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November 2004

Growing Pains - Starting a Remote Location

You’ve seen the TV ads and commercials for text messaging. Teenagers sharing notes on a date, twenty-something office workers secretly commenting on the boring presentation. Yet another toy for the younger set to be lured into buying cell phones, right? Wrong!

Text messaging on a cell phone is the ten-cent solution to wireless dispatching and true real time communication between the office and a mobile work force, truck drivers, salesmen, repair services, collection services, and yes…even your business.

Here’s how it works. You can send an e-mail to a phone with a message of up to 160 characters. The phone beeps and the message is displayed, with subject and text. Whoever received the message can then use their phone (almost all cell phones support text messaging), personal digital assistant (PDA), PALM or any hand held to quickly respond and confirm that it was received. So how can this help your business? Here are some examples.

1. You run a small business and have someone handle the phone and update customer information on a computer. After they take a call, they e-mail to your phone the name, phone, address and work to be done. When you have parked the truck or complete what you are doing, you look at the message and everything you need is right there on your phone. No pencil, paper or voice message swapping is needed. The cost is $.10 to send and $.02 to receive. Time between sending and receiving is a few seconds.

2. You run a delivery service and want to have known where the driver is on the route to update customers on the expected delivery if they call in. The driver sends an e-mail to your dispatcher with the work order or customer stop number as each stop is completed. Your dispatcher receives the e-mails and has them routed to an inbox for the route. When a customer calls in wanting to know when the vehicle will be at his location, the dispatcher or order clerk can check the status by quickly looking at the inbox and will know which stop was completed and the exact time, within seconds. Let’s see…the cost is: 40 stops on a route is $4.00 to send the message and $.80 cents to receive it (if it goes to a cell phone or free if it goes to an e-mail), or about $5.00 per day for stop-by-stop route monitoring. That’s very little investment for information to provide excellent service. And it’s a piece of cake.

3. You run a water delivery business, fuel delivery, roll-off service or any route service that requires stop-by-stop invoicing. The issue is that when the drivers return at the end of the day, all the invoicing has to be completed. It would be nice to have the weight of the pull, quantity of bottles, etc., as each stop is completed so the invoice can be completed and mailed immediately. The hand-held can be programmed to prompt for some basic information and send a text message back to the office. The office can read and enter the information to be invoiced, or with a little programming assistance, the e-mails can be exported into your computer so the line-item charges can be electronically created and then reviewed and posted with minimal clerical support. Would expediting your company’s cash flow warrant the minimal cost? You bet.

The business basics behind this tool are simple. Fifty million cell phone users have created a low-cost, ubiquitous communication tool that supports almost instantaneous bi-directional communication. For $5.00 a day and a hand-held costing about $100.00, cell phones with text messaging can replace industry proprietary devices costing thousands to purchase and require separate communication services.

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