Upgrade for sustained business efficiency

Sally Jephcott, general manager at Blackroc Distribution, gives IT Reseller an insight into the problems that organisations could face if they dont upgrade their handheld devices, and some advice on what resellers can do to support customers through this transition.

Whether your customers are in the warehouse, on the shop floor or out in the field, their objectives for using handheld mobile devices are probably very similar. In most cases, end-users want to streamline and improve operational processes, give better customer service and lower operating costs. To achieve all this they need a system that will ensure the workforce is as productive as possible during every business hour.

Downtime the silent assassin

In a recent whitepaper around TCO, Psion Teklogix claims that the single biggest ROI killer is downtime. Any device that is not functioning at its full operational capacity can affect the users ability to complete their tasks. Device failure and downtime can be caused by any number of things; from damaged hard drives, to cracked screens, a poor data connection or even battery life. Whats worse is that downtime can strike at any moment.

The problem goes deeper than you think

Imagine a warehouse assistant busily picking stock for an order thats due to ship in half an hour; not a problem with the assistance of a rugged handheld computer. However if that devices battery were to fail, what implications could it have on the rest of the business? If that employee cant change the battery and misses the shipment deadline then the package wont leave the warehouse until the following day. The customer service team then has to deal with the ramifications of an unhappy customer. The company may lose money through compensation or could even lose the long-term business from that customer and all because of a battery.

The mobile worker faces a more serious problem. If a gas engineers mobile computer fails while hes out in the field he could be out of action for a day or even more. In these circumstances the failure would have a serious impact on the workers schedule. For a start, he would not be able to receive information about the next job without returning to the office, and from this point onwards he would also need to work manually, using paper based forms. Whats more, if the engineer relies on the integrated GPS or mobile phone capability of his device there is no way for him to even call the office to inform them of the situation.

As for the broken device, someone within the IT department will need to become involved to fix the problem. If the device needs to be sent away someone will need to log the repair and pack the device for shipment back to the repair facility. The customer service team will need to answer to those customers who have not been serviced as a result of this downtime and will then need to reschedule every missed appointment. In addition, some companies may also face hefty fines where these service level agreements have been broken. 

What can be done?

If you have a customer who really is in need of an upgrade but is afraid of spending capital on new technology, why not carry out a downtime study with them. Calculate the cost of the downtime and repair costs and compare them with the cost to purchase new devices. Psion Teklogix suggests that information such as wage rates, daily revenue per mobile worker, cost to manage device failure, cost of downtime to customer service, sales and brand equity can all be used to calculate this figure.

Consider all your options. Reducing margin to offer customers a lower cost doesnt have to be the solution. Using your partners, you may be able to buy back the customers legacy devices and offset this cost against the cost to upgrade. Perhaps you could also consider leasing the equipment to the end user completely removing the cost to upgrade from their Capex budget.

Plan for the future

If your customers have recently deployed new devices, make sure they are covered by a comprehensive maintenance programme. Not only will this help to keep your customers devices more productive for longer, it can also pay dividends when its time to upgrade. Just like a full service history on your car, a full service history on a mobile device could increase its buyback value. 

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