Give Technology a Chance

by WOHe

The sun is shining, teal-blue-green waves are whooshing softly
on the shore, and I can all but see the suntanned waiter appearing,
pina colada in hand.

Actually, it’s raining out, but on my computer screen saver,
it’s just another day in paradise. The programmed-in ocean sounds
soothe my work-frazzled nerves, and it occurs to me, if technology
can bring a taste of Tahiti even to my crowded little office, what
miracles can it work in today’s kitchen and bath showrooms, where
conjuring dreams is just business as usual (see related story, Page
64)?

I decide to call a few showrooms to find out.

My first call is to a friend who has a stunning showroom that’s
constantly being updated; her product displays are so cutting edge,
customers jokingly suggest that she must be part psychic. Surely
she’ll have some good insights into how to use technology to
enhance the showroom environment, I think.

“Don’t ask me, I hate technology!” she announces from her cell
phone. “It’s just so impersonal.” Since her cell phone is the only
way I’ve been able to reach her in the past three years, I find her
response puzzling. Unfortunately, she can’t talk she’s late
for
a teleconference with an architect from Australia, and has to stop
at an ATM machine en route. “But, if I can think of anyone who can
talk to you about how they use technology, I’ll e-mail you,” she
says.

Next, I place a call to a dealer in the Silicon Valley area. “Oh
no, we avoid technology like the plague,” he informs me. “Our
clients are high end, they want to deal with people.”
“We’ve never gone for that techno-gadget-y stuff,” adds an East
Coast dealer, whose tone suggests I’ve proposed roasting a live pig
in his showroom. (Then again, perhaps not a Hawaiian luau might be
considered trendy right now, and certainly, no one can argue that
it’s not personal enough).

It occurs to me that it has become enormously fashionable to
dislike technology. Even people who Webcast their weddings, take
virtual tours of Graceland and sell their unwanted relatives on
eBay claim to hate technology.

Despite the “e revolution,” they insist that, in the kitchen and
bath industry, people want personal, and high tech isnot
personal.

It’s a perception that’s been around for a while. Bolstered by
years of poorly written tech manuals, bad sci-fi movies and
computer viruses that claim they love you and then eat your hard
drive not to mention the crash of the dotcoms the perception of
technology has increasingly become that of an imperfect science:
incomprehensible, unfriendly and unstable.

However, this image has little to do with reality. Technology,
people seem to forget, exists to make life easier, simplify
business, save time and money, and enhance communications. And,
today’s technology does all that and more. So why the bad rap?

Perhaps the problem is that people still don’t seem to
understand what technology is. Even cell-phone-using, eBay-addicted
folks seem to equate it with robots taking over, replacing all
human life forms, until visiting the showroom will be like getting
lost in an endless voice mail loop where your only choice is “Press
one”

Yet many of these same dealers use surround sound to give life
to their home entertainment displays, Power Point to create
exciting client presentations, motion lighting to guide customers
through their showrooms or teleconferencing to keep multiple
parties up-to-date on a project’s progress. They showcase high-tech
appliances and “live” kitchen hook ups, and use big-screen
technology to broadcast cooking shows or product information in
their showrooms. All this while insisting that they don’t like
technology.

Technology, it’s clear, needs a PR makeover.

Consider the benefits: Technology can educate prospects, create
a more inviting atmosphere, even “virtually” enlarge a limited
facility by allowing the display of a multitude of products via
online or kiosk displays.

“But technology eliminates actual relationships!” dealers
insist.

Don’t tell that to independent designer Susan Serra, creator of
KitchenBathPros.com. One of the most interesting features of her
new Web site is an area of online message boards where designers
can share experiences, ask or answer questions, get emergency
advice, enjoy camaraderie or just vent about the business to other
kitchen and bath designers from all over the U.S. How much more
personal does it get than that?

The NKBA has recognized that technology is something of a
stumbling block to many in our industry, and has appointed a
Sub-Committee to help bring our industry up to speed.

However, like everything else in life, it starts with attitude.
We need to let go of the outdated negative perceptions and embrace
technology for what it is: a many-faceted tool that allows us to
enhance our communication, our business and our bottom line. It
doesn’t get any more personal than that.

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