Have you ever felt weary at the end of the day, your mind cluttered and a lack of focus? You may understand the physical tiredness if you endured a long labour intensive day but if you have been sitting at a desk all day or if you are a mechanic on the floor for example you may well ask why the mental sluggishness? However if in an office situation one may be juggling phone calls, emails - reading, selecting, deleting, replying, searching for previous messages, checking the mobile, sharing files on WhatsApp, spending time on B2B platforms, Zoom meetings etc. Many mechanics who are sole traders will still struggle with a selection of the above disruptions while simultaneously trying to get through the daily tasks of their trade. Do you ever find yourself asking the question, am I someone burnt out from communication overload in this high tech age?
Human and Communication Evolution
A valid question may be, have all modern forms of communications advanced us in our daily productivity? Have they advanced our lives socially? One would imagine that with access to communication and information being easier and quicker than ever, we should be better equipped to make quality decisions with greater ease and speed and thus lead to greater productivity, prosperity and social comforts. So where is the problem?
I think we need to step back and take a more eclectic view of where we find ourselves in the infancy of the third millennium. Science will tell us we have existed on this planet for six million years, evolving to the human species we now recognise about 200,000 years ago. Speech evolved 150,000 years later. Writing appeared in about 3,500 BC but by 1,900 AD only 21% of the worlds population were literate. In contrast there is now close to 90% literacy today. From Morse code in 1835 we advanced to telephone and radio before the 20th century. However one could say that well into the 20th century we were a species that still relied heavily on speech and direct human contact as the telephone did not become available to the populous until well into the later half of the century. The real explosion in communication technology and its roll out to the public did not happen until the very end of the century.
I was born in the 60’s and while we had a radio and TV in the home, we did not have a phone until the 80’s. Like many of my peer group, direct communication, face-to-face was the preferred option in communication, both in business and social life. The telephone was an alternative if personal contact was not an option. The late 90’s saw the introduction of mobile phones and internet. Over the next decade we saw Apple launch the smart phone in 2007. Many competitors were to follow with an explosion in technology, communication platforms and Apps (there are in the region of 2 million apps now available for download). I feel like I am sitting in the middle of the communication divide. My age have struggled to keep in touch and master the new technology. The youth have grown up with the technology and it’s all second nature to them while many of those older than me are left behind and are daunted by the whole field.
A Changing Business World
We have seen enormous change in how business is conducted. The change has been rapid and is continuing to evolve dramatically, in no industry more than in the auto industry. The learning curve has been sharp. Many businesses have been wiped out, some new have appeared with a number of them growing into global giants. No business has remained unchanged and failure to embrace new technology where necessary may have been the slippery slope to failure.
A Blessing or a Curse?
We have struggled to master the skills to understand and utilise this technology and we are undoubtedly reaching a point of questioning, where are we now, and where will it all lead to? This new technology in communication has brought many advantages but it has come at a cost in how we are expected to be contactable and responsive 24/7. This assessment may seem extreme but if you combine business and social life, you will realise that every waking moment we are in that zone.
The real problem about being contactable is not the communication from the people that you need contact with, but everyone else in the world has that opportunity to do so. Even ignoring messages and calls on multiple platforms, deleting messages takes its time and toll not to mind talking the polite approach! This has lead to an absolute communication clutter that no human being was ever exposed to in our millions of years of evolution - we are not mentally equipped to function in an environment of such mental fog. I feel we have reached a point where we need to analyse how we can best use the communication technology we have at our fingertips to suit our business and equally our personal lives.
We may have mastered the understanding and use of many modern communication platforms, but we now have to master our personal habits and needs. We need to be discerning with what communication platforms we use - do you really need to be contactable via landline, mobile phone, text message, email, and social media? The list seems endless.
We need to identify the platforms that suit our business needs best. We need to structure our time for communication more effectively and efficiently and learn to eliminate or minimise wasted time. Especially in a situation where we are in a job that requires focus and skill and communication is still necessary but if not managed properly will erode into productivity and disturb us psychologically.
Create a Communication Strategy
If we take a modern garage situation, we need to develop a strategy and system that suits your individual business. The requirements of a sole owner/mechanic will differ greatly from a large business with three plus mechanics including personnel in management but both operations will benefit enormously from creating an efficient communication system.
Decide how you want customers to contact you e.g. booking vehicles for service and repairs. Do you want to rely on phones, emails or can you develop an on-line booking system? If you want to rely on a phone, do you need to be contactable at all times or can you structure phone time using an automated call answering service and structured call back time. When ordering parts and supplies, can you use a dedicated garage management system platform. There are many available in the auto business sector that will save time and money, and simplify the whole process.
I spoke to Declan Ennis from Top Part Motor Factors and he said many of their customers are using their Fuse 5 Platform. He says it is far more than a parts ordering platform. Fuse 5 offers many advantages:
- Business management system that gives consistent billing
- Automated monitoring that improves efficiency and maximises profits
- Integrated parts search and stock control
- Comprehensive reporting options
- Tracking technician & billing hours
- Simplified customer relations with email billing options & electronic statements
- Cloud based system with multi-screen & multi-location options
- Seamless integration with the world’s number1 accounting software
The one tip I would give when it comes to choosing communications platforms is do your research and analysis and preferably select an option that can be dedicated to business and suits direct contact with those you need contact with. Platforms that facilitate marketing and contact from all else is disruptive and distracting.
If using email, dedicate a specific time slot to emails. Let key people know you don't check your email constantly, that you will respond at specific times. Organise mail using folders like "Action," "Waiting," and "Archives," and unsubscribe to all unwanted emails if possible. When responding to emails keep it brief and concise. If you need guidance in implementing a strategy, ask someone who is knowledgeable in this area to help.
A Future of Mastery and Hope
If you look around you will probably see that people who are most au fait with modern communication technology are constantly connected to devices of some description. As I said earlier, we now need to master our relationship with this technology. We need to discipline our behaviour in the work place and in our social lives and develop the skills to use technology for our benefit, not allowing ourselves to become addicted slaves eroding our precious time. And my hope for the future, we never lose the joy of direct social contact and conversation.