Back in 2000 there was a short-lived company called Net Perceptions that foresaw a future in which retailers would need to reach consumers through multiple channels at the same time and seamlessly. The pitch for its service was that e-commerce and the Internet meant that solid customer relations depended on meeting consumers where they were, whether they came through the door, called, were online or just happened to be in the area. If they walked, talked, clicked or beeped, retailers needed to be there.
Net Perceptions faded with a lot of other companies when the tech bubble burst. But its forecast was on the money. Look around today and you see that it has all come to pass. Today, more people access the Internet through mobile devices than through computers. And social media tools like Yelp, Urbanspoon and Foursquare offer consumers a way to instantly review businesses. So, to be in the running, a business has to be techno-dexterous.
State government is not oblivious to the trend. Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services is applying a lot of the same technology advances in its bid to ensure child support payments continue to flow seamlessly to those who are supposed to be getting them.
In January, the Pocono Record reported that an automated texting system employed by DHS had helped officials boost child support collection rates. And last week, the department announced that it has created a mobile-friendly version of the Pennsylvania Child Support website.
Officials say the main site is designed to give users information about child support programs and details about cases. They say the mobile application makes it possible for users to get case status updates, request materials, see upcoming appointments, calculate estimated support payments and make payments -- all within a design that's meant to be easily viewed with a tablet or a smartphone.
DHS says it gets more than 18,000 visits to the child support site every day and 67 percent of users do it through mobile devices.
Some might well argue that Net Perceptions was a company ahead of its time.