Commentary By Steve Effros INSTANT GRATIFICATION My family has gotten used to it, although that doesn’t mean they necessarily appreciate it. I can’t help it. Wherever I look, there are reminders or lessons to be learned that can be applied to the cable industry, and I tend to point them out when I see them. It happened recently while waiting for an elevator at a Tokyo hotel that was brand new. The moment I pressed the "down" button, a light lit up and sounded. Instantly. Darn quick elevators! The elevator was not actually there, but the system was letting me know that it had registered my request and told me which of 6 elevator doors was going to open. But the instant response gave me useful information and satisfied my needs far better than standing and trying to guess whether my button push had worked, and which elevator would be the "winner" in responding to my request. The pseudo instant gratification that I got from knowing where to stand and that my expectations were being met virtually eliminated any negative response I may have had (and have had on many occasions waiting for elevators) to any reasonable delay in the elevator doors actually opening. In a flash, once I appreciated what the hotel designers had done, I thought back to a discussion I had at the last National Show with people making the new voice-activated remote controls. Since those beauties require a lot of processing, which is done at the headend, they can’t be "instantaneous." So the designers have built memory into the units on the top of the set designed to do the same thing those lights and bells did on that elevator. There is an immediate response on the screen to let you know that your request has been registered, and that whatever you requested is about to be delivered. That’s good enough. It satisfies the consumer demand for instant gratification and allows the technology to operate in a reasonable and cost-effective time frame. Years ago, I distinctly remember talking to Time Warner folks who were experimenting with the "full-service network" down at the Orlando test site. They noted that they had studied how fast consumers were "used" to having channels switch once they hit their remote control. The Sun Microsystem boxes that tried to emulate that speed… going all the way up the system and back down to the screen… cost thousands of dollars each. Obviously we have now figured out a better solution. Of course the technology now is less expensive, and response time is becoming less of an issue, apparently, as we move into the era of switched instead of streaming video on our systems. But the lesson is one we can apply. Consumers, regulators, politicians, and yes, spouses and kids as well as colleagues and everyone else appreciate knowing that whatever they have asked for, commented on, or expect has at least been duly noted and is being responded to, even if we can’t provide it instantly. Whether it is an elevator, a remote control command, a telephone inquiry, a service problem, an install, or anything else. At the very least, providing feedback as soon as possible to convey the message that they have been heard and something is happening in response will go a long way.