March 23, 2006
 

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Posted: 11.01.05

Cutting the Queue

Security equipment provider mobilizes field force and sees gains in efficiency while shortening its billing cycle.
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By Rita Kushnir




If you’ve traveled by air any time in the past few years, you’ve most likely noticed changes at the check-in and security lines—they are all longer. With security on everyone’s mind these days, one aspect of travel we’ve all become accustomed to is having our baggage and carry-on items screened for potential threats. In order to keep the lines moving and get everyone to their gates on time, the screening devices need to be in top shape, especially during peak travel times. Downtime with such equipment can be costly—and cause blood pressure to rise as weary travelers stand in ever-growing lines.

L-3 Communications Security and Detection Systems is a provider of screening equipment, such as x-ray machines, that performs baggage checks in airports and public institutions. L-3’s array of screening machinery is serviced by multiple call centers and approximately 200 field technicians around the world.

Until 2004, L-3 technicians were using Motorola Personal Communicators to interact with their call centers. When a problem surfaced, the customer would place a service request and then wait for word regarding available technicians from the call center. Upon receiving a service request, the call center dispatcher paged or called the technician. Customers weren’t happy with this system, though, as it slowed down the security process and its reliability was questionable. Technicians weren’t happy for the same reasons and thensome.
With security progressively becoming a bigger issue, L-3 knew it needed to improve the way its technical support operated. In 2004, the company deployed a sophisticated customer relationship management solution from Amdocs called ClarifyCRM, which includes ClearSupport, ClearSales and ClearLogistics, for its call centers. Impressed by the suite’s efficiency and thoroughness, L-3 decided to expand its accessibility to its field force. Persuaded by its reputation among other field service organizations, L-3 chose BlackBerry’s Enterprise Solution and deployed 300 BlackBerry handsets to the technicians.

Running Clarify on BlackBerry requires an integrated solution to serve as a link between them. Antenna Software was the first provider considered, and because Antenna’s responsiveness and dedication to the process were evident from the beginning, L-3 went with Antenna’s A3 solution, cutting the search short. Antenna already had experience with Clarify, so this promised to be a smooth deployment from the beginning. With some customization tweaks, Antenna’s solution was ready to revolutionize L-3’s field service.

Keeping Up with Increasing Demand

Since the BlackBerry-Antenna deployment, the efficiency of technical support at L-3 has soared. Technicians are now able to record the status of each step of their service calls. They can open, close and update every job and check inventory. Additionally, they have access to databases with customer information. As they receive new information about a particular service call, call centers can update the data and alert their technicians immediately via BlackBerry. Inventory management improved greatly. It previously relied on a paper-based system that tracked parts-used forms and was slow and inaccurate. Now technicians can view inventory levels on their handsets. Each part used is tracked and posted in the system, allowing the workers to see available materials. In addition, they can request needed parts while on a service call and check the status of their shipment. The technicians no longer have to deal with phone calls and faxing. The Antenna-equipped BlackBerry seamlessly handles the dirty work.

Upon completing a service call, technicians enter their time and expenses, close the job and submit the data to billing. The receipt is printed on the spot. The billing department receives an e-mail with the invoice and processes the service call. Because accounting no longer has to deal with paper invoices, the processing time is greatly reduced and the costs are cut at the accounting level as well.
The new system has been embraced by the technicians, who can now concentrate on service instead of on paperwork. “Our field technicians appreciate the automated escalation capabilities of the system and how connected they are using their BlackBerry devices,” says Ed Olin, associate director of customer service.

The service has become both more accurate and more timely. If a delay occurs, there is no need for frustrating phone calls and wading through the busy lines of the call center. The time to manage a service call was reduced by 60 percent. Even more importantly, the service time is now predictable—a crucial factor for customers. “On one of our contracts,” states Olin, “we made a commitment to offer a one-hour response, and a two-hour mean time to repair. After the first hour expires, automatic notifications are sent to the technician to determine where the delay is taking place and how to remedy it.”

Better Results

L-3 has processed 60,000 service requests since deploying the BlackBerry-Antenna solution. Its business has grown more than 70 percent over the past year, and the service centers were able to accommodate the increased demand without requiring additional staff and resources because managing service calls has become so efficient.

Moreover, now that problems in individual machines can be tracked automatically, L-3 can report recurrent issues to engineering so that they can be eliminated in the development process. “The product lines really like having these metrics because they are getting better data,” says Olin. “Years ago, if a customer asked about the reliability of our machines, it was very hard to answer. Now I can send e-mails that quantify the total hours of all systems in operation, with the availability percentage and mean time to critical failures and repairs per machine—and I can do this globally.”

The customers love to stay posted on their service, and L-3 is now able to keep them informed at all times. “We’ve also been able to extend our value proposition,” Olin says. “We’re now able to tell any customer in the world that they can have instant, automatic updates. In some cases, a security manager can be working in one location but be responsible for machines in other cities or countries. We can send them updates from the remote location to let them know that a technician is onsite and working on a problem to offer them peace-of-mind.”

L-3 is very satisfied with the outcome of its deployment and the support it received from Antenna. “The main thing for me is the relationship,” says Olin. “Antenna is a partner and an advocate of our business. They really help us improve and know where we are going.”
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