Amazing things

Female diner ordering lunch via the online ordering kiosk, while other customers stand in line

When I was a young boy somewhere in middle school, I loved watching a TV show called Get Smart. It was a comedy based on the daily challenges and missteps of a ‘secret agent’ named Max. The appeal of his character was his obliviousness to what was happening around him while he was equipped with very cool, futuristic technology. The item I was most amazed by was his shoe which was also a phone. Imagine being able to walk down the street and make a call on your….shoe. I would have done anything to have a phone like that!

Fast-forward 30 years. Today, we have computers as compact as a small note pads that talk to us and identify us by our touch, correct our grammar and tell us how to navigate to a destination. We have much smaller computers we call phones. We hold them in the palm of one hand and we can video conference, call, send messages and use it to take quality photos. We call upon ‘Siri’ to read our recent emails to us and remind us to call a client the following day. We have clearly soared far beyond…shoe phones!

But the single most amazing thing to me is how quickly we become accustomed to these advances. Something that was not long ago incomprehensible, is now part of daily life. Technology advances so quickly that we become a bit jaded and underwhelmed by anything new. The bar for “wowing” us keeps getting higher and higher.

Recently, my wife and daughter and I met for a quick lunch at Panera. We are frequent visitors but had not yet used the new online ordering system available as an option to standing in line during busy time periods. We placed our order on a simple well-designed tablet interface. Paid with the swipe of a card. The screen directed us to take a pager, find a table, and set our pager on it. It wirelessly delivered the table information to the kitchen and soon after, a server delivered our order to us.

I was rather amazed by the experience. And that’s because the technology was designed to meet me, the customer, on my terms. The initial interface was very inviting and easy to navigate. The photographs were effective in showing the choices and making them look appealing. When we sat down we didn’t need to position our paging device into a lock position or wait for something to click. It all just happened so seamlessly. It seemed to provide answers before I thought to ask the questions. From my perspective, that’s amazing. Kudos, Panera, for seamlessly weaving together a positive brand and customer experience.