I went to breakfast last week at a restaurant that provided QR codes for ordering directly from the table. Each table has a QR code on it, which you scan with your phone, and it takes you to their online menu. You choose what you want, pay with Google Pay, and the order goes directly to the kitchen. When you finish your meal, there’s no need to queue up to pay – you just walk out.
Although QR codes were invented in 1994 and have been popular in Asia for decades, they became mainstream in Australia during the pandemic, when used to facilitate contact tracing. They connect the physical world with the digital world, and make our world faster in many ways. With coronavirus contact tracing, a QR code is faster than writing out your contact details by hand; with business cards, it immediately transfers contact details to a database; on event flyers, it links directly to booking tickets; on a real estate agent’s sign, it goes to a virtual tour of the property; and so on.
Digital technology makes our world faster in many ways:
- Computing power: Computers “compute” faster than humans (for example, a robot can solve a scrambled Rubik’s Cube so fast the video has to be slowed down for humans to see it in action).
- Instant access: Information is literally at our fingertips, and we can access it instantly.
- 24/7 access: We expect to always have access to information, not just during “opening hours”.
- Faster processes: A process that’s not fully digital (it involves people or physical things) inherently has delays at each step.
- Reliable results: A well-designed digital process produces perfect results every time – no chance for human error, broken pieces, shipping delays, and so on.
- Customer focus: Digital technology used well serves the customer rather than the provider. It’s the difference between, “Hey Google, what’s my bank balance?” and, “Press 1 to open an account, 2 to report a lost credit card, 3 to …”.
It’s easy to find counter-examples for each of these scenarios, where the digital solution provides an inferior, slower solution. But don’t let that stop you from giving people faster options.
Many customers want a faster experience.
In the restaurant example above, not everybody wants the digital option. Some people prefer to chat with the waiter, find out more about menu items, ask for recommendations, and so on. But that option is still available; it’s just that the restarant has made a conscious decision to offer the faster QR code option as well. For those who want to use it, it makes the experience faster and better.