High-Tech Customer Service

Sept. 1, 2003
by Rick Uldricks, webmaster contributing editor Tom Winstel Sr. had a problem. His company, Engineering Excellence, Inc.s (EEI) national accounts division

by Rick Uldricks, webmaster & contributing editor

Tom Winstel Sr. had a problem. His company, Engineering Excellence, Inc.’s (EEI) national accounts division was growing fast, and the company’s national network of subcontractors was becoming a management nightmare. Because of the large number of subcontractors with multiple projects running simultaneously, EEI spent a great deal of money on safety-nets to ensure that details were not falling through the cracks. This translated to lost time and money for EEI.

While the company and the national accounts division had been successful, it was clearly time for a change.

When managing a network of this size—good communication is paramount. Poor communication leads to:

  • project delivery problems
  • missed sales opportunities
  • decline in customer satisfaction
  • difficulty monitoring technician efficiency
  • fleet management problems.

Winstel explains that too much reliance was being placed on the dispatcher’s ability to coordinate all of the details. Too much emphasis was also placed on labor-intensive phone and fax communications with all the problems associated with missed calls and lost faxes.

Winstel knew there had to be a better way. He says he always felt that software and communications technology could provide answers and solutions to these problems, which is why he invested more than a year searching for the correct fit for EEI’s needs.

The research led Winstel to realize that wireless technology was one of the answers to EEI’s problems, and finding a management systems vendor that offered a wireless component should be a deciding factor.

Cleveland, OH-based Data-Basics appeared to be a good fit for Engineering Excellence’s needs. EEI retained their services, and together, they began developing a total solution for the company’s growing national accounts dilemma.

Winstel coordinated a point-person and two other people to work with the technology vendor. This team was responsible for communicating EEI’s needs to the vendor and to the rest of the company.

Data-Basics’ primary software product—SAM Pro Enterprise—seemed ideal. This package had the basics for what EEI needed to better manage their business, but needed some “re-programming” to totally resolve Winstel’s problems. Data-Basics worked closely with EEI’s development team and began to write code based on their input. EEI then beta-tested it for them.

The level of commitment between vendor and contractor is of utmost importance in any situation.

“We had regular meetings, and when we expressed specific needs
or discovered bugs in the software, their response time was excellent,”
he explains. “This was very important to us.”

The Vision

Winstel had a vision of an integrated, automated system that would eliminate double data entry and automatically alert the correct personnel when important events occurred.

To accomplish this, EEI and the vendor developed a system that was centralized, requiring only one database for everything. This eliminated the need to enter the same data more than once. The software also allowed for entry a set of rules that would trigger alerts to specific events. This prevented missed calls, late bills, and even missed vehicle maintenance.

“In addition to just dispatching the technician to the job site, the software does many other things behind-the-scenes,” explains Winstel.

The following are features that were important to Winstel:

  • The system’s ability to analyze profitability by technician
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Technician arrival time and time per job
  • Tracking committed cost vs. actual cost.

“These are just some of the things the software is constantly analyzing, and it will alert us if there is a variance. This is important if you want to be a competitive business in this day and age,” remarks Winstel.

Contractor/vendor communication is key to help identify needs that could help EEI run more efficiently and improve customer service.

For example, as EEI began to acquire more national accounts west of the Mississippi, a need was identified for dispatchers who could accommodate people whose primary language was Spanish. Data-Basics was able to incorporate filters into the software which would automatically route calls to the appropriate Spanish-speaking dispatcher.

Another important enhancement to the customer service experience is the addition of EEI’s client Web interface —Intellitrak. Customers can now view work order status any time, on any computer that has Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser installed. Intellitrak also reduced the volume of telephone calls to EEI’s call center, and reduced the time and effort required to take a work order from inception to billing. In addition, Intellitrak has proven to be a competitive sales advantage, impressing their national accounts prospects.

Wireless technology is planned for the very near future. EEI is experimenting with different types of handheld devices ranging from Palm Pilots to Windows CE products.

“We’re looking for something that’s easy for technicians to use in the field, something that can be used on the spot so information won’t be missed,” says Winstel.

A company outgrowing its internal business practices and infrastructure may seem like a good problem to have. Nonetheless, it is still a problem that could potentially have a negative impact on customer service and, ultimately, the bottom line, if it isn’t identified and handled correctly.

Which is why Engineering Excellence still maintains an open line of communication with their technology vendor. And that is the reason Engineering Excellence’s growing pains have been cured, for now.

Data Basics

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Data-Basics Inc. is a provider of Internet-based enterprise software solutions for the service and facilities management industry.

SAM Pro Enterprise, Data-Basics' flagship product line, provides a comprehensive service management, and back office accounting software solution for service related firms and facilities management companies.

The company uses its signature Rules-Based Management™ (RBM) technology to handle many critical day-to-day functions. RBM is software technology that possesses triggers that automatically activate when variances occur with preestablished settings. These triggers can alert appropriate personnel to early-stage problems.

Data-Basics’ consultants continue to work closely with Engineering Excellence providing support and implementing new features into their software solution.

Data-Basics, Inc. 800/837-7574, www.databasics.com