"This is critical when you have a remote workforce," says Actcom president and CEO Ray Lorenzo. "We've seen about a 40 percent efficiency increase."
Adding the tracking hardware is an easy retrofit, taking three to four hours to install. The hardware, installed by a local company, costs $400 to $500 per vehicle. Relaying of the location data is provided by Data Burst Technologies (www.databurst.com) for a flat fee of about $25 per vehicle. The dispatcher's monitoring station is a standard PC, and management can monitor the fleet from any Internet-connected PC.
The system also can improve driving safety. "We have talked to people about speeding. We've actually called them on their cell phones and told them to slow down," Mr. Matson explains.
In another case, a driver who was lost in Washington, D.C., was able to get assistance from the dispatcher, who helped him find his way to the client.
GPS technology has improved the decision-making process for service dispatchers. When an emergency call comes in, the dispatcher can immediately find and mobilize the closest service truck. "It's impossible to know where 20-plus trucks are all the time," Mr. Matson says. "This has made that job a heck of a lot easier. In two minutes [the dispatcher] can tell who she's got there instead of trying to call people or relying on her memory."
The technology has made it easier for Actcom to service its priority clients, who are guaranteed a two- to four-hour response time. "Previously, we were definitely pushing the upper limit," Mr. Matson says. "Today we don't have that kind of issue, because we have the accountability of where the vehicles are." He estimates that priority customers now
see an average response time of under three hours.
Customers feel better knowing that help is on the way, he says, and precisely when it will arrive. Even during a crisis, by telling the customer the exact location, speed, and estimated time of arrival of the en-route technician, Actcom is able to keep the customer calm.
"From a service response standpoint, that's invaluable," says Mr. Lorenzo.
For most companies, the idea of a paperless office seems like a pipe dream. But one Houston-based company showed it could be done.
Grijalva & Allen (G&A), which provides outsourced administrative services, has gone exclusively digital with the help of Ricoh's eCabinet electronic imaging system (www.ecabinet.net). The system allows the company to save documents on a server instead of file cabinets.
"In the HR business, we process literally thousands of transactions and archive thousands of pages of information. Each employee has probably 25 to 30 pages of data, and we have to retain that data for many years," says Mr. Grijalva, founder and president of G&A. Before the eCabinet system, G&A would send boxes stuffed with documents to an offsite records-storage company. Every time G&A needed information stored offsite, the storage company would charge to pull the box and ship the records – a process that could take days. An electronically stored file, on the other hand, can be retrieved in minutes without cost.
Electronic documents also can be made available on the web, which gives employees in G&A's four field offices access to information on file, including financial records, e-mail and voice-mail messages, contracts, and budgets.
In addition, G&A can grant its clients access to their own files. When a client wants information, such as an employee review record, "rather than calling us and asking for hard copy, they can access our Web site and look at their file," Mr. Grijalva says. A document retrieval that cost $80 to $100 and took three to four man-hours can now take three to 15 minutes, with virtually no additional cost to the company.
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