Service Expectations Changed: Technology-Hype Warped ‘Em

We live and work in a culture and time swimming in new technologies, many of them little more than hyper-hyped optimism.

Tech-hype has warped service expectations when B2B customers subconsciously expect new technologies to deliver on their marketing promises right now, today.

This is especially true for lower-paid, labor-based services. Here new technologies are slowly working from beta-tests into the realities of field-tests.

Yet, when expectations are pushed into LaLa Land, perceptions are shaped into an emotional jumble of unrealistic beliefs, such as:

“Why don’t we have window cleaning drones inside our retail stores that sell fine-china?” (HINT: cleaning drones trail water hoses and tethers. Get it?)

But it’s too late. The emotional appeal and excitement from tech-hype have already taken hold.

It’s the subconscious jump from: “Isn’t that cool?” to “Hey supplier, we gotta have ’em.”

This puts suppliers in the defensive position of “Well, ya know drones have issues that might not make them appropriate for fine china shops at this time.”

Money Talks and Venture Capitalists Invest

Venture capitalists throw billions onto the tech roulette wheel betting a small percentage of startups will take-off.

And startups beat the bushes for customers and attention; selling, marketing, and messaging. And that cacophony of wondrous messages is published 24/7 on business and social media.

Occasionally, it’s joined by a few genuinely disruptive startups that give a credibility halo to the unproven claims of the many.

Tech-hype is such a part of business now that research/advisory firm Gartner rates technologies and startups using well-defined phases of their Hype Cycle, such as the “Peak of Inflated Expectations and “Trough of Disillusionment” (my favorite) among them.

Gartner Hype Cycle

Warped Expectations Distort Service Perceptions

In B2B, tech-hype warps many customers’ service expectations and subsequently distorts their perceptions. The results can be knee-jerk assessments of their suppliers’ failures to “deliver bleeding-edge tech now.”

It’s helpful to remember that:

New technologies always disrupt processes; changing, deleting, or adding. And somewhere in those processes, people are involved. Tech-hype leaves out the painful part during teething. Click To Tweet

Do you still doubt this premise? Consider the new app used in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus. This new technology touted better and faster vote counting and reporting. Oops, tech-hype strikes again.

Expectations pull Perceptions

Expectations are the Horses that drive Perceptions

Expectations matter; they shape what customers perceive when service is delivered.

Perceptions don't occur in a vacuum - they're always made with accompanying Expectations. Click To Tweet

No one perceives service without some form of expectation. That doesn’t mean customers know what is coming, but everyone is prepped with some idea from which to compare and assess what they’re seeing. Customers’ service expectations come from something:

  • Someone told them,
  • They have a personal need for,
  • They had in the past, or
  • That reached them in marketing messages

The SERVQUAL model is a good way of showing the relationship between expectations and perceptions. It shows how customers assess service quality; by the size of the gap between expectations and perceptions (big gap = low quality, small gap = high quality).

SERVQUAL Expectations - Perceptions

And as importantly, customers make this determination not on the service delivered but solely on customers’ expectations and perceptions. Interesting, eh?

But it all starts with service expectations, which then influence perceptions. This is why tech-hype can have a pernicious effect on lower-paid, labor-based services.

Warp and Distortion of Tech-Hype

The Warp & Distortion of Tech-Hype on Service Expectations

Tech-hype is an unseen burden weighing over the service world – creating a false narrative that within a few years most labor jobs will be automated by technology.

This is not the case but some B2B customers are too busy or disinterested to learn the reality of the time it takes to implement tech changes. Bill Gates knows a thing or two about the dangers of tech-hype:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten…” – Bill Gates

As tech-hype seeps into B2B customers’ consciousness, it warps their expectations and implies that service suppliers should be adding tons of new services, and/or cutting prices in half every six months.

This fallacy puts suppliers in a tough spot – one where they have to explain why they’re holding off on full-technology implementation, or the impracticality of implementing it in the first place.

Even Amazon recognizes that tech-hype warps expectations, in their case for robotic automation in sorting centers. Contrary to general tech-hype, Amazon believes full automation is many years away (see “Amazon says fully automated shipping warehouses are at least a decade away“).

Tech-Hype

Summary

When tech-hype permeates B2B customer expectations, it can distort their perceptions of suppliers: Suppliers may be seen negatively because they hold back technologies until proven and implement it when there’s an ROI.

One personal note: I am not a Luddite but just the opposite. I love new technologies; from the sci-fi potential of HAL 9000 to AI-driven chatbots and IVRs that quickly and cheaply get customers out of businesses’ hair with as little human interaction as possible. I’m fascinated by the promises of new technologies and hope some of their claims prove true in my lifetime.

This article was first published on LinkedIn: Technology-Hype warps Service Expectations

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