Tolerance for Technological Ineptitude, part I


I found myself in a conversation with my Freshman Comp students on the subject of people who have trouble with modern technology.

That’s not what the conversation was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about how to come up with a topic for an in-class essay final. But there were in this class four young women whose seasonal employment was cashiering in Big Box retail stores. Naturally, feelings ran high on this subject.

“You tell them eight times to push the green button, and they still don’t get it!” one wailed.

“And the next time they come in, you have to tell them again!” another agreed.

“But maybe they can tat,” I suggested, to completely blank expressions, “or they have some other skills that you don’t have. Should everyone be expected to have the same skill sets?”

No one spoke for a moment, but it was obvious that, “Duh. Yeah!” was the consensus.

After the moment of silence passed, they broke out again with further examples of the deeply irritating nature of people who can’t figure out how to push the right buttons.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “What if I sing a C for you right now. Could you all sing a G?”

No, they couldn’t.

“See? And I don’t scorn you for that. Some people are more tech-savvy than others. Can you really hold that against them?”

Yes, they could.

The average age in that class is about 19. These are people who can’t remember the days when people didn’t have computers in their homes. Shoot, there are still people who don’t have computers in their homes. We just don’t know them. When I quit trying to be like Hotspur rallying the troops, and asked them to think about their grandparents, they became slightly more compassionate.

Or at least settled down enough to talk about their essays.

Here’s the thing: if you are engaged in e-commerce, or otherwise using your website for business purposes, you may encounter some people who aren’t very tech-savvy. There will be people trying to shop with you who are only just now getting around to trying to shop online.

I have a client who recently switched to a modern ecommerce system. One of the first calls she got was from a shopper who didn’t understand mouseovers or the little triangles that mean you can expand a menu, and was therefore getting frustrated by the navigation. My client had a bit of a panic, but it’s really just like the people who can’t grasp the bit about pushing the green button. Technology changes so quickly that people who aren’t that tech-savvy (old or young) have trouble keeping up.

What should you do? Have your phone number clearly posted on your website. Answer the phone and listen calmly and kindly to people who are having trouble. Help them figure it out. Do it for them, if you can.

This will distinguish you so markedly from the 19 year olds who roll their eyes at them for not getting the part about the green button that they are very likely to become faithful customers.

Stumble It!





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