Rotary Gets a Speech Lift

A subsidiary of Dover Corporation, Rotary Lift is the leading manufacturer of vehicle lifts and equipment for the automotive industry. Its success is based on 80 years of continued innovation in delivering tools and solutions that increase the productivity of service technicians. By providing a competitive advantage to customers, Rotary helps technicians get more done and generate more profit. It's no surprise that Rotary is always looking for ways to gain efficiencies.

ServAll is Rotary's managed equipment installation and repair service. It provides customers with access to a network of more than 300 Rotary-authorized installers (RAIs) and distributors for inspection, installation, and repair services. From a single point of contact Rotary manages dispatch, follow-up calls, and activity recording for service delivered throughout the United States.

With ServAll administration based on fax communication and a legacy, customized work order management system, ServAll was a prime candidate for updating its outdated technology. Customer Service Consultants (CSCs) would field calls from customers, assign service tickets to RAIs via a fax with service details, and await acknowledgement from the RAI. The RAI might call back within three days or perhaps require a follow-up call from the account services manager to confirm the service ticket status. The process was slow and data entry was manual.

Rotary wanted to reduce the number of days to close service tickets and follow-up calls. The challenge then was to identify a solution that would not only streamline communication between the dispatch and RAIs, but also enable RAIs to provide real-time reporting on service ticket status from the point of service. The higher efficiency would support scaling the service business without additional hires as well as increasing customer satisfaction.

"Our authorized installers are a pivotal component of our service business. It was essential that any solution we implemented be easily embraced by them," explains Matt Webster, vice president of marketing and sales at Rotary. "At the same time, it was important to keep in mind that our RAIs are third-party service contractors and their workforce is transitional." The technology had to support mobile usage as well as fall within the comfort zone of the service technicians. It also had to be platform independent.

Rotary initially investigated wireless computers and PDA-based solutions. It quickly became apparent that these solutions are out of Rotary's price range and that spotty wireless data coverage would also be an issue. Executives also looked at interactive voice response systems, but felt there were limitations. As well, feedback from RAIs made it clear that they would not favor a Dual Tone Multi-Frequency (DTMF) system that requires them to juggle between listening to the earpiece and entering information using the keypad.

A magazine article identified speech recognition technology as a potential mobile work order management solution. Further investigation by Rotary Lift revealed that speech was significantly less expensive and complex to deploy and manage than PDA solutions.

Network speech applications are managed from a central server, minimizing the IT management burden. With access available using any phone, there is no requirement to standardize on equipment or even purchase and manage the end-user device— field technicians can use their existing cell phone. This also avoided any risk to Rotary for device theft, damage, or loss.

A speech solution offered a migration to automated communications between the RAIs and the Rotary CSCs. Speech leverages a process that RAI technicians know and builds on it while reducing frustration and delays by avoiding wait or hold times. The RAI can simply call directly into the work order management system and enter updates without speaking to a CSC.

Convinced of the advantages a speech interface could deliver, Rotary selected Pronexus's veoMobile to voice-enable its legacy work order management system. VeoMobile is a software/hardware platform, based on Microsoft Speech Server, for deploying speech applications. Built using .NET architecture, the underlying veoMobile architecture features user management, reporting, system administration, and PBX/MSS integration.

Even with little back-office integration requirements, the work was just beginning. A critical factor to the success of the project would be the design of the voice user interface (VUI). Rotary wanted to satisfy the needs of two distinct user groups—end customers and RAIs—whose agendas are very different. For this reason, Rotary opted to design two VUIs and connect them to a single database.

Each interface needed to encompass specific design features that would ensure high call completion rates. Core elements were based on best practices, including zeroout capability, error recovery, and using the terminology of service technicians and Rotary CSCs. Given the low frequency of system access by RAI technicians and administrators (perhaps a few times a month) as well as customers, the interface was optimized for novice users. To eliminate training requirements, they built an intuitive interface that has a help menu accessible at any point in a call.

With only between 20 and 30 customer calls per month, the customer VUI is not a primary function of the Rotary veoMobile system, but it is an important opportunity to excel in delivering customer service. From a functional perspective, the veoMobile customer- facing VUI needs to mimic a typical customer conversation with a live agent. By providing customers with appropriate amounts of feedback and dividing the call flow into logical steps, customers can quickly obtain real-time service tickets status updates without requiring the assistance of a CSC.

Of more significance is the difference in security requirements between the customerfacing VUI and that of the RAIs. Customers can access service ticket information once the ticket is opened and for up to three days past its completion. There is no access to sensitive information, simply a time and date of when a service order will be or has been carried out.

On the other hand, service technicians read and write data to the work order management database via veoMobile. Because there is a potential for turnover among RAI technicians, it was necessary to impose a higher level of security on the interface employed by RAIs. A former user still having access to the current service orders would pose a significant security risk.

Each RAI can have a variable number of service technicians, who are the main endusers of the system. Managing the accounts for these end-users could be a significant problem. The consideration of providing each service technician with his own login ID and PIN would impose an additional administration load to create, track, and delete users as required.

Putting responsibility on Rotary to administer system privileges for service technicians would quickly negate any efficiency gained by using the voice automation system. Using valid service order numbers as the service technicians' PIN proved an effective means to simplify administration and eliminate potential security risk. As soon as the service order is complete, it ceases to be a valid number for login.

From signing the contract, the Rotary veoMobile work order management system took nine weeks to develop, test, and deploy the system. It was launched at the 2006 annual Rotary dealers meeting, which brings together the top 50 RAIs in the country.

Initial response has been positive. RAIs have 24/7 access to the system and the process has been radically shortened. Not only are they able to feed real-time information into the system, they can optimize logistics in service calls. For example, if a technician completes a call faster than anticipated, he can call the system to get service ticket information, thereby eliminating the time and gas spent on driving back to the shop to get the next call.

Over the coming months, Rotary expects CSCs to devote more time to higher value tasks because of improved call handling. The company will be closely monitoring statistics for follow-up calls, caller abandonment, hold times, and how well RAI technicians are using the veoMobile system.

Speech Versus Handheld

  • Total cost of ownership is 66 percent to 80 percent cheaper
  • IT deployment and management is less complex
  • Uses current tools
  • Better for transactional applications and activity tracking

A Field Service Automation Example

veoMobile: "Please say or enter a service ticket number."

Service Technician: "Two, zero, one, five, zero, six"

veoMobile: "I've got it. The status of the current item is 'parts on order.' To change it, you can say: 'submit a quote,' 'return the job' or…"

Service Technician: "Work completed"

veoMobile: "The status has been changed to 'work completed.' This work order is now closed. Please remember to fax the invoice to Rotary Lift as soon as possible."

Jennifer McDonald is a marketing communications specialist at Pronexus Inc.

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