Sometimes obsolescence happens slowly over time – think Blockbuster Video. Sometimes it seems to happen overnight – laser discs anyone? But what’s amazing to me is when you see it early and watch it happen before your eyes.
Going to the bank is a rite of passage for a small business owner. Not too long ago, I actually enjoyed going inside the bank, having banter with the tellers, grabbing a sour sucker, and transacting business. But I’ve always hated filling out the stupid deposit slips. Once you slide your card through the reader, they have all the information they need immediately. And by the time you’re finished entering your PIN, the teller had you all filled out and ready for a signature.
Then my bank instituted “the greeter.” In my case, she was the bank manager who greeted you, aka impeded your intentions. She stood in the center of the reception area, strategically flanked by velvet (movie theater style) ropes. There was no getting around her. “Welcome to ‘Pursuit’ Bank. How can I assist you?” she muttered.
Immediately my thoughts fired, I never needed you in the last five years that I’ve come here. Why do I need you now? The truth is: she wasn’t there for me, she was there to “improve bank traffic flow.”
“I just need to make a deposit,” I stated as I tried to walk past.
“Fill out a slip,” she grunted as she pointed to the standing desk with pens attached.
People can move billions with a keystroke, but if I don’t fill out an obsolete piece of paper, I can’t make a deposit? I played her silly game. It was futile to resist.
Two months later, the front desk was completely gone and there were new velvet ropes that led to a MEGA ATM. The MEGA ATM let you deposit 50 or more bills or checks. The MEGA ATM let you withdraw up to $15K per day. AND the MEGA ATM did not ask you to fill out any forms.
But “the greeter” was still there, like the high school sophomore tearing movie tickets at Cinemark. She stood there keeping patrons away from the tellers and directing them to the MEGA ATM.
Today, my bank has completely changed. Gone is the “greeter.” Gone are the personable tellers you’ve gotten to know over time. Now, two MEGA ATMs fill the main room along with a cadre of salespeople…err…I mean “loan officers” asking you if you’d “like to save money on your mortgage.” Oh yes – and in the back are one or two people working the drive-through. But I don’t think I’m allowed to bother them.
I worry about becoming obsolete. I worry about “not seeing it coming.” I think about it for my business and for our clients. I visualize “the greeter” and her velvet ropes, guiding people towards her own obsolescence. “Not keeping up with the rate of change around you?” she says to me, “Step right this way.”