Mobile software is order of the day

16 Jun 2003

Modern mobile communications software is adding a new dimension to the life of the sales person at Impulse Products.Reaching customers and selling products is often a tough and demanding task. Obviously time is of the essence and the less time your sales team has to devote to administrative tasks the longer they can spend with clients.

High-tech solutions are there and these days, the costs involved mean even smaller companies can upgrade their systems.

One such company is Impulse Products, which has been importing and distributing hair care products and costume jewellery for the past 11 years. With a team of four sales people on the road, the company was looking for a solution that would reduce the amount of paperwork involved in the sales process.

The solution it turned to was eMobile, the result of a partnership between Take Five software and O2 Ireland. According to Ciaran Ruane, director at Impulse, the company received information about the project from Take Five and took it from there. At the time, eMobile hadn’t been launched and Impulse agreed to pilot the system. The company has been using eMobile since last October. The solution was officially launched by Take Five and O2 three weeks ago.

To put it simply, eMobile is a system that enables existing Take Five customers to provide access for their sales force to their accounting system. The solution uses the O2 GPRS network to provide the link between the end user and the accounting software. eMobile allows a sales force to access current product catalogue and pricing information while on the road. Orders can be taken and sent to the Take Five accounting system for processing, dispatch and invoicing. The solution uses a Palm PDA (personal digital assistant) linked to a GPRS handset for communication.

According to Ruane, time saving has been the biggest benefit in implementing the new system. “Previously, with the paper-based system, our sales reps had to write up a huge amount of information when creating an order. This involved entering style numbers, prices, quantities and customer information to name a few. It was time consuming for the sales rep and also held up the customer,” he says. “With the Palm-based system, the rep simply has to input the style number and all of the other details about the product appear. All he has to do then is enter the quantity and the order is completed.”

Back at the company’s headquarters, the system downloads new orders twice a day and sends them on for processing. Ruane reckons the new solution has help cut the turnaround time in ordering also. “Beforehand we were relying on the post for orders to come back. That could take a day or two and then the order had to be processed at our end. Nowadays everything ships within two days,” he explains.

Time saving is not merely confined to those on the road. The decreased margin for error has meant the company is spending less time processing orders. “With so much information to be completed in handwriting on the old paper-based system, there was plenty of scope for minor mistakes to be made, such as someone misreading a rep’s handwriting or a rep entering the wrong figure. With all of the information now stored on the PDA, there’s less of a chance of mistakes being made, since the amount of input needed is minimal. The new system also provides stock levels, so there’s less of a chance of orders being made for items that are out of stock.”

Setting up the system was relatively straightforward, according to Ruane. “It was simply a case of acquiring the software along with Palm handhelds for the sales reps. We had a number of alternatives to choose from in terms of how we’d connect the handhelds to mobile phones, but we opted for Bluetooth in the end. This entailed upgrading the mobiles to Bluetooth-enabled models and getting Bluetooth modules for the handhelds. It was our first time using Bluetooth in our business and it’s worked without a hitch,” he adds.

In terms of costs, Ruane reckons the upgrade has already paid for itself. “It’s made us more efficient, saved time on administration and greatly improved cash collections,” he says, justifying the investment.

By Dick O’Brien