Software Lets the Trucks Roll in Tampa

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Even with gasoline prices headed into the stratosphere, Bright House Networks’ Pinellas County, Fla., system expects to keep its costs in check using technology installers can carry to ensure they travel the most efficient routes possible.

It’s not a new strategy in the region, said Steve Carter, senior manager of field support for the Tampa Bay division.

But it’s one the system is relying on now to cut the length of field trips, as well as the number of calls per day.

The Tampa division installed Workforce Express, a management program sold by CSG Systems Inc. in 1998, Carter said, but the system appears to really be paying off this costly summer.

He estimates the system is saving about $80,000 a month through the program, which routes trip information — including the customer’s name, type of call and which services each home takes — directly to field service personnel.

MILEAGE DOWN

Before the software was implemented, technicians averaged 3.5 miles between their calls, Carter said. Now that average is 2.7 miles.

The system is also handling 1,100 fewer field calls a month, he noted, saving about $75 per truck roll. Since the technician receives his trip information directly, dispatchers are freed up for other tasks, such as calling customers to ensure they’re home, or doing diagnostic work over the phone, eliminating the need for customer-education service calls, he noted.

The dispatchers also have time to take advantage of a little synergy. They can monitor Bright House’s local news channel, Bay News 8, and communicate any traffic jams reported on the channel along to installers, he noted.

Workforce Express is a management application that can be used to download information to Web-enabled cell phones, laptops, pocket PCs and even BlackBerrys, said CSG product manager Danny Little.

Even the meters technicians use to measure the strength of the signal coming into a consumer’s home can receive call information from the product, he noted.

Currently 11,000 technicians throughout the U.S. are using the product, including those from systems operated by Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, as well as some DirecTV Inc. installers, Little said.

Bright House’s Tampa division sells consumers digital cable, digital video recorders, HDTV, high-speed data and video-on-demand services.

Even with all that activity, Carter said the system was able to decrease the number of field dispatchers, from 20 full-time workers to 11 full- and part-time workers.

The system would have to hire eight more installers for the division if not for the efficiencies of Workforce Express, Carter said.

PHONE’S COMING

Bright House in Tampa is also rolling out telephony service this month, serviced by current staffers.

The management software will help the system staff calls according to the demands of the consumer matched with the skill sets of the nearest installer.

Individual workloads have also increased. Each installer handles an average of 1.5 additional jobs per day.

Consumers are noting the efficiencies, Carter said. The system can offer same-day resolution in many cases, and that’s resulted in higher subscriber satisfaction numbers, he said.

The division, which honors the cable industry’s national on-time guarantee, has to pay on that promise half as often as in the past, averaging about 800 $20 credits a month. That’s a number Tampa is trying to bring down further, he said.

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