Better when we’re together

FIDI President Derek Duffy on the limits for technology and why meeting face to face is so important for the moving business

We all know that, in business and the wider world, embracing virtual communications and the technological revolution is a good thing – right? Well, two students in my son’s school were caught out when they embraced tech a little too zealously in their work recently, leading to them being accused of using ChatGPT to complete their assignments, not only as a research tool, but cutting and pasting answers directly into their projects.

Both got away with a warning, and told they must complete their work themselves – or suffer the consequences.

It got me thinking about the limits we set for technological advances in the moving industry. It’s an interesting and challenging exercise to find where the boundaries should now lie, and to define what we can realistically and productively let the computers and algorithms do, and what must remain in the hands of humans.

There is no question that technology will change – is changing – the global mobility business for the better, and that firms that use it well will be those that survive and thrive. At the same time, however, we all know moves are still one of the most personal services a company can deliver for a customer. So, while tech can support movers and DSP companies by carrying out routine tasks, including administration, data analysis, and basic legal and financial duties – even, potentially, automated transport and delivery – there are some things we really shouldn’t be digitalising.

When it comes to advanced customer service – in the many, many situations where you want to go the extra mile, or that demand more than just a chatbot – and tasks that involve qualities such as creativity, critical thinking or emotional intelligence, we instinctively know they are best left to people rather than computer processors.

With the FIDI Conference upon us, it’s also a good time to reflect on the huge benefits of getting together in person, compared with the tech-based ‘alternatives’ that we became familiar with during the pandemic. When lockdowns happened, the FIDI Academy swiftly and successfully pivoted to make its EiM and MiM2 seminars available online.

When international restrictions were lifted and we were able to bring back in-person seminars, demand for the virtual sessions was quickly replaced.

As the Bangkok EiM, the first FIDI DSP seminar in Milan, and the Swiss LiM prove, our industry still places incredibly high value on opportunities to meet face to face and build relationships together, despite the range of online training options available.

The FIDI Conference is one such opportunity – and a major one. Coming together for these four days of panel sessions, seminars, networking and social activities gives us so much more than online interactions. It allows us to move projects forward much quicker, get and action feedback from supply chain partners, clarify grey areas, judge people’s reactions (which is so difficult from behind a screen), and build trust. It’s so much more satisfying – and so much more is possible – when you can shake a hand, laugh with someone, share confidences, socialise, and build connections with people that often stretch beyond the business.

The FIDI Conference also has something that no Teams call could ever provide: an atmosphere. This will, of course, be provided by the FIDI team and Affiliates coming from every corner of the world, but, as always, our choice of location will help, too. Edinburgh – in the heart of Scotland, surrounded by rugged landscape and sea, with cobbled streets, cosy pubs and restaurants, and many historic buildings – offers us atmosphere by the spadeful.

I attended my first FIDI Conference in 1997 in the Dutch seaside town Noordwijk aan Zee. The warmth and kindness with which I was welcomed to our industry is still offered in abundance at every FIDI Conference, first-timer or not. I’m afraid that technology and artificial intelligence are just going to have to work a little bit harder to figure this one out.

I am really looking forward to seeing you there and soaking it all up with you – in person.

Derek Duffy, FIDI President

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