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Blog Post

Avoiding Tech as well as People

Luci Heather – VP Sales for Europe
April 09, 2020
Avoiding Tech as well as People at Sweepr

For now, our work and lives revolve around our home, with technology being our main conduit to staying connected to one another. So, how should we cater to those, who for one reason or another, have chosen to either not engage with, or have stepped away from technology?

The tech avoidant

The photo popped into Whatsapp during my daily new normal...the videoconferences. A round fluffy ball, curled into alternating rectangles of sun and shade.

Ash, the cat I’ve shared for 19 years with my sister Rachel, the daily photo is not new, her accompanying him all day in our new quarantined lifestyle is.

“He’s such a good boy, I just love him” I type in response.

“Same spot every day,” she messages back.

Because it’s a photo of Ash, I know she’s ok today. I pay more attention if the message starts “hi lu.”

Nestled among my 38 Whatsapp messages and 178 unread texts is a quick hello from Nick. Later in the day I open a joke forwarded on to me by Zach in South Africa.

During a Whatsapp call later that week he mentions “I’m trying to get used to people wanting their cameras on,” of course for me if I can’t see someone in ‘real-life’ I am eternally grateful for this modern wonder.

"So what do all three of these, otherwise very different, people have in common? Meet three people who actively and deliberately do not seek to consume tech. Meet the Avoidant"

Two of these three are extroverts, one very much an introvert. One in her 20’s living with her partner in our home City of Southampton, one in his 30’s and from what I can tell has lived all over the world and made many new friends along the way, and one a father of 2 in his 40’s who runs his own successful Health Care Business.

So what do all three of these, otherwise very different, people have in common? Meet three people who actively and deliberately do not seek to consume tech.

Meet the Avoidant.

A Connected Life, At What Cost?

When we think of the avoidant tech user what springs to mind?

Someone of the older generation who simply doesn’t know how to use tech perhaps or maybe someone who looks up to check if it might rain when you mention the Cloud.

This is not the case for this trio or many like them. They have considered their view of technology and the impact to their emotional wellbeing, lifestyle and our society. They deliberately chose to step away.

So now with only technology as our conduit to educate our children, run our daily fitness routines and stay connected to one another is it this group we should be making an extra effort to enhance our customer care for?

Rachel doesn’t enjoy social media, and despite our Father’s best efforts won’t buy a smart home device. During our recent trip to Brazil, her anxiety about whether she should be posting more frequently was pervasive as we crouched beneath Christ the Redeemer and trekked the kaleidoscope that is Carnival. She sees Instagram as a showboat of life; the dopamine hit to her brain with every “like” better avoided. She once told me that she leaves her phone upstairs for hours at a time to avoid checking it.

"Nick uses videoconferencing and email all day for work but points to it as the root of all mental health problems in people under 45 years of age"

Nick uses videoconferencing and email all day for work but points to it as the root of all mental health problems in people under 45 years of age. He rejects any technology invasion into his personal life, although it enables his thriving healthcare business. So he concedes, but only during office hours. When it comes to his daughters, he would much prefer a world without it altogether.

Zach also spurns social media, mobile apps and the rest of a connected life. He reads a great deal but the book is always in the physical form. His interaction with technology is a study in self-control: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he puts his phone in time-out and perhaps every now and then it finds itself on the naughty step. Zach will not be held accountable by the mini computer in his pocket.

Having problems with technology only reinforces what they already believe to be true.

In the face of a slow network, app not downloading, or connected food processor not working, they’re the ones we need to pay our greatest attention to. They didn’t want to begin with so they won’t be hanging around if the journey is not an entirely smooth one.

Waving the flag for Technology to the Avoidant Persona

These guys have got a point. A very good one in fact.

We need the avoidant persona to help us all strive towards a balanced approach to the connected world. But for me, the connected life is essential to my well-being. So much I gain joy from is derived or inspired by technology.

I stream music through Sonos speakers all day, play audiobooks all night. I use Whatsapp for everything. If the number of hours I spend ‘online’ I could invoice, this year’s tax return would have looked rather different. Pinterest has inspired my home design, many themed dinner parties, my Christmas crafts and much more. My gym, 1Rebel, once my happy place now is streaming their classes online.

One hobby that I have subconsciously kept traditional is cooking. How a connected oven, whisk or heaven forbid connected scales, might change my favorite hobby doesn’t make me want to try.

So I get it if the Avoidant user can’t see the upshot in connecting, why would they?

I believe there is a connected good or service out there to enhance everyone's life. It’s just about finding the right product for you. Love Yoga, try the connected Yoga mat to improve your form. In to music, download one of the budding DJ apps. A sparkling home your thing, enter the smart washing machine.

It is during this period of lockdown technology can really shine and bring the avoidant user into their fold. BUT it is imperative that the avoidant user has customer care tailored to them.

"Technology can really shine and bring the avoidant user into their fold. BUT it is imperative that the avoidant user has customer care tailored to them"

Rachel’s partner couldn’t connect their gaming device earlier this month, they used call center support and after being asked a series of screening questions were given a further series of instructions that made no sense to them at all. The crux of the matter being that they couldn't describe the issue. The call handler could only tell that their broadband was working just fine.

Rachel concluded it might be time for a new provider of the ‘ugly black box in my lounge.’

Nick recently explained the nightmare that was trying to change his mobile number with his provider. I couldn’t suppress the mental image of Nick’s increasing volume and agitated tone as he had to go through what he described as a range of very unnatural phrases in order to be understood by their ‘Audio Bot’, only to eventually give up and pass the phone to his wife.

The cost of Avoidant problems for ISPs is high as well: Sweepr research has shown that calling a call center is their first and only choice for troubleshooting.

Smooth Experiences Surprise and Encourage Avoidant Personas

I want all my Avoidant friends to see our ability to connect, in spite of the quarantine, as an enhancement to their well-being. If something goes wrong, I want them to be able to solve it quickly for themselves.

So my conclusion, now more than ever, those of us who are Confident with tech are required to support our Avoidant friends and family.

Saturday evening Chablis in hand Rachel and I laughing so hard we cry as I unsuccessfully guess at Rachel’s stick figure of an Astronaut on Houseparty.

‘See that wasn’t so bad was it?’ I chime in ‘what made you download the Houseparty app in the end’

‘Actually having read the draft of your blog I thought I would give my Mortgage company a chance and downloaded their app’.

‘Wowza this is progress!!! Almost Mark Zuckerberg now?’

‘Actually the experience was so easy and they talked to me like a human, even though it was a machine I guess’.

‘So does that mean you might connect the Smart TV finally?’ I ask

‘I’ll consider it for the Easter Weekend, after six months it might be time’ she jokingly replies.

For more on how we’re ushering in a new world of customer self-service, contact Luci Heather at luci.heather@sweepr.com.

This article is part of a mini-series called ‘Everybody's at home’, exploring how we experience our connected homes. Read previous articles 'Remotely Together' and 'Everyone's home. What next?'.