home central field support general manager, Sears Canada

Sears Canada today announced one of the largest sales force automation technology rollouts by a Canadian company.

Six-hundred-and-twenty-five Sears Canada field support technicians across the country will use mobile devices powered by this technology to do their job better.

Sears Canada is banking on wireless dispatch and mobile workforce management system to generate savings by improving time and efficiency of home service technicians. Ultimately this will lead to:

  • customer loyalty
  • optimal resource utilization
  • streamlined work processes
  • “very contented” service technicians

How much better?

“We expect to improve productivity of our technical workforce by 20-25 per cent,” said Jeff Miller, general manager, home central field support at Sears Canada.

Driving this surge in productivity is a real-time, enterprise-wide wireless dispatch and mobile workforce management system from Mississauga, Ont. based Mobile Computing Corp. (MCC)

And the chief beneficiaries, said Miller, will be the nearly 800,000 Sears customers who are serviced by technicians in their homes every year.

Of course, Sears will reap some pretty heavy duty benefits too! The company has estimated that savings from getting frontline technicians to do their job more efficiently will pretty much pay for the rollout. And payback will not be years down the road. “We’ve built a model that pays for the technology, as well deploy it,” said Miller. “As we put dollars out over the three-year agreement, [Sears Canada] gets all of the money back during that period.”

But cost savings are not the half of it.

According to Miller, other more intangible benefits include enhanced customer loyalty, optimal resource utilization, and streamlined work processes.

He said the deployment would also create 625 very contented technicians who can focus on their domain expertise instead of being saddled with non-technical issues, which was the case, until very recently.

“Previously, technicians were involved in the business process from the start to the end,” said Miller. They would diagnose customer issues, contact customers to check their availability, do technical research, collect needed parts themselves, and then head out to the customer home. “In the new process, we do the call-out the evening before with a non-technical resource. We also have a drop off point for parts, which could either be a technician’s home or a depot we’ve set up.”

In effect, said Miller, what is involved, is a complete rebuild of Sears Canada business processes for HomeCentral field support – with mobile workforce automation technology from MCC to make it all happen.

All 625 Sears Canada technicians will be equipped with Windows CE handheld devices. MCC technology will enable them to use these devices to connect securely to corporate information systems and access and exchange service information such as route sheets, service histories and warranties.

This will be a far cry from the time technicians used paper forms, said Gary Jarosz, senior vice-president, sales and marketing, MCC.

Jarosz outlined a “typical case” scenario to describe how the deployment enhances workflow, generates time and cost savings, and improves accuracy….if a technician is in trouble because a call took longer than expected, we can pull a job out of [his] device and send it to another technician’s device so the customer is taken care of exactly when we said we would.Jeff Miller>Text He said in the morning, a Sears technician would turn on his mobile device and be able to review a route summary, where and when his calls are scheduled. “As soon as a technician goes on his first call, he can elect to take on board mapping; this will give him turn by turn directions to that customer location. So there are a lot of time savings there too.”

Technicians, said Jarosz, can access service information accurately on their handhelds. “Accurate information helps them to avoid service mishaps. For instance, they avoid charging a customer for parts under warranty, or on the flip side, not charging for something they thought was under warranty, but in fact wasn’t.”

He said productivity improves because each Sears HomeCentral technician can now make two extra calls a day. “That’s because they avoid an extra trip into the depot at the beginning and end of the day.”

According to Jarosz, Sears Canada and other MCC customers gain three key benefits: improved mobile workforce efficiency, superior customer service and improved management visibility.

Miller says the three benefits are interconnected.

He noted that Sears managers are able to track specifically where each technician is at any given point during the day. “We know how many calls they have completed, what they have done during those calls, what parts have been put into the product, and whether they are ahead or behind schedule.”

Managers, he said, can also load balance calls through the day among technicians. “If an emergency call comes in we can allocate it to a technician real time; or if a technician is in trouble because a call took longer than expected, we can pull a job out of [his] device and send it to another technician’s device so the customer is taken care of exactly when we said we would.”

Jarosz said MCC’s biggest value proposition is that it offers end-to-end sales automation technology. “This marketplace is populated with a number of niche solution providers,” he said. “We provide a fully integrated solution…everything from the work order call coming into the call centre, route optimization, wireless dispatch of the work order, infield workforce management, electronic forms, GPS and automatic vehicle locator – right down to closing that call.”

Related links:

TorStar delivery goes wireless

Wireless technology makes TransAlta competitive

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