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Chatter In The Air, Everywhere

Salesforce.com expands its Chatter product family, while GE and Virgin America are exploring exotic applications of the enterprise social network.
Customer service personnel on the ground could even take proactive action to alert a passenger to a potential problem, such as a bag not having made it on the flight, through a pop-up alert on the screen, Cush said. Another scenario Salesforce representatives showcased during the keynote was that customer service agents, recognizing that a high-value customer might be in danger of missing a tight connection, could relay an alert ahead to airport staff with a custom map showing the passenger exactly how to get most efficiently from his arrival gate to the departure gate. A gate agent could then be holding up an iPad displaying that that map, with the customer's face on it, as he walked off the plane, to point him in the right direction. The file with the map would be sent via ChatterBox, naturally, and the same technology could potentially allow the alert and an attached PDF map to be relayed to the customer in flight.

Cush said while that scenario is exciting, he is even more excited by the potential for collaboration among employees, which he expects to happen mostly through mobile devices because "90% of the people who work for our airline never sit down at a desk or sit down at a computer." Salesforce's strong support for mobile devices was one of the deciding factors in favor of Chatter over its competitors, he said.

Cush also sees potential for breaking down silos in what traditionally has been a hierarchical industry. Running an airline is a "logistical nightmare where about 20 steps have to go right to get a passenger and their bag to the final destination," he said, and better collaboration might allow workers to bypass some of those steps when necessary and jump straight to a solution.

Others who vouched for Chatter:

--Ed Steinike, CIO at the Coca-Cola Company, who described Chatter as "a new way to work in a faster environment," something the company will need if it is to fulfill its stated goal of doubling revenue over the next decade.

--Andy Lark, chief marketing officer at Australia's CommonwealthBank, who talked about "providing the ability for the narrative of the organization to be captured and shared."

--Activision CIO Robert Schmid, who discussed improving customer service by using Chatter both internally and externally. "We're hoping that with Chatter, as soon as somebody can't answer a question, we [can expose] that problem to all our smart people" and get the answer for the customer.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

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