Twitter is a killer business application

We’ve noted before how the rise of Twitter as a business communications platform is very significant, but it’s not clear to me how long it will take for businesses to understand the huge, free, explosive power Twitter offers to them.

It is clear that many businesses simply don’t understand how simply it can be to change a bit in order to effectively use the internet to improve efficiency and cut costs.      We still see, for example, online chat systems that almost routinely default to “please call customer service”.     A personally frustrating example of a ridiculous online system  was the email response from my health insurer – Lifewise.     I’d asked a simple question by email, and recieved a reply using a “secure” encrypted email system.   So secure in fact I could not open the mail.    The instructions did offer a fix – I could forward the mail to another address and then would get back a decrypted reply.    This failed a few times but then seemed to work, so finally I had my answer which was …. wait for it …..

Please call customer service

Although it’s possible Lifewise handles most of these issues without the call, I have my doubts as this lines up with the challenges we’ve all seen as businesses struggle to integrate legacy systems with online environments.     Call centers are the staple info resource for many large businesses, but instead of simply routing people to those legacy phone systems they should, for example, set up Twitter account for each phone operator, allowing them to communicate with literally dozens of clients in the time it takes to handle a single call.    Many questions are generic and security is not needed, but the general phone path is to ask for account information first.     If, for example, all inquiries that did not need to be secure were routed to a Twitter operator, that person could shoot out canned answers and canned links  faster than you can hit the Ctl key.

Twitter is not the *only* solution to an integrated customer service strategy, but it was the missing “hyper efficient” communications  link and I’m anxious to see more businesses start to use it that way.

Digital Nomads

Original by Joe for the Dell Digital Nomad Blog:

As a digital nomad myself I’ve found that despite the wonders of an “almost always connected” environment there remain challenges in the motivation and attention departments. The ability to do work on the road pretty much from anywhere andactually doing work from anywhere are not – exusing the pun – even remotely the same two things. In fact it is important to be mindful of one of the classic pitfalls of being a digital nomad which is using the power of the ubiquitous workspace to put off “until later” work that is best done from the office – e.g. work that may require paper or personal documents or information histories that are unavailable online.   The ability to work 24/7 should not distract you from the fact you cannot work 24/7, and need to manage your time effectively regardless of your work environment.

Yet the productivity pitfalls for the remote workforce pale next to the productivity advantages. A workforce of digital nomads can use downtime in airports and waiting for meetings to check email, make calls, and conduct other follow ups. Unlike their counterparts who are chained to an office desk at a single location, the digital nomad travels fully equipped to handle most if not all the demands of their job from pretty much any location.  A Customer complaint needs handling in real time? Call them and email follow up online information and links to support the troubleshooting.   Here the customer will be impressed with your “”From the road” response, knowing that you are there for them all the time.   Is a server down?  Remote reboot from a laptop with EVDO card or over coffee at a WiFi hotspot at the coffee shop or airport.

An example of a digitally nomadic benefit I experienced last year came while covering CES 2008 – the massive Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show.  I often worked  from the blogger lounge, using online tools and blogging combined with Treo picture uploads to cover several sessions and product launches almost in real time.  In some ways I was working faster and covering more topics  than most of the thousands of “old school” journalists at the event.

When GM CEO Rick Wagoner released the Cadillac Provoq on the Keynote stage I was one of the first – if not the very first – to have pictures online since I could take the shot and then upload and caption it from my second row seat at the Venetian Ballroom.

In summary I’d suggest that productivity is more a function of the worker and how they are motivated than which tools they choose to use, but certainly companies large and small should always look for the best ways to digitally enable their workforce, empowering them to work effectively … anytime and everywhere.