We talked below about how high gas prices present an opportunity for your business to capitalize on the shift to e-commerce. That’s a good start. But the larger issue at play is how the continuing evolution of technology provides methods for your business to operate more efficiently.

Here is an example that piggybacks off the gas price thing. Instead of having a sales force pounding the pavement, and piling up reimbursement miles, why not try a web-based system that reduces their time in the car. By creating a website portal for prospects to view product demonstrations, along with live online chatting with a sales rep, you can create the one-on-one experience of a sales call without the hassle and cost of travel.

What about a content management system enabling your clients to control their orders without having to bog down your sales force with simple customer service complaints? A CMS tool added to your site can allow customers the control and access they want, while helping to remove unnecessary steps in the supply chain.

Another option is video conferencing, which is becoming a viable alternative for large group meetings with the proliferation of high speed internet connections. Now that business has the broadband capabilities, the limitations from jumpy visuals and spotty audio are gone. And with increased multimedia tools, it is easier than ever to include PowerPoint slides, excel graphs and high-res images into the discussion.

But wait a minute, you may say. Doesn’t all this automation take away the human touch? Isn’t relying so heavily on computers moving us closer to the moment when Hal won’t open the pod bay doors in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yes and no.

First of all, nothing, repeat nothing, will replace the human side of business. The relationships, the critical thought, the analytical problem solving, none of that should change. But everyone is concerned with costs. And if one more face-to-face meeting can be replaced with video. If automation allows your human resources to be better allocated to high revenue zones. If a sales team can make 10 calls a day instead of 3. And if all of these savings can be passed down the line to the end user, then it becomes a win all around.

Plus, none of this is as scary as Hal telling us he is afraid he can’t do what we ask.

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