Social Media – embrace it or ignore it? You decide!

Social media for taxi dispatch software

Dragging an IT luddite into the crazy world of social media

By Matthew Borland | Sales Director | Magenta Technology

Let me start by explaining that not everyone who works in IT is a nerd or a techie. Some couldn’t care less about bits and bytes and code syntax or even playing GTA V (which, I’m reliably informed by my adolescent son, is Grand Theft Auto 5) on the latest and greatest games console. Some of us just aren’t turned on by that sort of thing. That’s not to say that we don’t appreciate the importance and value that technology brings to our private and commercial lives, it’s just that – for some of us – it’s not our reason for living.

For many years now I’ve deliberately avoided spending time out of work playing computer games or staring glassy eyed for several hours a day at my social media apps on my smartphone. I stood proudly resolute at not having a Facebook account to publicly celebrate my youngest’s recent accomplishment in potty training, or the damage done to the soft furnishings by our newly acquired puppy. ‘Luddite!’ I hear you shout. I do confess to having been a member of LinkedIn for a long time, and have certainly recognised the commercial advantages of the site, but the rest just seemed a drain on time better spent elsewhere.

So it was with great displeasure that I was dragged into the world of Twitter by our marketing manager, who insisted that, not only would its use benefit the business and me commercially, but perhaps I might actually get something out of it myself – the ability to share thoughts and ideas with others who may offer or benefit from a bit of experience here and there, or who aren’t aware of trends in our market. I might even benefit from the odd shot of sarcasm or satire on a damp, grey Tuesday morning.

Although it’s early days and the jury’s still out on that last point, let me say that what it has made me aware of is the challenge that we all face, either personally or as a business, with keeping up with technology and making sense of what’s useful and what’s merely a distraction. In the same way that we all now accept that websites and smartphone apps are a regular and necessary part of our lives, it seems it’s time to embrace other technology too.

For us in the taxi and private hire industry, web portals for customers to book jobs, corporate accounts to access usage and spend information or for drivers to access their balance information and job history are part of our life, and every company worth its salt is receiving bookings from customers and sending jobs to drivers through smartphone apps. But what’s beyond them? Where do we look next?

Well of course, the rise of the electric vehicle is imminent, and issues such as ‘range anxiety’ and practicality are dissipating as infrastructure is installed, battery technology advances and purchase prices gradually stabilise. At some point they’ll be autonomous too, although hopefully I’ll have given up driving by then. But there are more current and contemporary technologies – available right now – that can change the way we behave or do things.

For instance, the optimisation engine used in our dispatching system, Echo, means that our customers no longer schedule cars using the same process as the radio cars of the ‘70s and ‘80s. It uses the most advanced technology available to optimise the entire fleet rather than each individual job. It’s so smart that it plans ahead and thinks for itself, something which, until now, we believed that only ‘skilled’ people in an office could really do. Also for consideration is accessing valuable business data through Business Intelligence tools – another example of contemporary technology being utilised and bringing value to businesses that no longer want to act on gut feeling or instinct, but rather back up their ideas with real facts and statistics. Finally, new and reliable cyber payment methods for passengers, such as chip and pin, contactless payments, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Paypal, etc. have to be amongst the easiest and most practical technology that’s available for deployment right now.

So I challenge all you fellow luddites who deliberately or inadvertently believe that they don’t need or want to adopt new practices or tech to think again. Perhaps the future is already here and it’s time for us all to look again at what technology can do to make our business and personal lives a little bit better.

Matthew Borland | Twitter: matt_j_borland

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