by Al Sacco

Inside Pitney Bowes Choice for a Mobile CRM/ERP Solution

Apr 28, 20085 mins
CRM SystemsEnterprise ApplicationsERP Systems

Mail industry leader Pitney Bowes's service techs need constant information from corporate systems to keep customers up and running. Pitney's VP of CRM systems shares three key criteria he used in deciding how to bring CRM and ERP data to staffers' BlackBerry and Windows Mobile handsets.

At Pitney Bowes, a global provider of physical and digital mailing products and services, the company’s drivers and service representatives rely on mobile applications to get them to their next job sites, ensure they’ve got the proper parts and inventory within their vans, access client service histories, and more.

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With mobile devices and broadband wireless coverage now nearly ubiquitous, mobile business applications are well within the grasp of most organizations. In fact, almost 95 percent of enterprises are currently using some form of mobile data applications, according to technology market research firm In-Stat.

Pitney Bowes saw the value in business-specific mobile applications early on. Not long after Pitney Bowes deployed Siebel (now Oracle Siebel) customer relationship management (CRM) software in 2003, it realized that putting that information, along with ERP data from its SAP system, into the hands of its field service techs could not only improve customer service, but also make those techs’ jobs easier.

Prior to 2003, Pitney techs had reach out to warehouse staff to get parts availability information. And those same field workers, particularly the ones who stayed on a single customer site, rarely got to compare best practices with others, to see if a customer issue was widespread.

Paul Weston, Pitney’s VP of CRM systems, decided to deliver CRM and ERP information to techs’ handhelds via Antenna Software‘s Antenna Mobile Platform (AMP) and its AMPower Service application. AMP’s software interacts with corporate systems and manages transactions between those systems and mobile devices. Antenna also offers an application framework and a set of its own mobile applications, like AMPower Service.

Pitney Bowes Logo

“[Today] our guys riding around in vans, they can’t work without [the application],” Weston says, “It’s how they get their days’ work. When they finish a job and want to know where they’re going next, they get that location from their mobile devices.”

Pitney first rolled out the AMPower Service application in the United States in 2003 to about 500 on-site service representatives to pilot test the app. A year later, the company launched another set of pilot programs of 100 or so users, and added 300 more participants every week, until the remaining 1500 remote service folks were equipped.

Pitney now has some 2,000 field workers in the United States using AMPower Service. Another 700 staffers got the application in Europe in late 2005, and 500 more in Canada started using it in late 2007, according to Weston.

Benefits: Inventory Savings, Happy Customers

After deploying AMPower Service, Pitney now spends less time and money on callbacks and return visits to customers because of its improved inventory controls and management. The company has been able to reduce its excess parts inventory by 22 percent, thanks to ERP data that techs glean from AMPower Service.

Pitney’s field workers also now handle more service requests per day, because they spend less time on each call, Weston says.

On the customer satisfaction front, Pitney has been able to improve management of its customer service level agreements due to AMPower Service’s real-time field progress reports, the ability to prioritize service calls on the fly, and intelligent notification functionality for urgent service calls. Because Pitney field techs enter progress information into corporate systems in real time, its call center reps also have better visibility in the service process and can provide more accurate information and completion timelines to customers, he says.

Three Criteria for Winning Solution

Weston says he chose Antenna’s mobile technology for three reasons. First, the other solutions that he considered were largely Web-based, which meant that field workers wouldn’t be able to access systems or information in areas without cellular connectivity. And store and forward functionality, or the ability to push information to users devices and then store a local copy, is absolutely essential to Pitney; its field force often works in locations with poor or no wireless connectivity, such as rural locales without nearby cell towers or buildings with thick concrete walls, and even sometimes in facilities where wireless signals are purposely blocked. Antenna’s product offers store and forward functionality, and it’s the single most valuable aspect of this offering, Weston says.

Second key selling point: Antenna specializes in mobile applications and therefore offers a higher level of usability and device portability, Weston says. So the company can use both Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices without sacrificing any functionality because an app was written for one platform or the other, according to Weston.

As Antenna CEO Jim Hemmer notes, “CIOs are looking for a platform. They’re looking for the ability to build an application and not have to be dependent on a specific device,” Hemmer says. “They want the ability to roll those applications out and manage them over multiple devices.”

Finally, Antenna was the only Siebel-certified offering for mobile CRM from an external vendor that Pitney could find at the time, so support was available through Siebel if necessary, according to Weston.