Case Study: How Ricoh Americas Corp. Improved Customer Service and eliminated 15,000 calls a month
At this year's Wireless Enterprise Symposium, Ricoh Americas Corp. took home a Wireless Leadership Award for its innovative use of BlackBerry® technology. Ricoh mothballed its legacy phone-based dispatch system in favor of BlackBerry smartphones and a custom application that keeps them competitive while saving the company time and money. Here, we speak with representatives from Ricoh to learn how they improved efficiencies and reduced costs by taking this approach.
Ricoh Americas Corp. is the U.S. arm of Ricoh Company Ltd, Japan, one of the world's largest technology imaging companies. Since 1962, Ricoh Americas has been marketing and selling office equipment and custom solutions designed to streamline and improve customers' workflow processes.
The Technology Services Group (TSG) is the service side of Ricoh's business: A force of 2,000 field service technicians visit customer locations across the United States to repair and maintain all of Ricoh America's machinery, including photocopiers, printers, fax machines, and network systems. This group handles 7,500 services calls a day, more than 150,000 calls a month.
Ricoh is always looking at investments in technology as a way to better improve service to its customers. With such a high service-call volume, spread across such a large geographic area, maintaining a consistent level of service to each and every customer—regardless of location—was proving difficult as Ricoh continued to expand its customer base.
—Glen Mandernacht, Vice President, Service, Ricoh Americas
Just over a year ago, Ricoh decided it needed to streamline its TSG operations in order to handle calls more efficiently—in fact, it wanted to mobilize all aspects of the service call. To do this, Ricoh turned to technology it already had: BlackBerry smartphones.
In partnership with its applications developer, Miriflex, Ricoh created a custom application that enabled everything from dispatching calls to ordering parts to be handled from TSG technicians' smartphones. Ricoh and Miriflex accomplished this by connecting the BlackBerry application to Ricoh's back-end Oracle ERP system database, which gave technicians immediate access to the most up-to-date customer and inventory information possible.
Why a BlackBerry solution?
Ricoh's field service technicians were already using BlackBerry devices, and had been for years—as far back as the early RIM® 950 pager. According to Ron Hice, Senior IT Consultant—and the man charged with managing the new BlackBerry smartphone deployment—the BlackBerry and Miriflex solution won on many fronts. "The biggest thing with the BlackBerry smartphone is the push capabilities," he says. "A lot of products require connectivity to work, but the BlackBerry smartphone allows technicians to work out of coverage and the information is automatically cached and stored until coverage returns.”
The built-in management features of the BlackBerry® Enterprise Server also made for a lighter load on the IT team that administrates the BlackBerry smartphones. "We use the over-the-air features of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, so we don't have to send IT staff out to each user's location," says Hice. "We can push out a brand-new application to roughly 2,000 technicians in a matter of hours.”
How It Works
At the start of each day, service technicians receive a list of incidents on their Task Boards pushed from the Oracle ERP system. They can see the Service Level Agreements (SLA) associated with the incident and prioritize their day, based on the type of agreement each customer has. The technician can look at the time to repair SLA and determine how to get to the most critical SLA first, which helps them cover their calls more efficiently.
While at a job site, a technician can also generate a new service call from his or her BlackBerry smartphone—without having to go through the call center. This is advantageous for the customer, who sometimes sees a technician in the building and wants to take advantage of the immediate help.
"The application allows us to empower the technician with all the resources necessary to do the job,” says Hice. "They no longer have to call a dispatcher to find out about new incidents or check a repair history. That virtually eliminated all the calls back and forth with the dispatcher because now everything appears on their BlackBerry smartphones.”
But one of the biggest advantages to the technician is the mobilization of the parts inventory. A technician can not only review what stock they have in their car, but also search the district to see if another technician has a part he needs—all from the application on the BlackBerry smartphone. A tech can even order the part to be shipped by courier and monitor the shipping progress from the device.
"If I don't have the part, and I can see another technician does, I can arrange to get it without having to reschedule the job," says Bob Wallace, Service Supervisor, who also works as a technician. "That takes out the problem of having to manually generate parts orders. You don't have to call anybody. You don't have to hope it's at the office when you drive back. You get the customer up and running faster and save the time of driving all over the place."
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Ricoh estimates that this solution has eliminated 15,000 calls per month between technicians and dispatch. And because technicians now have the ability to organize routes and parts, they can now cover at least one more service call per day, increasing customer service, efficiency, and income.
Plus, customers are assured that Ricoh is meeting their SLAs because this detailed information is pushed to BlackBerry smartphones, where technicians can organize their days to best serve the customers' needs. With this solution, Ricoh can also access "live" detailed business metrics, such as parts usage, which can help with decisions concerning the manufacturing process.
The most important benefit is that Ricoh now regularly meets or exceeds its SLAs. "Our BlackBerry solution is helping us gather and distribute information in a consistent way across all channels and across all our customers, so our service levels keep us competitive in the industry," says Glen Mandernacht, Vice President, Service, at Ricoh Americas.