The heat is on
Anne Marie Forsyth
This week saw soaring temperatures with yesterday’s record high in Cambridge. For once I wasn’t envious of missing the scorching southern sun, as the gentle bright and breezy weather in the Western Isles seemed just perfect.
Media reports are full of the sheer misery of rail travellers; journeys were disrupted by track equipment which was designed for a colder era, one passenger lamented that the rail companies should be better prepared, after all we have known about climate change for years.
Events at Parliament seemed to be aligned with these new spikes in the thermometer; the heat is certainly on. A busy Boris Johnson is making his mark with sweeping change, much of it unforeseen by the chattering political commentariat.
There was a certain irony in an article in yesterday’s Times showing photographs with the Queen greeting 17 prime ministers from Churchill to Johnson. The age old protocol of the cavalcade of cars carrying an exiting PM to Buckingham Palace, then about an hour later another stream of cars carrying the new PM, seeking approval by HM, has endured despite the massive cultural and technological changes over the years.
‘One might not have been amused' by reports of Boris breaching the strict protocol of confidentiality with the Queen when he told snippets of their conversation - another first.
Like much in our lives these days there are two tracks in growing parallel, the fast moving digital swish on our devices, where we are impatient when faced with more than a few seconds wait, and the real life physical world with things that infuriatingly grind to a halt with little respect for our new speeded up expectations.
Deciding which elements of service are ‘national treasures’ which must be preserved to add value to experience and brand, versus those which are functional and better automated are part of a recognised conundrum, getting it wrong can be costly.
It’s tempting to assume that everyone is fixated with the real life drama at Westminster, however according to Ipsos Mori there were 30,000 tweets about the new PM versus 250,000 about Love Island. Like in politics, organisations can really struggle to be heard, the loud noise of social media and the actual sound that’s understood are two very different things.
Clumsy universal communication aimed at everyone in general and no one in particular, confused with marketing speak can result in a backlash of customers demanding answers by phone or any other channel available.
As customers and voters we probably need little reminding that we need to be more aware, lift our heads from our screens, be more discerning and take a little more time to improve our understanding of alternative views.
Our current highly polarised environment is arguably related to the fact that we exist in our own personal digital ecosystems where we are embedded in echo chambers, carefully curated for us by the slicing and dicing of everything that we share with the technology giants. Our quest to press 'agree' always overrides our concerns about privacy, despite public outcry about the actions of Facebook who have recently been fined a whopping $500 billion for misuse of our data.
The striking thing about today’s febrile political environment is that no one seems to know what’s going on, predictions always seem risky but now seem little more than an each way bet. The same uncertainty is spreading to business, but we faced these same chaotic circumstances fairly recently in the 2008 crash, and for many the management memory muscle is fresh with solutions.
So what does it mean for the market that we work in?
Customers regardless of sector will likely be more needy, less patient, more anxious, possibly angrier and more in need of explanation, empathy and problem solving than ever before. We don’t need a crystal ball for this piece of wisdom -and so the rules of anchoring good practice whilst staying abreast of the latest technology that actually works for your brand are not going out of fashion any time soon.
Keeping a cool head has never been more appropriate - hopefully the heat is not getting to you too much!