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Service Techs Call on Corrigo

Reached by mobile phone while driving his service van from Boston to Ludlow, Mass., today, Karl Hulseberg outlined in detail the benefits of the service-management software his company, New England Fitness, uses.

"I was doing some repairs at Boston University, and I got a call for a job at a community center in Ludlow," explains Hulseberg, service manager for NE Fitness, which sells and services commercial-grade exercise equipment across a six-state area in the Northeast. "Instead of pushing it off till tomorrow, boom, I can get it in today and the customer, instead of waiting two or three business days, now will get service in about three hours."

Hulseberg received the afternoon service call over his BlackBerry 7520 after the Ludlow customer called NEF's headquarters in Glastonbury, Conn. The Web-based work-order processing application, from Wilsonville, Ore. developer Corrigo Inc. , sends an email message to Hulseberg's BlackBerry and tracks all information pertaining to the order, including the time the customer called, the exact nature of the problem and the customer's initial comments, the response date and time, parts ordered, completion notes by the field technician, and so on. NE Fitness's seven field technicians all carry BlackBerries from BlackBerry , and Hulseberg, from his van, can oversee and coordinate workflows and service calls in real time.

"The primary benefit we get is time management, whether it's my time in a supervisory role or the technicians' time. Before we implemented the wireless system, the miles on our vehicles were at one time averaging 65,000 to 70,000 miles a year. Our average distance is now 37,000 to 38,000 a year."

The BlackBerry-based system is the latest iteration of a Corrigo application that NEF has been using for about four years, since one of Hulseberg's predecessors decided to ditch the company's paper-based work orders. Not everything has gone smoothly: last fall Hulseberg decided to switch from Nextel to Verizon as the company's primary service provider because of spotty coverage and high fees. And Corrigo actually agreed to replace NEF's Verizon LG5140 phones with BlackBerries earlier this year after a software update caused the application in some cases to revert to earlier versions of work orders, without updated notes and information.

Hulseberg notified his Corrigo rep of the problem and waited for a fix for a few weeks before "moving up the chain," as he puts it, and writing a letter saying that the glitch was still occurring.

Not only did they respond within 36 hours with three phone calls, one from a president and two from VPs, saying 'We're very sorry and we want to talk to you about the problem,' " recalls Hulseberg, "but by the end of that 36 hours they had a new update out that essentially fixed the problem. Yet they still made the commitment to upgrade us to the BlackBerries, saying 'What will it take to keep you happy?' "

Hulseberg says he spends a total of around $3,000 a year on the wireless workflow system, including software licenses and carrier fees. With the BlackBerries, he's been able to increase the average number of daily calls per technician to between four and seven from two to three, and the average number of machines serviced per day per technician to 30-45 from 12-15. "We've increased our revenue base a minimum of 35 percent," he calculates.

Add to that reduced inventory levels and more efficient movement and use of parts, plus reduced wear and tear on the company's fleet of vans, and the ROI on the wireless systems is easily in the thousands of dollars a year. Next up for NE Fitness is the implementation of a daily invoice-generating system that will reduce billing time from as many as 10 days down to one or two, plus granting access to the NEF salesforce so they can have up-to-the-minute service data on individual customers when they make sales calls.

Pulling into Ludlow, Hulseberg admits that the increased level of visibility and accountability the system enforces has made both him and his team of technicians stay on their toes throughout the work day. "You can say it's Big Brother watching, but Big Brother watches. That's his job."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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