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Why the telegraph trumped the pony from day one

By JON STURGESS, HEAD OF SALES, SECURED LENDING AT MASTHAVEN |


 The Easter break allowed me to catch up properly with family and friends; it was lovely to spend quality time together away from the usual weekday rush – relax and enjoy some downtime at home.


After watching a swashbuckling western, I got to thinking how lucky I am to be able to quickly call faraway family or email friends from the safety of my sofa. Fortunately, a trip to the supermarket was the closest I got to the Wild West this Easter.

The internet reliably informs me that it wasn’t until April 1860 that the Pony Express became the fastest means of long-distance communication between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Valiant riders – allegedly including the infamous Buffalo Bill – delivered letters along the 1,900-mile-long route. Speed set the service apart, because it dramatically reduced messages’ travel time from 110 days to a previously unimagined 10 days.

But its existence was suddenly cut short by the arrival of the transcontinental telegraph in October 1861 – an instantaneous method of communication between the east and west coasts which outsmarted ponies. This story is an early example of how speed of service can set a business apart, but it is relative. Fast delivery rates can quickly be superseded by a competitor – a new, faster player – so it’s vital to stay ahead of the game.

Speed of service set the bar in 1860 and remains critical to the survival of many 21st-century businesses. Customers want swift delivery and responses. But speed alone doesn’t suffice today; it must be combined with efficiency of service – competence and adeptness; and to gain a customers’ trust, quality of service must also be evident. Nothing reads better than a customer who rates a company because of a great experience.

Masthaven’s aim is to get it right first time. We appreciate that brokers require decisions immediately so they can honour the service commitment they have given their own customers. This is especially true in the second charge market which has always been an industry built around speed and efficiency, and this hasn’t changed over the years.

In my mind, speed and efficiency are key reasons why the transcontinental telegraph trumped the pony from day one. Experts say that “financially, the first transcontinental telegraph was a big success from the beginning” and “although the Pony Express was an efficient mail service, it failed as a profitable enterprise” because ultimately, its owner had counted on winning a particular contract, and failure to win the deal brought massive debt problems.

The role of personal communication was another key reason why the telegraph trumped the pony – the new service offered people a chance to ‘speak’ directly. This tale reinforces not only why modern firms must never take business for granted and always be ahead of the game, but also why it is vital to keep the lines of communication wide open so all parties can have direct conversations. I say let’s cut the pony and – as Buffalo Bill might have said – keep it “ream”, which in 1800s slang simply means honest.



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