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Connecting With the DisconnectedAugust 4, 2010 By: Michael Browne
I’m an iPhone guy. I didn’t think I would be, I never thought much about my phone before, and I was often hostile to the "phone people" around me with their out-of-control texting and public broadcasting of their inane conversations. But a year ago when my longtime palm-sized LG flip phone called it quits, I thought it was time I modernized, upgraded, drank the Kool-Aid, whatever you want to call it. (There was also the fact that they no longer made the battery for my phone.)
I suppose I could’ve found another little flip phone, but my gut feeling was that such a purchase wouldn’t do much for my image. I might just as well get two cans and a string, Or, more precisely, looking at the variety of brightly colored, oddly shaped devices clutched in the hands of all the phone people at the AT&T store, I suddenly didn’t want to have a lame, un-cool phone. It would remind me of the days when everyone had shiny silver flip phones with little cameras and I would pull out my clunky, surprisingly heavy, putty gray Nokia with the nauseating green screen. I was the last one on the block with one of those, and I remembered feeling self-conscious about being seen using it. Neighbors would glare as if I were drepreciating their home value by using Old Betsy right out on the street like that.
Now that you have the history, let me paint a picture of the present. I am now officially "an annoying phone person." I walk straight into people on the street, head down, surprised at the collision, wondering how these people got in my universe in the first place. I don’t actually ever call anyone anymore, I connect almost exclusively by text, with occasional emails from one of theh many accounts on the phone. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the iPhone couldn’t even make phone calls. (By the way, it can.) I text, email, search the web, take pictures, play games, listen to music— pretty much do everything except call people.
Yes, I’ve fallen in with a bad crowd—we’re rude, inattentive, self-centered, etc. We’re like teenagers, only not as loud. So why should you, a home-based travel agent, care about me and my ilk? Because we are your customers. Whether we’re on iPhones, Droids, Blackberrys or whatever else is out there, that device is how we connect with the world. And as an independent business operator, you’re faced with the challenge of keeping up and being a part of that world.
Earlier this year I shared some statistics on smartphone users and how important it is for even the smallest businesses to have a functional, easy-to-navigate, mobile version of their website. If the numbers don’t convince you (at the time, Nielsen had estimated close to 57 million web visitors used a mobile device), try this. Go out and just walk down your Main Street. See how many people bump into you, stop short in front of you, wander into the traffic and generally just make nuisances of themselves—all without ever looking up from their phone. Those are my people—and your customer.