Successful Companies - The Rules Have
Companies grow, and with
hard work and good management, they grow in size, reputation
for good service and stay competitive on price. This used
to be a solid formula for a business to be passed on to
family members or local buyers for several generations.
Several things have changed that make that formula less
secure then ever before. Companies now compete with the
large consolidators and they need to expand service areas
to spread fixed costs across a larger customer base to
stay competitive. Single-location companies need to expand
their dispatch yards while keeping common overhead costs
centralized, so they can spread these fixed expenses across
a large customer base and better use their skilled operational
management and office staff while avoiding expensive travel
or training of local staff to assume these responsibilities.
This means a company
needs to use tools that allow them to know what is happening
at different locations and use operational and support
staff to address issues at any location. Several tools
are available so that any company can now compete with
the big consolidators and build a company that can compete
in today’s environment. There are three specific
tools that can make a big difference. The telephone, computer
networking and vehicle tracking or Automatic Vehicle Locator
(AVL) sometimes called GPS.
The first is the phone
system. Yes, that critical tool used in almost all business
activities. Most of today’s phones are designed
to run from a single location. Alternatives that allowed
multiple locations are expensive and require significant
technical skills to implement and support. (e.g. multi-location
private branch exchanges (PBX) or Centrix) The new technology
that allows any company or private residence to have the
same features at a fraction of the costs is the TCP/IP
or internet phones. For your home or business you can
try several offerings, from your local cable company or
one available around the country like VONAGE, which gives
you local and long distance phone service for domestic
U.S. and Canada, at $15/month for 500 minutes or $25 for
unlimited residential phone usage, or $49/line for business
and that includes a long list of services like voice mail,
call forwarding, automatic number identification, 800
number and call forwarding to your cell phone, fax number
and much, much more. So if you have DSL or cable internet
access you can replace the $60 to $90 per month phone
service for $15 and use the $30 to pay for the internet,
leaving you $15 to $45 left over for other stuff, nice
deal. Now you know why successful companies use these
technologies: lower cost, better service with more options.
If you need more than
that, the new TCP/IP phone systems typically cost $5,000
to $10,000 and come with 5 to 10+ phones that you can
plug into any internet connection, and the phone acts
as if it was in your place of business. Yes, the phone
rings at your remote location as if it was on a desk.
That means you can support customer service representatives
working outside of the office and still have all the phone
resources as if they are sitting at a desk in your office.
That includes voice mail, conference calling and almost
all the services you would expect. So now you can have
office coverage by people who are not in the office. Sounds
like a large company like car rental companies or banks.
They use the same technology to offer 24 hour coverage
so people can use their services when convenient for them
which makes you a better competitor. This works the same
for starting a new office in another local area or another
state or time zone. You find a location (no easy task),
order high speed internet service and plug in your phone.
The office now has coverage from your central location
and the staff at the remote location can help cover phone
activity from the remote site as if they are local.
The special feature here
is that the implementation is easy and fast without having
to have specialized technical staff to implement it, and
it saves you money.
Next month, we will cover
the second tool, computer networking, no longer a tool
just for the big guys.