough of your time, and you may uncover the patch we made six months after releasing the product to fix the problem you are having. And if all else fails, uninstall, wipe your hard drive, reinstall all of your software, then add ours again. It should not take more than four or five hours if you know what you are doing.
Now, I can fight back, up to a point. I can refuse to be that company’s customer again. But when this is the attitude of all of them, where do I go?
Worse, this “We are saving costs by shifting the work onto our customers” attitude is filtering down to other organizations and to other situations. Like my employer. Like my nonprofit professional associations. (We bought this new software that will make our lives easier. So sorry that it takes you an hour to figure out how to use it and it times out before you are finished inputing all the info we demand, so we don’t have to plug it in ourselves. Try cleaning your cache to see if that helps.)
Like I said, I am adaptable. I just don’t like being my own customer service rep. I don’t like spending a whole day trying to find a solution to a problem with a product I bought, or trying to get some glitchy form or system to work. And I think consumers need to start thinking about how to do a little creative disruption of their own.
Do you have a love/hate relationship with computers, software, social networking sites, or online forms? Or are you pretty much all love or all hate?
Can you roll with the punches of creative disruption? When Facebook or some other online site changes its rules, layout, or system, can you take it in stride or do you tear your hair out?
What is the biggest change you have noticed in everyday life in the last five years?