Magazine Article | February 21, 2007

Talk Your Way Into Field Service Efficiencies

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

A mobile speech-enablement solution improves Rotary Lift’s visibility of work order status.

Integrated Solutions, March 2007

Rotary Lift manufactures vehicle lifts and equipment for the professional automotive service, commercial truck and transit, and auto enthusiast consumer segments. The company offers installation, inspection, and repair service for its equipment through its ServALL network of about 400 factory-trained, third party Rotary Authorized Installers (RAIs). Most ServALL providers are small operators that cater to large, mass merchant accounts, such as Sears Auto Centers and Pep Boys, explains Matt Webster, VP of marketing and sales at Rotary Lift.

While all Rotary Lift products are designed to maximize end user vehicle servicing and handling efficiencies, the company needed assistance on the efficiency front when it came to ServALL. Until last year, RAIs communicated with the company's call center via traditional telephone and fax. Call center personnel would field calls from end users and dispatch the appropriate third party service provider to each job. Information on completed jobs was telephoned or faxed back to the call center for input into Rotary Lift's work order management system.

This setup was far from ideal, Webster says. "Because information wasn't being fed to the database in real time, we had a difficult time obtaining up-to-date service status data," he notes. "Often, we had to call to find out what was going on — whether a job had been finished and when, or what might be preventing that from happening. And the time lag in receiving job status information interfered with our ability to close out service tickets and get payments to the service providers. We decided that automating the call center function would not only eliminate these problems, but control the high transaction costs associated with needing more call center personnel to handle our ever-increasing call volume."

Pronexus' veoMobile speech-enablement solution was found to best fit these criteria. Built on the Microsoft Speech Server platform, the solution, which resides on a server at corporate headquarters and cost the company about $50,000, affords ServALL service providers access to Rotary Lift's work order management system from any telephone.

Each third party firm has an assigned customer number. By entering this number into a telephone keypad, providers can find out how many open service tickets their firms currently have on file and where these jobs are located. The system also "asks" callers how they want to handle individual tickets; using the appropriate prompts, they can accept or decline jobs as well as schedule service calls.

Once jobs are completed, providers phone in updates, usually right from job sites. Data is translated into the proper format and transmitted, via an interface, to the work order management system. Interim service call information, such as indications that parts are needed in order to finish a repair, is sent to Rotary Lift in an identical way.

ServALL service providers are not required to use the system, but about 20 such firms have migrated to it and others have either expressed interest in doing so or are definitely planning to follow suit, Webster says. Unrelated issues, which late last year caused a temporary slowdown in the adoption rate, have since been resolved, and system rollout is getting back on track, he reports.

"We don't want to force any of our service providers to migrate from the manual method; that's not our style," Webster notes. "However, we're trying to point them in that direction by educating them on the benefits of automation. For example, we suggest that using the system eliminates the need to wait for a specific call center employee in order to inquire about a particular job. The resulting time saving enables the call center to handle more service calls daily."

Webster adds that for Rotary Lift itself, the solution is beginning to deliver on its promise. Reporting call status at the point of service rather than at the end of the day significantly reduces the number of days required to close out job tickets and pay providers for work completed, says Webster. It also minimizes the company's need to make telephone calls to service providers to follow up on loose ends, such as job tickets that have been closed, but have yet to be submitted. The end result, Webster states, is enhanced efficiency, which going forward will allow Rotary Lift to expand the ServALL network and serve more end users with less investment in human capital.

"Once we have most or all of our providers onboard, we expect our transaction costs to fall substantially as well," Webster concludes. "Ultimately this will be a win-win implementation for us and for our service providers."