Can Handhelds Improve Support? part 2

The Holy Grail of most IT support desks is to lower the average time-to-close on support calls and, depending on the nature of your organization, wireless handhelds connected to your back end system can help. David Haskin offers analysis, case studies, and advice.

 By David Haskin
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These days, handhelds are an indispensable part of business. However, they mostly are used to manage personal information like contacts and appointments. What if you could use wireless handhelds to provide better end user support for less money?

In Part 1, we examined two dramatic case studies that did precisely that. In one, Key3Media dramatically decreased its average time-to-close on support for its large network used for the Network+Interop trade show. In another, Alpha Microsystems, an outsourcing IT vendor, says it paid back the cost of switching to wireless handhelds in four months.

Neither case was a typical in-house support scenario and even handheld and infrastructure software vendors acknowledge that very few IT shops have embraced wireless handhelds as a support tool. However, the case studies do point to how, in some situations, handhelds could lower your support costs and increase productivity. Today, we'll discuss the particulars.

What You'll Save
Ray Collins, Alpha Microsystems' business development manager, cites a number of areas in which his company -- and potentially yours -- saved money using wireless handhelds.

  1. Technicians become more efficient. At a specific site, technicians have real-time access to records for specific parts and pieces of equipment. In addition, it is easier to dispatch them to a nearby problem.
  2. Reduced cell phone bills. Collins says cell phone bills previously averaged between $300 and $400 a month. Even taking into account the cost of the flat-fee wireless service for the handhelds, wireless costs have been reduced by $150 a month, he says.
  3. Greater accuracy. Using cell phones to exchange data with the main office was imprecise and led to errors, Collins said. "Technicians spent a lot of time on the phone calling dispatch and there was a lot of inaccurate information going back and forth," Collins says.
  4. Productivity gains. Collins estimates there is a 30-40 percent gain in productivity that results from technicians having information such as the status of parts shipments in real time. "They save travel time if the part isn't there yet," he says.
  5. Forms are filled out more punctually. Instead of waiting to get back to their office, technicians now fill out forms on the spot.
  6. Tighter billing cycle. The rapid filling out of forms means the company can bill clients more quickly -- and get paid sooner. With the new system, bills typically go out to clients within two weeks instead of 30 days, as previously was the case. This is relevant in enterprises in which service calls are charged back to departments.
This article was originally published on Jul 10, 2001
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