A process that used to take a week of back-and-forth phone and email communications, complete with a paper trail, can now be handled in hours, if not minutes, thanks to instant messaging, photo-sharing and even streaming video. This saves the insurer and the contractor both time and money. More importantly, it makes the insurer's customers much happier, since they don't have to spend another week in a hotel while the insurance company haggles with the contractor.
A few years ago, this scenario would have been impossible. Social technologies now allow you to follow the threads of a job wherever it goes.
Another example comes from Echo Entertainment. CTO Rob James supplies technology to a Sydney-based casino and hotel complex with 10,000 employees. There's only about 1,000 administrative staff; the rest are on the service side of the house. This means they share a common profile: young, mobile, connected, social media savvy and, all too often for James' taste, temporary.
One thing that happens often with this type of staff is the workers want to change shifts. This isn't a problem for Echo management. They're used to it. The problem was with the process.
Until an enterprising group of table dealers got together and set up a Facebook page to post information about who wanted to get and give up what shifts, this was done on a message board in the back of the house. At first, James and his fellow C-suiters were a bit wary of the Facebook "solution" and thought to shut it down. Then they realized that their employees were solving a problem very creatively and in a way that worked best for them.
"The first place you go to is not Facebook," James says. "Then we sort of reversed that conversation saying, 'Well, what's the problem we're really trying to solve here? Because the problem, as far as the end user is concerned, the problem is solved. So what's our problem?'"
With this flash of inspiration, James set out to find a business-grade solution to do the same thing. He came up short. But he also realized he was wasting this time trying to re-solve a problem that had already been solved. Wouldn't it be better to just embrace what was going on and figure out a way to use Facebook's now-mature APIs to tie the shift-swapping page into Echo's back end and put some authentication and security around it?
There are two clear benefits, James says: One is the efficiencies, which can immediately hit the bottom line. But it's the other benefit, staff satisfaction, that really matters since "the hospitality industry is statistically and notoriously known for having a very high turnover rate."
James adds, "It's all about the people that are on Facebook all the time. They do collaborate through social networks, and their mobile device is their primary communication device. So all these things are our sweet spot to deliver employee satisfaction because its the tools and channels they want to use."