By Aaron Cargas, Cargas Systems
It’s 2014. Aren’t we supposed to be in flying cars by now? Aren’t all delivery drivers and service technicians supposed to be using real-time connected mobile devices? Maybe. But investing in mobile technology for an entire fleet is still a large enough project to make a lot of dealers pause.
What are the business benefits of real-time mobile? Should you make the leap? Maybe you have already started using a mobile delivery application, but are unsure about investing in mobile service. These are valid questions and hopefully you will find answers in this article.
First some trends. Number one: The cost of modern ruggedized mobile computers continues to go down, while the usability and software continues to improve. Number two: Improvement in the mobile data networks from the main wireless carriers continues at a very rapid pace as they invest large sums of money blanketing the country with super fast 4G data speeds.
These two trends mean better performing mobile computing that exchanges data in real-time with your back office is now available to you at lower costs than ever before. That being said, investing in mobile is still a big change that you should evaluate carefully.
To help you, here are some business benefits of real-time modern mobile solutions. You will, of course, want to evaluate these against the context you are operating in. Different geographies, cultures, and competition may dictate whether you will be able to take advantage of these benefits, but hopefully this list helps as you do your evaluation.
1. The road less traveled? – Routing software in combination with real-time mobile applications is like adding a supercharger to your pony car. Create your routes, electronically send them to mobile, and track results. Mobile with GPS allows tracking and playback of suggested route versus route driven. On top of that, modern mobile solutions allow you to dynamically re-route tickets during the day as your workload changes. In your busiest times, being able to add tickets, re-route, and re-dispatch, if needed, while the driver is already out delivering can help you get the most from the assets you have on the road. Building and enforcing optimal routes is a major factor in delivering more gallons with fewer trucks.
2. Get em rollin’– Real-time mobile does not require drivers and technicians to be in the office to “sync up,” which saves time every morning and night. This avoids drivers and technicians even coming into the building every day (not that you don’t want to see their smiling faces), which reduces unapplied time and miles driven. Service Technicians can just get rolling to their first customer without having to go into the office. They have all the information they need at their fingertips because it downloads wirelessly over the 4G networks or local WiFi. On top of that, our experience at Cargas is that you will most likely see fast adoption by your workforce of any new technology that helps them meet their performance goals. “You mean I can save time every morning, get more done, and possibly make more incentive pay?” Yes, you can.
3. All Together Now – If you have dispersed locations with dispatchers at each one solely for the purpose of distributing tickets and work to the local drivers, you could see an even bigger advantage. Real-time mobile can help you consolidate dispatchers to a central location. You could have a smaller number of dispatchers, with better tools, centralized in fewer locations, and actually improve the communication to the drivers at the same time. Zapping work to your workforce in the field over super fast 4G networks from a central location is fun. Why? Because saving time and money is fun.
4. It’s a two-way street – With real-time mobile, the communication goes two ways. The dispatcher sends work to the drivers and technicians. Then throughout the day, real-time status updates, GPS data, parts used, BOLs loaded, and all sorts of other goodies get sent to the back office automatically. What can the back office do with all this good real-time data? Customer service can give better status updates to customers who call in, service managers can order parts sooner, delivery drivers can monitor the position of trucks, and accounting can post faster. Real-time two-way mobile gives you rich information during the day to help you react faster and be more efficient.
5. Will they call? Yes they will call. – Let’s get really specific. Maybe you have a lot of great automatic full service customers on budget. Maybe you have a smaller number of demanding will-call customers who you don’t want to ignore, but they always seem to call at the worst times. Modern real-time mobile solutions let you know where your trucks are during the day via their GPS. This allows you to dynamically slot will-call tickets into existing routes that are already dispatched. “Who’s closest to this customer right now? Who will be closer later today? Jimbo? Ok, I’ll dispatch that one to Jimbo.” Automating the dynamic routing of will-call tickets into existing routes is a revenue booster on your busiest days.
6. Keeping the Customer Satisfied – Good customer service is like apple pie or the new iPhone – everybody wants it. Real-time mobile can help you provide better customer service. How? Simply by taking advantage of the data provided back from the mobile. When customers call wondering about their delivery, you can say, “The driver just finished the delivery before yours, so you should see him soon.” Or better yet, “I see in the system that he’s on site at your house. Look out your window.” This level of service is maybe the icing on the cake, but it’s a competitive world and when you’re duking it out selling a commodity product, customer service is a key differentiator.
7. Right here, right now – Mobile delivery and service applications allow you to leave better professional looking tickets and service invoices with the customer at the time of the transaction. Tickets can dynamically show customer-specific payment terms, pricing, budget information, pre-buy amounts, and automatic credit card payment dates. Print the GPS coordinates on the ticket to avoid disputes about exactly where you delivered. The best systems can even split the ticket automatically if a delivery goes over their special pricing limits. On service, the best systems will let you capture a signature and print a full-page invoice, while saving that invoice directly to the back office. Invoices and tickets are an outward facing reflection of your company, so use mobile to print them in real-time and also to make them look good.
8. Is that a graph of your margin or a picture of the Rocky Mountains? – Selling commodities with volatile prices is not for the faint of heart. What does this have to do with mobile? Modern real-time mobile will allow you to blast midday price changes out to all your tickets currently on routes even while the driver is out delivering, ensuring all your tickets have the absolute latest pricing when they are delivered. This benefit of real-time mobile can help you keep your margin graph looking like a nice plateau versus all those peaks and valleys.
9. At the end of the day… – People are so fond of that phrase At the end of the day. For example: At the end of the day, it’s all about margins. Or maybe: At the end of the day, it’s all about customer service. How about this: At the end of the day, it’s all about the end of the day, meaning that with a real-time mobile solution, and the real-time flow of data to the back office, your end-of-day processes just got simpler and faster. There’s no more manual posting; it’s all there as it happens throughout the day. The end of the day becomes just that, the end of the day.
10. After the end of the day – Have you ever had a customer call the after-hours driver to try to circumvent your credit processes? What if that driver could look up the customer on their mobile device and see if they owed money? What if that driver or technician could create after-hours deliveries or work orders directly on their device for any customer and have it flow back into the office where it will be waiting for the eager dispatcher as he’s enjoying his morning coffee?
11. You’re a people person – I don’t know if you’re a people person or not. Maybe you like tank wagons more than people. What I do know is that your business does not operate without good people, and good people need good tools to do their jobs well. This by itself is not a reason to invest in a mobile solution, but if you can justify it based on the other benefits, you will get the added soft benefit of employee satisfaction. Employees appreciate when a business is willing to invest in the tools to help them do their jobs better. Happier employees mean better teamwork and better customer service.
These are some of the main benefits of investing in a real-time mobile solution for your company. I hope this helps as you continue to evaluate your options and forge onward in this competitive world. As for me, I’m still waiting for that