Wireless service helps customers smile

Businesses see big opportunities to cut costs and boost customer service using Telecom's Mobile Jetstream wireless network.

Businesses see big opportunities to cut costs and boost customer service using Telecom’s Mobile Jetstream wireless network.

Onesource, Downer Connect, Greenacres, Masterpet and Amalgamated Food Distributors are letting fly with wireless applications based on the telco’s rebranded CDMA-based mobile data network.

One-month-old IT firm Onesource, which was formed from the merger of U-Bix Document Solutions and Cogent Communications, is rolling out a wireless call management system to service technicians.

About 180 Onesource service staff around the country will use Compaq iPaqs connected via Mobile JetStream to an AS/400 running the service management system. Onesource has been trialling the service on Mobile JetStream for six months.

One of the first Onesource customers to experience the new service is Auckland City Council, which has more than 120 U-Bix photocopiers and a service level agreement for a two-hour response time to calls.

“Against that we now have 60% of calls coming in, in under one hour,” says the council’s group manager of procurement, Tim Munro. “Before that the response time was pretty good but this has lifted it up again.”

Onesource national service manager Tony Day says the company has been since its U-Bix days looking at implementing a wireless service management application since 1997, when it considered using mobile radio. However, it wasn’t cost efficient until now, he says.

Customer calls are sent directly to the PDA, which is equipped with a scanner so that parts numbers can be scanned in and sent straight back. Each technician sends less than 10MB per month of traffic, meaning Onesource can use Telecom’s most meagre data offering. The message layer used by Onesource is a new product from wireless developer Econz called Econz Wireless Router. Econz also developed the PDA-based application that was integrated with Onesource’s AS/400 system by AS/400 application developer Cosyn Software. Cosyn will also deliver the second phase of the project — the ability to check stock availability and order over the web, using the WebSmart AS/400 web services environment.

Day estimates that the system, which took 18 months to develop, will return its investment within 14 months. “A lot of travel time is taken out of the business and we needed to improve our service. Alternative ways of doing that would have involved a lot more time and travel and been more costly.”

Onesource will also offer the system as a bespoke solution to its customers, says Onesource chief executive Elaine Ford.

Home services company Greenacres decided to investigate wireless computing when it expanded into plumbing and electrical services at the start of the year.

“We wanted to raise our level of customer service to differentiate ourselves from all the other plumbing and electrical companies out there,” says Greenacres MD Andrew Chisholm.

The franchise company, which started out as a gardening and lawnmowing service, has had two electricians trialling a wireless solution using iPaqs equipped with Gtran modem cards running an interface developed by and rented from Econz. The system connects back to Greenacres’ MS Access-based job management system that runs on a server in Auckland. The solution will be rolled out to 50 franchisees by year’s end; the aim is to have all 660 using it eventually, says Chisholm. They pay a monthly technology fee which includes the cost of the iPaq, the application rental and Mobile JetStream fees.

Plans for the future include letting customers see franchisees’ schedules and book them on the web.

Amalgamated Food Distributors, meanwhile, has rolled out an automated sales system, developed by Rocom Wireless. Staff can enter, send and receive sales information on Palm PDAs connected via CDMA phones or Kyocera Smartphones — which combine handheld computer and phone — through a centralised distribution system.

AFD, which distributes Wattie’s, Streets Ice Cream, Red Bull and McCain products throughout the South Island, says the system has cut sales invoice processing time by up to 75%. AFD managing director David Scurr says it has paid for itself in six months.

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