If you’re old enough you most likely remember the 1990’s, when JR, Sue Ellen and Bobby had to be watched in real time for animated discussion the next day with your colleagues and friends. We didn’t have Facebook or BlackBerry yet. At the advent of email and VCRs (and for that matter, ATMs and cell phones), a miracle occurred. We evolved from having to do things when other people made it possible for us to do them, to answering email, returning phone calls, watching movies and programs, and doing our banking when it worked for us. We moved from the tyranny of real time to the freedom of My Time.

Ironically, the technology, as it improves, drives us back to real time

Texting exists because the cycle of voice-mail–return-calls is too slow. YouTube can get a video out to millions right now. We watch revolutions and earthquakes as they happen (and then wonder why rugby viewership is down). Creditors want their money electronically deposited before noon today. We are not a people known for our abiding patience anymore and the pace continues to get quicker and quicker.

This state of the union of always-on and ever-connected has not been lost on the companies that are moving toward customer centricity

More than simply adding a Twitter logo to their ads, companies that want to become part of the daily lives of their customers are calculating the way to each customer’s iPhone or Blackberry  It makes no sense to a customer to send an email query Saturday and get an answer “when our office is open Monday.” And if you want to invite a customer to try your competitor, make sure your online chat is down during the very off hours your customers are most likely to be free to interact with your website.

What started as a low hum of social networking is already a loud buzz

We will never be less connected, only more. And the reality is that customer connectedness and “customer empowerment” is synonymous. Your customers are already talking about you — whether you know what they’re saying or not. The rebound of “real time” means is that somebody has to be listening all the time to the social conversation. It’s not just about getting people to talk to us through the new network, but rather it’s a way of joining the conversation.