Magazine Article | December 1, 2005


Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Traveling sales consultants save 1 to 2 hours per day by using tablet PCs and high-speed cellular service.

Integrated Solutions, December 2005

The Reynolds and Reynolds Company, based in Dayton, OH, helps automobile dealers sell cars and service their customers. Reynolds and Reynolds, which employs 4,400 worldwide and has annual revenues topping $982 million, provides consulting services as well as IT systems and solutions. In an effort to reduce manual processes and increase efficiency, Jason Price, operations specialist in the Integrated Document Solutions Division (IDS) of Reynolds and Reynolds, conducted a pilot test of a tablet PC-based solution with the IDS sales team. "Our goal was to provide our sales team with a tablet PC-based platform which included a high-speed communications solution that would ultimately increase efficiency, saving the reps time and enabling them to focus on getting new business," says Price.

Reynolds and Reynolds' document consultants visit five to seven customers a day, four to five days per week. Prior to adopting the tablet PCs, the document consultants accessed the company's customer relationship management (CRM) system and printed reports for each dealership they planned to visit. The reports, which are several pages in length and take time to generate and print, were used to manually update inventories and reorder business forms and dealership supplies during customer visits. After each visit, the forms were faxed to the headquarters' sales support team for entry into the CRM system. The support team found the forms difficult to interpret in faxed format. In addition, the document consultants spent evening hours sorting through e-mail and responding to customers.

The pilot team initially investigated the use of PDAs; however, it determined those devices lacked the power and size necessary to exploit the CRM interface. The pilot team tested tablet PCs, while the Reynolds IT group enhanced the CRM application to integrate with the tablet PC platform. Meanwhile, Price and the pilot team investigated cellular communications. Based on the pilot feedback, Reynolds and Reynolds chose a Fujitsu convertible tablet PC with an evolution data only, (EvDO) cellular-compatible PC Card from Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel. EvDO, which transmits data at more than 300 Kbps (kilobits per second), provides high-speed broadband access to more than 50% of Reynolds and Reynolds' document consultants, based on the geographic availability of the service. Price expects this percentage to increase significantly soon.

In June 2005, the solution was rolled out to approximately 130 document consultants in the United States. The tablets will be deployed later to 20 representatives in Canada. In addition to the tablet PCs and the cellular connection, the solution includes remote access to e-mail, (Reynolds and Reynolds' document procurement system), the company intranet, product demos and presentations, and the CRM system. Many forms used by the sales consultants are tablet-centric, so online ordering can be completed from customer sites. Consultants now run reports prior to visits, save them in PDF format directly on tablet PCs, capture inventory statistics using digital ink capabilities, and e-mail the reports immediately to the sales support staff using the tablets' cellular connection.

The statistics from the pilot group tell the story of improved efficiency because of this solution. "The members of the sales team have their offices with them virtually 24/7," says Price. "Reps can follow up on customer inquiries and check the status of orders on site. Furthermore, 77% agree that the tablet changes the way they manage their territory." Of the group, the majority saves 1 to 2 hours per day and makes 1 to 2 additional calls per day. Almost everyone agrees that the ability to manage e-mail from the field helps them address customer issues more rapidly and limits office time in the evening. In addition, 73% of the consultants feel the solution enhances their customers' perception of them and improves their professional image. In fact, the solution often piques curiosity from dealership employees, which has increased interest in Reynolds and Reynolds' Mobile Service Advisor solution, based on the same tablet PC and wireless mobility technology.