One of our clients' primary products is an electronic pet barrier consisting of a buried wire and a battery powered collar on each pet. Because batteries eventually wear out, they also offered a program to periodically mail fresh replacement batteries for the collars.
To keep track of their customers and ensure they provided timely and accurate support of their battery replacement program, they had been using a database program for some years. When they couldn't prepare their monthly battery replacement program mailing because their existing program couldn't handle their growing customer base, they began looking for a new program to manage their business.
The headquarters office of this franchise company suggested each franchise should use an off-the-shelf contact management program. Our client found the off-the-shelf program did just fine with the task of tracking customers, but could not be adapted to support the specific additional requirements for their business, especially with the battery replacement program. After some frustration over the problems with the old program and further frustration trying to work with the program suggested by headquarters, they called us for help.
We first installed a newer, much more capable database management system for them and transferred all their customer data from the old program into the new system. When we were satisfied with the accuracy of the information transferred into the new database, we helped them get their battery replacement program running smoothly so they wouldn't miss any more mailings.
Once they were able to accomplish their critical business functions again, we developed a new and easy-to-use program for them. For their battery replacement program, our program automatically prepared mailing labels showing how many of each type of battery to send to each customer, and prepared a list telling them how many of each type of battery to order for each mailing cycle.
A key ingredient of the development process is participation by our client. At each phase of development, we demonstrated the partially completed program and asked our client's staff how we could make it easier to use and what additional features might be useful. The final program was not only simple to use and understand; it included a number of additional features to improve their ability to focus on their primary business.
Our client found the marketing support feature particularly helpful. They participated in a number of trade shows and other advertising programs, some of which proved much more successful than others. To measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, we included features to track prospective customers and which advertising campaigns motivated them to consider our client. We developed reports, with straightforward selection criteria, to show statistics measuring the effectiveness of each marketing method. This helped them manage their marketing budget much more effectively.
When one of their customer's systems had a problem, they sent a service representative to make repairs or adjustments. Prior to installation of our program, our client had to gather information from their computer files and their physical file cabinets, and possibly from technical manuals before they could send somebody to make necessary repairs. Our program maintained a diagram of each installation and directions to the customer's location, as well as any service history for the customer and a variety of pertinent technical details about the customer's system. When our client received a call for service that could not be handled by telephone, they needed only to print the customer report from our program, and all important information was immediately available for the assigned service person. Service personnel are now dispatched without delay, with much better information. As a result of this customer service feature, our client's staff has become more productive and completely confident in their ability to respond to service requests.
In summary, our program helped them spend more time actually working on their primary business and less time on overhead functions by:
- Automating the mundane but time-consuming tasks which had previously required much staff time,
- Helped them determine how to spend their marketing budget most effectively,