The Efficiency Advantage

My first exposure to mobile computing was through my father. In the mid-1990s, my dad started to use an Apple Newton along with a Macintosh calendaring program called NOW Up-To-Date to keep track of appointments, customer contact information and the like.

There weren’t a lot of people carrying these devices around, but my dad saw the utility. He carried laptops early, he used the original Macintosh, he carried handhelds before others. I even remember him carrying a cell phone before most others. What does he do? He’s a piano technician.

Piano technician? You mean the guy that comes to my house and tunes my piano and fixes it when it’s broken? Yes, that’s the guy. You wouldn’t think of it as being a technologically-oriented profession, but he saw the potential early. He saw how technology products could make him more efficient, get him out of the living rooms of his customers and on the road riding his bicycle.

I tell you this because we had an interesting conversation last night about this woman he hired to make phone calls for him, set up appointments, and follow up with customers who haven’t called in a while.

How does he use mobile computing? He carries a cell phone and a handheld. He used to carry a laptop but now the handheld does what he needs. He calls customers on the cell phone and uses it for GPS capabilities to find his next appointment. He uses the handheld not just to see his schedule and contacts, but also to tune pianos with a cool little piece of software that assists his own ear in the tuning process.

But it’s the woman handling scheduling in his office that brought it all together. See, she answers the phone and she calls customers back promptly. The other day my dad got a call from an old friend that used to work with a different tuner. He has resisted working for this woman because, well, no one wants to step on each others toes. But she said she keeps having to wait, sometimes as long as two weeks, to get a return call and schedule an appointment. She likes how she can call and get an appointment with my dad today.

To our customers, that’s all it takes. A little responsiveness and they are satisfied. Gonna be late? Call. Need an appointment? Pick up the phone in a reasonable amount of time. Do the job? As efficiently as possible.

And, in the end, it just leaves more time bike riding.