"I wish there were two of me."
One solution to this physical limitation that is gaining steam is mobile telepresence technology. Here's what happens when you mashup Skype, an A.R. Drone, a Segway and an iPad:
by Suitable Technologies Double Robotics
The key innovation here is remote control mobility. With tools like WebEx, Google Hangouts and others we can connect face to face either in fixed locations or on the go.
Now lets say you want to break free from the conference room monitor and take a look around the office under your own direction. What's a teleconferencing business person to do?
Enter the telepresence robot. Take your iPad and attach it to a stick on wheels. Control the height and movement of said stick on wheels with a pc or second tablet. Mobile broadband and wifi make it possible to control the device from anywhere.
Products like Beam+ and Double Robotics put all of the tools I mentioned on an adjustable RC device. Several companies have entered the space but these two are leading the way with products that are within reach of small business users.
How can you be a be a better employer with a tool like this?
Managing multiple locations: Do you spend an inordinate amount of time driving between your various locations to oversee and help your staff? Activate your telepresence device instead. Now you can walk an employee through an issue with equipment or other procedures and be right by their side no matter where you are.
Customer Service: Sometimes only the boss will do. Your staff member has done all he or she can to appease a patron. They demand to speak to the owner. Of course you'd be happy to listen but you are in a different location. Dazzle your customer and turn them into a referring client. Roll up, greet them on a Beam+ or Double Robot and address the issue. Score one for the robots!
Site walks: Any time you feel like it, you can walk the production line. If your sales team schedules a facility tour for a prospective client you can join in whether you are on site or not.
Flexible work schedule: Allowing knowledge based staff to work remotely is nothing new. With mobile telepresence they can work in the office not just in the cloud. Moving about the office and interacting with co-workers is key to effective work. Great ideas and team culture come from connecting in real time. Telecommuters never have to hear "you just had to be there" again.
Training: Allow a remote office team member to be in the classroom during formal and impromptu training sessions.
Random inspection: Peek in on your team when you are away. Not in the big brother or sneaky sense. Sometimes to get a true feel for how people are handling tasks you need to see them live in the moment.
IT Support: Even with all of the remote access chat support sometimes you need to show IT the physical problem you're having with equipment. Giving remote support staff the ability to "sit" next to any person in the office to trouble shoot an issue saves time and gets people back to work faster.
Trade Shows: So, you have three sales people at three trade shows and only one technical person to support all three of them. Put a telepresence robot at the other two trade shows. When prospects ask technical questions have your key employee bounce from show to show. You will score points for the face to face interaction from your team whether they are in the building or not.
In the near future these nifty devices won't supplant traditional web conferencing. They will serve a need for those who want to work around the office and not just in the cloud.
How would you use a telepresence robot in your business?