With cable operators seeking to stretch their operations budgets, it’s clear that efficient workforce management is a business imperative. Communications Technology spoke to three companies: TOA Technologies, PenguinData Workforce Management Inc., and Trimble Fleet Solutions to see how their solutions benefit MSOs.
Customer Is King
Putting the customer at the center of the appointment is the driver behind TOA Technologies’ (Booth 904) workforce-management approach. The company’s ETAdirect Enterprise cloud-based solution uses a real-time predictive algorithm to analyze technician profiles, skills, performance patterns, job history and customer proximity to predict how much time a job will take; and to narrow the appointment window to one hour, explains Susan McLaughlin, TOA’s vice president/Strategic Cable.
TOA’s ETAdirect Enterprise solution targets Tier 1 MSOs. New at Cable-Tec Expo, the company is showing its ETAdirect Professional platform, developed for Tier 2 and Tier 3 cable operators with more than 50 technicians. The solution gives MSOs flexibility when setting appointment windows. “We help MSOs look at the tradeoffs,” she said, explaining that they can schedule a one-hour window in advance or initially set a two- to three-hour window, and on the day of service narrow that. TOA’s Predictive Customer Communications module helps manage that task.
The night before their appointments, customers receive a call providing an ETA and time required to complete the job. They are told they will receive notification prior to the tech’s arrival, and they are asked how much lead-time they desire (one hour, or more if needed). Customers also are asked what type of notification they’d like — phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. — and can choose multiple options. “We want to keep customers mobile and not trapped in their homes,” says McLaughlin. “This reduces the friction between the cable company and the technician.”
On the day of the appointment, the system notifies the customer of the tech’s ETA with the specified lead time. Because the system tracks jobs in real time, if it sees a job is in jeopardy, it can reroute that job or alert the dispatcher to assign a new tech. “Customers can also interact with the system via the Web, which reduces the ‘where’s my tech?’ calls that come in,” she explains.
TOA also offers a Customer Experience module that automatically sends a customer-satisfaction survey 10 minutes after a job has closed. MSOs see a 60-percent to 70-percent response rate from the surveys, McLaughlin reports.
Making Ops More Efficient
When it comes to workforce management, PenguinData (Booth 2504) thinks cable operators ought to be looking at improving efficiency rather than productivity, notes Douglas Simmons, senior vice president/Sales and Marketing: “If you can make your already productive workforce very efficient, employees can get more done in less hours. Their lives will be better, and morale will go up.”
How can companies achieve efficiency gains? PenguinData offers Web-based workforce-management software that replaces paper spreadsheets with real-time database modules that are interconnected. These modules, available either as an Emperor Suite or a la carte, track nearly every aspect of an operator’s business, including workforce management, asset/fleet tracking, dispatch, quality control, warehouse tracking, MDU/construction, escalations/damages and sales. Users enter data once, and the system updates all impacted modules in real time. A single platform can manage multiple locations, and users can view or update data from the field.
PenguinData believes its MDU/Construction module can help MSOs shorten the time to complete an MDU site survey. “It can take up to 200 days to complete a site survey,” explains Simmons. “We believe we can cut that by almost 75 percent.” The module provides a single repository for permits, underground locating tickets, owner information, design specifications, job photos, etc.; and by linking it to the Dispatch module, MSOs and contractors can track the location of crews assigned to specific tasks in real time.
Another area where PenguinData thinks it can help cablecos improve efficiency is through better management of consumables. “MSOs are asking, ‘where did all these part go? Did they end up on the job? On the floor?’” Simmons comments. PenguinData’s Warehouse Tracking module can track parts like CPE, cable, and fittings to the work order. According to Simmons, better tracking can help MSOs reduce consumable use by 12 percent, adding, “We think that’s a conservative number.”
Focus On Fleet Management
Efficient fleet operations can have a significant impact on workforce management. Cable operators can gain greater visibility into their fleets via Trimble Fleet Solutions’ (Booth 416) cloud-based GeoManager platform, says Market Manager Gary Dennis. The platform features four solutions — Fleet Management, Scheduling and Dispatch, Driver Safety and Mobile Applications — that help cable operators increase fuel efficiency, optimize scheduling and improve driver safety.
With fuel prices at record levels, reducing consumption can impact a company’s bottom line positively. Trimble’s GeoManager Fleet Management application enables fleet managers to track vehicle movement and driving behavior in real time. Cable operators can use this data to decrease fuel costs and carbon emissions by reducing unauthorized vehicle use, curbing excessive speeding and lowering time spent idling vehicles, Dennis adds.
“One of our customers said the greatest ROI in its field service operation has been fuel reduction,” he explains. Managers there used the data to make technicians aware of how often they left their trucks idling. According to Dennis, “The company is now saving two miles per gallon, and idling has been reduced from two hours to 30 minutes per work day. Fuel cost is down $1 million in the first year of implementation in a fleet of about 3,000 vehicles.”
Driver safety is another area receiving attention. “Cable vehicles are usually branded, and management needs to be aware of how their technicians are perceived by the public when driving,”
said Dennis. Trimble’s Driver Safety application identifies drivers who practice safe driving techniques and those who require coaching. Training drivers who need to improve ultimately “reduces vehicle wear and tear, which lowers the risk of mechanical-related accidents and the amount of vehicle downtime,” Dennis says. “With better driving behavior, there are lower operations costs.”
— Jennifer Whalen