If you think about how how much technological advance there’s been in the past two or three decades, it’s soon pretty clear that the greatest moves forward have been concentrated in certain areas – for instance, while trains still run on diesel or electricity like they did 30 years ago (and are late like they were 30 years ago, and a bit grubby) look at what computers have done in the meantime:
1981 – the release of the IBM PC. Shipped with 16k or 64k RAM, which seems almost unbelievable these days since sixty four thousand bytes is a drop in the ocean compared to four billion you’d get with a mid-range laptop now.
2011 – the PC is down in sales, being overtaken by laptops, net books and tablets, and the PC itself is much changed since 1981 – modern versions have all the electronic gubbins in the screen, so no need even for a box beside the screen. And the computer can do all kinds of things now, from helping out SETI to playing old episodes of Star Trek. Computers are now merging with mobile phones too – your iPhone or HTS Wildfire is (of course) a way more powerful computer than anything IBM were selling in 1981.
And with the revolution in computers comes a revolution in communications – the only way companies could two-way communicate with customers in 1981 would be:
By fixed line telephone
Face to face
Or maybe by smoke signals if anyone knew how to use them. In 2011 the armory of communications channels includes:
company website contact form
And there are probably others, but Twitter is a big one right now – it’s used partly as a way of giving out info – news, offers etc but it’s also used as a customer services tool. One challenge for companies – whether they’re energy companies or otherwise, is how to use Twitter effectively – in on etweet I saw that someone was complaining to an energy company about a hole in the road – but of course the energy company don’t own the infrastructure, so are unable to help. This is the difference between Tweets and phone calls – a Tweet costs nothing so potentially there are a lot of people out there to communicate with. Obviously Twitter is just one communication medium out of many – we’ll see how it develops and matures over time as a mode of customer services.