Saving and Serving Millions in the Field

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — March 31, 2014

You have heard the jingle, “Safelite Repair, Safelite Replace,” but exactly how does the company manage to effectively empower more than 4,000 field techs and service millions of customers in North America?  
 
According to Matt Weger, Assistant Vice President, Application Development at Safelite, “In our evolution of the mobile space, we have moved from a more operationally-focused company and technology firm, to a customer-driven technology firm.” 
 
Safelite is, in fact, the nation’s largest vehicle glass repair and replacement company, with about 600 facilities. It boasts service to 98% of all zip codes in the United States. Weger noted the “Safelite Advantage” campaign encapsulates who the company is and what it does. “That is—always being there, knowing who to expect, the best replacement technology, stronger repairs and the industry’s only national lifetime warranty,” he said.

Weger views technology as the way to enable both the internal and external customer experience. To that end, the company, utilizing the Antenna Software platform, developed an Android app (with the user in mind) to create a real-time information flow, save time and money and go totally paperless.

The Challenge
When beginning to mobilize, the business challenges were similar to those many organizations face with a large field force component. Operating off of paper meant there was substantial disconnect and labor intensive, error-prone processes. The work order had to be printed out and multiple people and steps were involved in just trying to understand where a technician was and how he was operating, at any given moment.

“We had application siloes where real life information was not reflected in the current work order.  For example, changes to the task or customer needs would come in, but not make it down to the technician,” said Weger. The company started out with a mobile platform in 2004 and it was essentially operationally focused, with a goal of automating and moving away from paper-based to electronic work orders.
 
From there in 2006, the “MRM2” (Mobile Resource Manager)—the internal name for the mobile app, which ran on BlackBerry—was launched with additional features for workflow. A full national rollout of that took place in 2009.

Bluetooth pens used for signature capture and Bluetooth printers for receipts, were also rolled out. “This was our first real stab at field service productivity gain and it provided some pretty inventive things at that time. But it was still a step away from where we really wanted,” explained Weger.

The screen and real estate of the device was limited in functionality and what could be presented.  Plus, the questionable nature of BlackBerry’s fate led Safelite to “go back to the drawing board again” for another iteration.

Next Gen App
In 2011–2012, the company piloted the MRM3 platform, which they consider a “real tool for technicians and customers.” Weger said they took a step back and reviewed the latest technology, selecting Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 as the device and Android as the operating system and as a native app.

The final version was nationally deployed in 2013 to approximately, 4,000 technicians in four months. “It was a phenomenal success as we got it out there quickly. It’s been very well received,” he said.

Internal Customers
The new feature sets of this app, advanced the connected workflow, provided information on new products and created even greater dispatching and routing efficiencies. Another differentiator here was the involvement of the user.

Weger said, “As an internal IT department, we have internal customers who are the technicians. Our goals were to listen to them, to focus on what they were doing, how we could help them do it better and how we could create an application that truly enabled their day.” So it was listening to the technicians that helped them get from where they were to where they wanted to be. 

The end goal was to “delight the internal customers” with a tool for an easy-to-use workflow and ultimate productivity. The solution is fully integrated into the back office for updates and changes, so techs can view real-time work orders and daily manifests.  

A pre-inspect process is supported by photographs—and the new devices have “phenomenal imaging capabilities.” Other features include mapping and product dates, and the solution is secure and PCI compliant.

Antenna’s adaptable mobile platform has enabled Safelite to achieve their objectives by combining out-of-the-box field service functionality with the ability to adapt and evolve, to meet its evolving future needs.

External Customers
Safelite also kept its end customers in mind while creating MRM3. Just enabling the technicians to focus on the task at hand rather than administrative processes, raises the customer experience. A complete view of the job and the customer, plus better communication, allows the techs to be “customer-facing, customer-serving and customer-driven,” according to Weger.

Additionally, customer specific features have been enabled by the app as well. Knowing when a tech is on its way to a job, a technician profile—with a picture of the worker, is sent via email to the customer. “That gives the customer great peace of mind. They know who is coming and that they can trust the person because their background has been checked and they are qualified through our training and certification,” said Weger.

That feature set has been extended to a portal where the customers can go online and view the current job status and which technician is assigned. Safelite is also working to integrate the ETA and mapping functions better so customers can update, edit or change their appointment details if they need to and see a narrow window of time for when the tech is supposed to arrive.

Real Results
A higher service level will result in dollars along the way of course, but Weger also talked about what impact a paperless, real-time connected environment has had. “The paper savings is probably a quarter million a year,” said Weger. Since job times were improved, via reduced miles (from better routing and dispatching), fuel savings and vehicle costs savings are estimated to be $750,000 a year. Plus, “We’ve had phenomenal feedback from our technicians,” he noted.

To hear the Safelite story first hand, listen to Matt Weger’s presentation.

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