Is it really possible to eliminate computers and go solely to tablets and smartphones?
The idea sounds attractive. The ability to move around wherever and whenever you wish is alluring. Many of us hate being cooped up. In fact, the reason some of us started our own businesses is that we wanted freedom. We don’t want to be tethered to an office and desktop computer all day.
According to a 2013 survey by security company Sophos, the average person carries around 2.9 devices.
But as useful as they are, mobile devices probably can’t take the place of computers for everything, all of the time. For instance, if you and your team need to do a lot of data entry, or work on spreadsheets and documents, a full-size computer or large laptop with standard-size keyboard is much faster to use.
Dual monitors also increase efficiency, especially if you do tasks that require keeping multiple applications or browsers open. You won’t spend as much time finding your place as you jump from view to view.
Mobile devices, on the other hand, are well suited for other purposes. In fact, one of the most exciting uses of tablets is with apps built specifically for them, to interact with customers or conduct transactions that in the past were handled manually or with clunky and expensive turnkey computer systems.
The trick is to know exactly what each is best for, and equip yourself and your staff with the right devices for the job. Here are some ways to use mobile devices that may trigger some ideas for mobility, greater efficiency, and improved customer service in your business.
Tablets are great for:
- A computer replacement for travel. If you regularly use a computer in your daily work, a tablet can substitute for short periods of time while traveling. In that case, be sure to purchase and use an attachable keyboard. An actual keyboard, and not the touchpad that is in your tablet, is essential. While it is technically possible to use a touchpad for lengthy periods of time, the keyboard makes it much easier and faster.
- For waiting room check-in. Tablets are great for checking in patients and customers, giving visitor badges, and other similar uses. You’ll find a growing number of apps, such as Phreesia, designed to work with tablets for this purpose.
- When you need to move around carrying a computing device. If you need to take inventory in the stockroom or show options to a customer, a tablet you hold in your hands is ideal. The screen is big enough to navigate easily, but the tablet is light enough to hold in one hand.
- Point of sale systems. More and more of today’s POS systems for restaurants, cafés, and retail shops are lightweight systems built specifically with tablets in mind. One example is Groupon’s Breadcrumb POS system, built for the iPad. POS apps have also been built for Android tablets and for the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. Add a portable credit card swipe device such as Square or Pay Anywhere, and you’re good to go.
- A computer replacement when no regular internet or WiFi signal is available. A tablet can fill inany place where you have to work but can’t get a regular internet connection. Many tablets connect via a wireless phone plan.
Naturally, you will be using smartphones for purposes of making and receiving voice calls. Beyond that, smartphones are excellent for:
- Field service and repair staff. If you run a consumer services business, often reps will need to take photos of a job or show a customer a replacement option. Smartphone cameras today can take high-res images that are ideal for these uses.
- Security monitoring and alerts. Today’s “smart” security systems often can be managed remotely using a smartphone. Need to get alerts in case of a security incident at the shop while you’re off premises? Or possibly view your security camera footage? A smartphone does the job.
- Hours tracking. If you bill customers by the hour or pay personnel based on an hourly rate, today’s phone apps can do a great job of tracking time.
- Mapping. Never again be late for appointments because you got lost. GPS-enabled phones get you to your destination.
- Expense deduction tracing. Today you can use a smartphone and app to track expenses and organize receipts, for improved recordkeeping for tax purposes. Apps like Expensify and Deductr are two options.
These are not all of the uses for tablets and smartphones in a business, but may trigger a few ideas you can use. How are you using tablets and smartphones in your business?