Pitney Bowes Canada Monday said it had chosen ZIM’s two-way SMS paging system to deal with problems using one-way paging on standard pagers, and to move its field service staff towards wireless

technologies.

“”The inherent problem with paging, of course, is you send a page out and you have no confirmation of whether the page was received by the technician or not,”” explained Doug Best, director of field service operations in Pitney Bowes’s office in Richmond Hill, Ont.

ZIM’s technology allowed Pitney Bowes to track pages and receive proof that they had been received, as well as permitted field staff to reply to specific messages, said Best. It also reduced customer inquiries about the status of work orders typically directed to the Pitney Bowes’s call centre, he added.

After trials held last spring with the company’s Toronto technicians, Pitney Bowes implemented the new dispatch system, which permits a single or distributed call centre using a Web-based application to communicate with 350 mobile technicians in real time across Canada, said Bill Parisi, vice-president, business development and implementation, at Ottawa-based ZIM Technologies International Inc.

The difference between a one-way paging system and ZIM’s product is huge, explained Parisi. Pitney Bowes is “”spending half the money that they were on their traditional paging solution, and they’re getting at least 10 times the functionality.””

Apart from confirming delivery, ZIM’s SMS paging solution will persist in sending a message over 78 hours if for some reason (for instance, if a phone is turned off or the receiver is not in a coverage area) the technician fails to answer it, Parisi said.

Another advantage is auto escalation, meaning the Web application will respond to a priority page gone unanswered for 30 minutes by contacting the technician’s colleague and, failing that, will move up the company’s hierarchy until finally the page “”ends up on the phone of the vice-president”” after four hours, he explained.

On average, a company pays $5 to $15 per person each month using the ZIM dispatch system, said Parisi. In Pitney Bowes’s case, adopting the technology allowed it to practically eliminate the need for pagers (priced at about $25 every month) and pay $10 for SMS messaging, said Best.

Pitney Bowes has also been able to use the SMS technology to find parts located in the field inventory, Best said. “”It’s eliminated a lot of phoning back and forth.”” He said it’s possible it will be rolled out within the sales organization as well.

SMS began to take off in North America within the last two years, and ZIM has been developing related technologies for two and a half years, explained Parisi, adding that Pitney Bowes was the first customer for ZIM’s paging replacement application.

ZIM sees a more promising market for SMS applications in the business world than among consumers. With more than a billion SMS-enabled cellphones in the world, “”We think that any of those devices could be used to connect to business solutions, and typically we could see customers paying anywhere from $3 to $7 a month”” for SMS-based applications, he said.

Parisi said potential customers include any business with a mobile work force, such as the health sector, real estate or fields using mobile technicians.

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