Traveling, you get to eavesdrop on all kinds of conversations. Business people trying to close deals. Stranded travelers Trying to get on flights. Parents away from home dealing with children's school issues.
Each of them—ending their brief interaction with what they feel is a sealed fate proclaiming: "it is what it is."
This phrase, a relative newcomer to the pantheon of pop phrases and cultural tidbits—this one is very much a sign of the times.
Said with a bit of world-weary exasperation and a knowing nod of the head to the stress reliever that says—some things are out of our control—"it is what it is" suggests we'll just have to accept our fate.
Is it that we are more 'zen' about the random delays of air travel, or the sometimes seemingly arbitrary nature of a clients full throated complaints? Or is is that the world has created a layer of automated phone systems, robotic flight attendants, and computer generated spam email that is simply immune to the sound of human feedback.
Try explaining to a robo-dialed solicitation call that they've reached you during dinner. The computer doesn't care. in fact, the only thing you can do is hang up on it. Don't worry. It will dial someone else, and call you back. You can't hurt it's feelings. It's a robot.
So what do we do. Can we really just shrug our shoulders and say—"it is what It is" and be okay with that? Is poor customer service, bad manners, discourteous phone operators, and public rudeness simply now part of our everyday life? The man cutting his toenails on the subway the new state of our daily commute?
I don't think so.
It ISN'T what it is.
The emerging 'We Web' is giving individuals consumers the abilty to speak up, and speak out.
When Sun Country airlines flight attendants rolled their eyes at me for trying to bring a bag on the plane that had clothes in it—I fought back. The bag fit in the overhead compartment, as it had on 30 flights before. And I tweeted out my unhappiness with the discount airlines. Crummy food and uncomfortable seats, sure. But rude flight attendants, there's no reason for that.
When Time Warner Cable shrugged their shoulders at my request for either better service or a discount, I responded by cutting cable. Haven't missed it yet.
When people say "It Is What It Is"—they're saying, I'm powerless against this big bureaucratic machine that doesn't care about me as a customer. But if you believe Gary Vaynerchuk's The Thank You Economy, brands and companies that don't engage with their customers with a one on one engagement are doomed to failure. I agree with Gary's thesis. In fact, when brands tell me they care about me, I make a note to do business with them in the future.
Jet Blue is always a good experience. I vote with my credit card, and always check Jet Blue first. Pepsi Refresh has told me that they're going to put some of my guilt ridden soda money back in to community projects. That works for me. Some brands shrug their shoulders, others lean in, listen, and respond.
In the fast approaching future—building real relationships with customers won't be an option, it will be an imperative. Smart marketers are starting now.