Inside Orkin's Real-Time Customer Service Solution

By  Susan Nunziata — July 09, 2009

Giving field technicians real-time access to Orkin's proprietary customer service application is enhancing the company's ability to serve its commercial customers. These include food and beverage processors, food service companies, hospitality operations, healthcare facilities, retail establishments, schools and other institutions.

Founded in 1901, Atlanta-based Orkin, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rollins, Inc. Meeting the needs of commercial customers creates two key challenges that don't exist for residential customers:

  • accommodating various state and federal regulations, as well as industry-driven standards, for different vertical sectors, some of which require paper-based confirmation of services;
  • providing a centralized way for clients to monitor service across multiple sites.

Each customer has its own "scope of service" agreement based on its unique needs. As of about two and a half years ago, Orkin's field technicians were still relying on a cumbersome paper-based process for commercial service and inspections."The technician would fill out a service ticket and give that to the branch," explains Rollins, Inc., CIO Tom Porter. "That was fine, until there was more than one branch involved and you had to have somebody else to consolidate the tickets."

The challenge was in collecting and sharing these disparate reports and then relaying the findings back to the customer so that they could take necessary action  in their facilities to remediate any problems. 

Orkin's five-member in-house development  team created a proprietary application called Power Track using the Microsoft .NET development kit. "It basically is the electronic manifestation of the scope of service," says Porter. Field techs track each step of the service process via mobile devices rather than pen-and-paper. Results are displayed on a web portal for customers.

The application was developed with considerable input from the company's commercial steering committee. An advisory group composed of technical services executives, such as the company's entomologies, as well as business-side executives participated in the development process.

The solution was initially fielded using Symbol handhelds that gathered and stored data collected in the field. At day's end, each tech returned a branch office and cradled the device to upload data to the centralized database. "We created some competition in the branch for space to plug these things and upload," says Porter. In addition, "We created some throughput challenges by collecting all of this information and posting it to the databases [at one time]."

The company made the switch earlier this year to wireless-enabled handhelds, deploying 2,300 Motorola MC70 Enterprise Digital Assistants. The devices feature barcode scanners that field techs use to collect data from barcoded pest control stations.

The devices connect via GSM cellular networks through service deals with wireless carriers. "The wireless connectivity gives us the capability, in real time, to do the updating," says Porter. "This is also easier, then, to post it to the databases for the customers so they can see things in a timely fashion."

In fact, the driving factor was making sure Orkin's customers had information readily available so that they could quickly take any steps they needed to ensure that their facilities were compliant with industry and regulatory standards.

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