Paperless Process + On-Site Receipts = Satisfied Customers For Safelite Auto Glass
By Teresa von Fuchs
For windshield replacement specialist Safelite AutoGlass, a little cracked glass isn't a problem. But keeping track of mounds of paper-based work orders was a system the company knew needed repair.
While it was more than ready to take the plunge to a paperless process, Safelite knew there was one piece of paper that was important to keep around: techs still had to be able to give customers printed receipts on-site in the field.

A division of Belron, the world's largest vehicle glass replacement company, Safelite dispatches technicians to a customer's home or business. Until recently, drivers were working from paper work orders and outdated map books. In addition, they were constantly on the phone with dispatchers trying to verify work orders and call in credit card payments. Technicians were routinely making as many as four calls to dispatch per repair, not a good use of anybody's time.

Safelite knew a wireless solution would streamline operations, save time for technicians and dispatchers, and reduce the hassles of dealing with paper work orders. But the company still needed a way to print customer receipts and run credit cards from the field.

More than just a wireless application, Safelite wanted a complete wireless solution that included wireless devices, portable thermal printers, signature capture and credit-card processing capabilities.

"We had an idea to create a custom application from the beginning," explains Nate Beckman, MRM project manager at Safelite parent company Belron. "We knew that technology was coming on line that would allow us to push more information to and from the field."

While Safelite had a strong internal application development team, the company had never developed mobile applications. For help with that, it turned to Dexterra. Safelite made use of Dexterra's open development platform, Dexterra Concert, and Dexterra's full-service partner program, Dexterra DevNetwork Program.

The end result? A wireless field application that allows technicians to:
  • communicate with dispatchers via text message;
  • clock in and out of work from their handset;
  • process paperless work orders;
  • receive real-time, dynamic GPS-based driving directions;
  • process credit card payments and provide receipts on the spot;
  • and capture a customer's signature electronically.
"It's common in service organizations that work days are pretty fast paced. Dispatchers are trying to determine exactly when technicians will arrive and leave a customer site, and are constantly interrupting technicians for status updates," says Rod Ghani, assistant vice president of business development and technology applications for Safelite, explained. "We knew there were significant gains to be made in customer service and employee productivity if we could help dispatchers get a handle on technicians' location and status without disrupting technicians in real-time."

While Safelite knew it wanted to use BlackBerry handhelds, the company had a harder time finding a suitable Bluetooth-enabled portable thermal printer.

"We tested printers against a number of evaluation criteria," says Chris DeLong, director of Information Technology Field Systems at Safelite. "We were looking for a unit that was quick and cost-effective. The printer had to read the credit card the first time and not provide any false reads. Further, these are clearly field devices, and they are treated that way. The printer had to be absolutely rugged. It also had to process the customer's receipt to our exact specifications."

After testing multiple printers on the market, Safelite went with O'Neil's 4te printer.

The O'Neil 4te comes with Bluetooth and 802.11b/g connectivity options. It also boasts lighting-fast processing, external LED status indicators, an external charging port, and quick release battery clamps. Small and lightweight, the 4te is also able to withstand the hard knocks of field use.

Putting it All Together
Now techs use Research In Motion's BlackBerrys to clock in and receive work orders for the day. Repair techs don't have to drive into the shop to pick up piles of paperwork. Instead, they can just start routing right from home. When a tech clicks on the first job of the day, the customer info comes up. Techs can then call the customer and let them know they are on the their way. Driving directions give them an estimated time of arrival.

When techs arrive at a site, a job prep screen comes up. Techs enter the required info, which triggers a work preauthorization form that also includes the estimate. Customers sign the preauthorization form using a Logitech Bluetooth-enabled optical pen. The form is printed out on the O'Neil printer for the customer, while the pen transmits the signature back to the device to complete the work order.

Techs can then do the work at hand. When they finish, they hit a button and the tendering screen comes up. Techs then swipe the customer's credit card and receive approval on the spot. The receipt prints, the customer signs and keeps the receipt, and the pen transmits the data back to the BlackBerry.

"We have standardized processes that we ask our technicians to follow, and this solution helps techs keep to that process," says Beckman. "It really helps clean up and insure all aspects of data collection."

While the company hasn't crunched any hard ROI numbers, Dan Loyal, a Division Manager with Safelite in Florida, says the solution is much more of a customer service improvement process and an improvement around security, than it is about cutting back on payroll.

Loyal explains, "Getting everything electronically right there is much safer. Now there's no account number traveling around on paper, and for our commercial accounts we don't need to worry about POs getting out, or any information that could possibly be stolen from paper forms."

More than just security, Loyal is also pleased with the improvements in customer service, he says.
"It's a great service to our customer in that they get a quicker response right at the moment. We are able to use the hours we used to spend chasing paper, instead answering customer calls with less putting people on hold."

And so far technicians have also been really pleased with the improvements in the process. Jon Laski, Safelite's general manager of the Orlando market, tells about a tech who's been working with the company for more than 25 years. "When he first looked at that BlackBerry, he said 'I'm never going to be able to use that.' Two days later you try and take the solution away from him and, watch out," says Laski. "Now, that's how he knows how to do his job."

Aside from streamlining field operations, Beckman says the solution provides data that enables the business to better understand its strengths and weaknesses. "There's really an opportunity, having all this mine-able data, to learn about our business. We didn't really have that before."
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