Pitney Bowes reveals a $20 million dollar multi-vendor based system for its 2,000 remote technicians.
Pitney Bowes Inc.s nearly 2,000 field service technicians often found that they lacked critical customer service information at the times when they needed it mostwhile servicing their customers.
Toward that end, the document management provider spent more than $20 million on a system that lets its mobile work force access and manage data.
The solution involves three main components: a CRM (customer relationship management) Siebel Field Service system from Siebel Systems Inc. on the back end; nearly 2,000 wireless devices in the field, including smart phones from various carriers and BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion Ltd.; and Antenna Softwares A3 solution for Siebel, to make the bridge between the CRM system and the wireless devices.
Pitney Bowes mobile employees, from managers to service technicians, now use the wireless devices in the field to access, track and manage customer data ranging from service history to repair-parts orders.
"In the old world, when a rep responded to a customer site, he or she had no idea about the service history; it was a one-time event," said Mark Davis, vice president of customer service for Pitney Bowes, in Stamford, Conn. "In the new world, the rep has access to all that information, to service-level agreements, to service historythose types of things. In turn, as the rep closes that service request, it provides us information that adds to our service repository."
Still, $20 million is no small sum, a fact that Davis readily admits. "People ask me all the time why I did this, why we spent $20 million plus, and I tell them it was about being a business-growth enabler," said Davis. "Our organization had grown up on legacy systems, like a lot of service providers, and in our case, the system was developed by us to meet our needs at the time, but it wasnt very flexible."
Before implementing Antennas software, Pitneys service technicians managed much of their customer information in Siebels database on their desktops, after they returned from the field.
"After choosing Siebel, we had to decide how to leverage all this new information in our service management system, how do we get it to our field people in real time and in a cost-efficient way and then, in turn, have the information they put in devices sent back to us," said Davis. "I view Antenna as the critical pipe between our service management system and all that data to our 1,800 field people."
Pitney Bowes chose Antennas XML-based architecture because it works well with Siebels back-end system and because it supports a wide range of devices from multiple carriers.
Click here to read more about an antenna technology that "locks on" to a WiFi signal.
That second point is especially important. Pitney Bowes field service technicians are dispersed nationally, so the company relies on different carriers to ensure its technicians get the best coverage in different parts of the country.
The new system has been up and running only a few months, but Pitney Bowes is already seeing a return on investment. "For the first year, we projected an increase of 2 percent, and that doesnt sound like a lot, but we get a million service calls a year. In the last three months, we just exceeded that; we saw a 2.1 percent improvement. We predict at our peak to see a 4 to 5 percent improvement," said Davis. "Other factors were looking at as early indications are positive. For example, with service call backs [or recurring, redundant customer calls] we anticipated saving 5 percent, and weve seen a 7 percent decrease in the first three months."
"With CRM implementations typically you see delays and frustrations getting the ROI. Pitney Bowes got a complex Siebel system out in record time with no major problemsthat made our job a lot easier because once their installation was stable, we could map our connecting systems. The resulting ROI is way above industry average," said Peter Semmelhack, chairman and chief technology officer of Antenna, in Jersey City, N.J.
But implementing the new system was no easy task for Pitney. "Two years ago, after a lot of work and research we got the ... project approved by the board of directors," said Davis. "These types of things arent for the faint of heart. If you think it will take a year, it will take a year and a half. You have to get things 80 percent right and start going."
For the most part, the rollout was deemed a success, and extensive training played a key role, said Davis. "I asked my team to overspend on training, and all our reps did face-to-face training in a classroom. Its the knowledge transfer that differentiates success from failure, once you get over the technical hurdles."
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.