June 23, 2006
Mail systems equipment company Pitney Bowes Inc. is set to roll out a Europe-wide mobile customer relationship management (CRM) system to 900 field-engineers equipped with Windows PocketPC devices.
Replacing an antiquated, administration-intensive information management system, the deployment mobilizes a new Siebel Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: SEBL) CRM application used by Pitney Bowes to track customer callouts to maintain and repair mail sorting equipment.
Instead of taking hand-written notes and phoning in job details, or dropping off hard-copy forms at the office for clerks to manually enter into the company’s proprietary database, engineers can now file live reports and retrieve updates on callouts directly to their wireless handheld devices. The result is a much lower-cost, more efficient operation, with more responsive customer services, says Ray Lawes, vice president of service operations at Pitney Bowes UK.
“You’ve automated a large administrative process,” says Lawes. “It’s got a payback time of less than a year.”
There are also “soft benefits” that wouldn’t, themselves, justify the deployment. These include engineers being able to do things like call customers directly to make appointments for on-site visits as soon as jobs are logged on the system and, further down the road, reducing the company's spare-parts inventory.
Pitney Bowes began the rollout in February 2006, following a successful implementation by its parent company in the U.S. that now supports almost 2,000 users. For now, the European deployment supports around 400 users in the U.K., Austria, Germany, and Switzerland but will ramp to 900 users over the next 18 months, as France and Scandinavia come online.
Being able to draw on the experience of Pitney’s U.S. parent has helped smooth the deployment, and the system may actually perform better in Europe thanks to better mobile network coverage. The biggest challenge was getting internal systems and processes into line. “We’re actually better organized now,” says Lawes.
“We now have a common service information system across Europe, whereas before we had local systems [in each country]... It’s gone better than expected."
The mobility platform and systems integration was handled by specialist enterprise wireless applications company Antenna Software Inc. , which ports to the Siebel CRM system and reformats it for use over mobile networks to devices running the Antenna client software.
Without the need to send and receive large amounts of data, the system runs over standard General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) mobile networks. In the U.K., Pitney Bowes uses Telefónica Europe plc (O2) as its wireless carrier, but each country can negotiate this separately, as the application is network-agnostic. Lawes does not anticipate an increase in telecom costs, since field engineers are making fewer and shorter mobile calls. “It washes out about the same so far,” he says.
— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider
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