Best Field Service

— November 01, 2007

>WINNER
Best Buy
IMPROVED ROUTING AND SCHEDULING RESULTS IN INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY.
Big-box electronics giant Best Buy has a massive U.S. retail presence, and it teamed with Geek Squad in 2002 to extend on-site customer service to consumers and business users. (You may have seen the distinctive black-andwhite Geek Squad Volkswagens on the road.) As Best Buy grew, the Geek Squad kept pace--it now comprises over 2,000 field "agents" and 7,000 in-store and remote operatives--but its scheduling application didn't.

"We knew that to keep delivering fast, efficient customer service we would need to upgrade our scheduling operations," says Bob Willett, CEO and CIO of Best Buy. The company contracted with consulting firm Accenture to select a solution and ultimately deployed ClickSoftware's ClickSchedule. "ClickSchedule automates and simplifies the scheduling process, so weensure our field agents are as productive as possible," says Willett.

Best Buy, ClickSoftware and Accenture planned the deployment meticulously, beginning with a week of workshops to understand the business requirements and the potential integration issues. Although Best Buy executives already had the company's business requirements in mind when selecting ClickSoftware, they were surprised by the many additional elements that popped up in this early phase.

Once the system was designed and the software interfaces developed, ClickSoftware performed a methodical piece-by-piece installation over three months so that feedback was incorporated directly into the deployment process. This was in marked contrast to an earlier, failed attempt by Best Buy to upgrade its scheduling solution; the lessons learned from that misstep proved valuable in the ClickSchedule rollout.

Response time for the Geek Squad has dropped from 4.2 to 2.9 days.

The components were tested individually and in concert over a six-week period by ClickSoftware, Accenture and Best Buy. A final stage of "user acceptance testing" put actual dispatchers at the controls to identify realworld usage issues.

End-user training was simplified by the fact that ClickSchedule was integrated with the Geek Squad's existing user interface. A pilot program ran in a single location with several hundred Geek Squad agents for three weeks. The pilot program ran so smoothly that Best Buy opted to skip a phased extension and immediately deployed the system nationally, expanding it to serve 2,500 field personnel. Only seven months had passed since the project's inception.

The payoff has been substantial. Response time for the Geek Squad has dropped from 4.2 to 2.9 days. Technicians now handle an average of 2.4 calls per day, up from 2.1. Squad members spend less time traveling, and their arrival window is more predictable.

Best Buy now plans to extend ClickSchedule across the entire company to create an integrated scheduling and routing solution that will include home theater installations and appliance delivery and may contain 13,000 schedulable resources. "ClickSchedule has the capacity to grow with us, playing an indispensable role in our long-term strategy," says Willett.
--PETER M. FERENCZI

>HONORABLE MENTION
Stanley Steemer International
The company cleans up its service act with an Intermec solution.
Stanley Steemer's army of carpet cleaning technicians has dealt with classic field service deployment challenges for more than 60 years. According to Dale Bevins, I.T. director for Stanley Steemer, the company began looking for a way out of paper-based invoicing and radio dispatch 10 years ago, with early experiments involving consumer-grade hardware.

"We figured out pretty quickly that those [consumer] devices wouldn't work for us, so we went with something that's more stable and rugged, even though it was very expensive," says Bevins. The company deployed Intermec 761 mobile computers along with Intermec PW40 thermal printers so that technicians can enter and receive order information directly on the handheld.They can also process credit card payments and print invoices with the PW40, dramatically reducing paperwork and invoicing errors. Steemer also deployed WebTech Wireless WT6000 GPS units in trucks so that dispatch knows vehicle and equipment locations.

"Our president of operations figured out that he'd save enough in overtime to pay for the project," says Bevins, noting that the potential for ROI was obvious. Now that the system is in place at 81 locations in the United States, that reckoning has proven correct. At the Greater New York branch, the streamlining translates into about $100,000 yearly in overtime savings and eliminates the need for a full-time dispatcher. According to Bevins, unquantifiable benefits such as improved customer service through timeliness and professional invoices are at least as important as the dollars saved.

>HONORABLE MENTION
Alliance Inspection Management
A ServicePower and ToughBook solution revs up efficiency for this auto group.
Alliance Inspection Management (AiM) is a third-party automotive inspection company that handles both new and used cars. Inspecting leased cars for individuals whose leases are ending is a complex field service problem, so AiM contracted with ServicePower to deploy the company's ServicePower and ServiceMobility (developed jointly with KonaWare) routing and dispatch solution on Panasonic Toughbook CF-18 rugged laptops.

According to AiM Chief Operating Officer Robert Clucas, ServicePower's CRM tools helped determine "the where and the how many" when the company first distributed its technicians across the United States.Now, ServicePower's solution dynamically routes roughly 100 inspectors, performing around 9,000 inspections per month, and collects route progress and job status information from technicians via the GPS-enabled ToughBooks (which also provide turn-by-turn directions). If a technician is delayed, ServicePower automatically recalculates schedules and redistributes workloads to maintain inspection appointments." We're able to tell [lessees] pretty much exactly when we're going to be there," says Clucas. He also notes that ServicePower's detailed real-time reporting is a useful management tool. "It's so visual, you can see at a glance where your problems are."

"We're extremely pleased with the system; the efficiencies are far greater than we expected," adds Clucas. "We thought [technicians] would be able to do eight or nine inspections a day, but some inspectors do upward of 15, 16 or 17. It's enabled us to virtually eliminate customer complaints about not being able to get an appointment." Assuming a 20 percent increase in efficiency from the system, AiM reached a positive ROI within two months of the launch.

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