Wireless Communications

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Wireless Communications
Opening the door to operational efficiency

By Daryl Newman

While the housing industry will be hard-pressed to match the torrid pace for new housing starts and home improvement spending set in 2003, projections from the National Association of Home Builders and Home Improvement Research Institute show continued strong investment in both 2004 and 2005—good news for door manufacturers, dealers and installers. Moreover, a perceptible shift in spending toward higher-quality doors—demonstrated by builders and homeowners alike—along with more stringent new building codes (for hurricane protection, for example) signals an ongoing opportunity for door dealers.

Yet the rising tide of new home and home improvement spending will not “lift all boats.” Today’s buyers are more discerning than ever. If they are going to invest in quality, they expect a buying experience of equal quality. And if one dealer is unable—or unwilling—to provide that quality experience, another may be simply a phone call, Internet search or short drive away.

Providing customers an exceptional experience of your brand each and every time—from purchase through final installation—depends more on information. Do I have the right inventory on hand? If not, where is it, and more importantly, when can I get it? How can I ensure the right product and right people are at the right site at the right time for installation?

Door dealers looking to streamline operations, improve coordination, and communicate quickly and accurately with suppliers, in-store and warehouse personnel, installers and customers can add a powerful weapon to their service arsenals by turning to wireless technology. And the good news for door dealers is that wireless technology has reached a maturity, utility and price point that make it an indispensable and intuitive part of getting business done.

Cell-Phone Evolution

Continued innovation in the wireless industry has made mobile phones better than ever, combining Java-enabled applications, easy access to the Internet and “ruggedized” models for the rigors of people on the go. Built to withstand demanding environments, many phones today are also equipped with global positioning systems (GPS) capabilities, making it easy and cost-effective for dealers to track their assets, whether personnel or materials.

As a result, the mobile phone is becoming the most dependable, flexible and powerful front-line communications device for dealers, builders and installers. Bundling the capabilities of multiple tools—including pagers, two-way radios and personal digital assistants—into one affordable, easy-to-use device, the mobile phone is now as multipurpose as your organization needs to be.

Fortunately for users of wireless technology, the rapid evolution of the mobile phone has been accompanied by an increased collaboration among mobile software developers, device manufacturers and service providers. Together, these vendors have worked successfully to deliver advanced solutions that address the specific business needs of door industry professionals. As a result, mobile handsets can deliver both instant voice communications and run productivity-enhancing applications that, a decade ago, were available only on a computer desktop.

The Wireless Difference

The lifeblood of the door dealer ecosystem is communication. Coordinating the efforts of sales personnel, inventory clerks, customer service personnel, delivery professionals, builders and installers in an environment that is equal parts fast-paced and demanding is an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, advances in wireless technology from industry leaders have kept pace with these demands, providing door dealers with the tools to bring their teams closer together and present a single face to the customer. Key among these advances are:

Push To Talk™ Walkie-Talkie Technology— Nationwide walkie-talkie service can provide your entire team “instant” voice communications at the push of a button, an indispensable feature when workers and managers need information quickly. A dramatic improvement from two-way radios and pagers, walkie-talkie technology on a wireless handset offers users a secure, private communications channel. In addition, door industry professionals can leverage “group call” functionality that enables entire teams to conduct instantaneous conference calls via walkie-talkie. It’s the quickest way to get everyone on the same page to respond to a crisis, discuss a problem, or solicit the group’s collective expertise where and when it matters most—on the front lines of customer service.

Wireless Data— Today’s wireless handsets are powerful, portable computing devices optimized for wireless e-mail and text messaging, as well as for running data applications. With companies receiving service requests through all channels, including the Internet, the need for door dealers to remain connected at all times is paramount. The data competency of wireless handsets means one more open channel to the customer and the organization as a whole.

Another key development in wireless data is the growing availability of powerful, yet easy-to-use business applications for the handset. For example, leading developers of business applications are helping synchronize door delivery and installation by providing directions, dispatch, scheduling and work-order management tools that are seamlessly connecting teams, from back office to construction site.

These productivity tools—which run right on the mobile phone—are enabling door dealers to set a higher standard in responsiveness, creating a competitive advantage through superior customer service.

Digital Cellular— With a handset that can act as a coast-to-coast walkie-talkie, text messaging device, portable computer and cell phone, door dealers have at their disposal an all-in-one device that impacts how they interact with their teams and their customers. Reliable, wireless voice capabilities, built on the foundation of always-on, nationwide networks, are a staple of the real-time communications needed to stay on top of customer demand, anywhere, anytime.

Wireless Business Solutions: Not Just Talk

Leveraging wireless business solutions, door dealers can do more than talk to their teams; they can fundamentally improve how their teams work.

Wireless business solutions are now impacting the entire building trade, helping key personnel complete and send work orders, order parts, improve the management of permits, track and deploy assets, assess installer performance and receive and verify credit card payments beyond the retail site. Following is an overview of just a few of the next-generation wireless applications making an impact today:

Wireless Payment Solutions— New wireless point-of-sale payment solutions offer dealers more freedom and flexibility to receive and secure payment beyond their storefronts, whether at trade shows or at a jobsite. For example, one wireless company now delivers a secure end-to-end payment processing solution that works with a mobile phone equipped with a credit card scanner. This solution processes payments wirelessly, onsite, in a matter of seconds, meaning no more bounced checks and faster order-to-cash cycles.

Wireless Resource Management—A new generation of mobile phones for the building industry now come equipped with GPS. These wireless handsets enable door dealers to monitor trucks, crews and materials in real time, providing an instant snapshot of inventory and projects in motion.

Wireless Permit Management—Wireless tool kits help manage building requirements. The solution helps installers navigate permit applications and other redtape issues, while offering a hotline staffed by experts to answer questions about building codes.

Meeting customer expectations while managing a profitable business is one of the ever-present balancing acts faced by door dealers every day. By leveraging the advanced voice and data capabilities of wireless handsets and deploying wireless business solutions, dealers can play an active role in streamlining their business processes, enhancing the productivity of their teams and reducing overall operating costs.

Daryl Newman is vice president for Nextel Communications Inc.’s construction industry division. He leads his team with identifying the specific needs of the construction industry and developing wireless data solutions to meet those needs. He can be contacted at daryl.newman@nextel.com.

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