Improving Customer Service Through the Use of Intranets and Mobile Data Communication : the case of Best Moves

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INDEX

1. Introduction

2. Descriptions

3. Modern combined mobile phones and PDA’s

3.1 Capabilities

3.2 Limitations

3.3 Discussion

4. Intranet for Best Moves

4.1 What is an intranet?

4.2 Potential for an intranet

5. Recommendations

6. Brief explanation to employees

7. Bibliography

The purpose of this study is to look at (a) intranets and (b) mobile data communication.

The objective is to determine whether the above can be used by Best Moves to improver their customer service.

The study will concern itself mainly with the technical suitability of these forms of communication, as per the customer’s instructions.

SMS (abbreviation for Short Message Service): A service that enables mobile phones to interact with each other, and the internet, by way of short text messages (also referred to as text messaging). The messages are relayed via the network operator’s message centre, and messages can be received at an opportune time, when the phone is powered off, or out of range.

Picture messaging: Also known as EMS (abbreviation for Enhanced Messaging Service), this service is a direct descendant of SMS, and a forerunner to MMS (refer below). It extends SMS, in that it allows images, animations, and audio to be included in the messages.

MMS (abbreviation for Multimedia Messaging Service): A service that enables mobile phones to send multimedia messages to other mobile phones, or e-mail applications. Multimedia can include images, graphics, voice, or audio recordings.

GSM (abbreviation for Global System for Mobile Communication): The system that allows mobile phones to connect to mobile networks, and the standard in Europe and Asia.

GPRS (abbreviation for General Packet Radio Service): A radio technology for GSM, this service compliments existing services. It is advanced in the way it transfers data, which makes it possible for mobile users to interact more effectively GPRS is a significant step towards 3G.

UMTS (abbreviation for Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service): The successor to GSM, UMTS is classified as a 3G mobile communications network. It uses broadband technology for transmission of data. One of the aims is to provide consistent services to mobile computer and phone users all over the world. Another aim is that once this system is fully functional, computer and phone users can be constantly attached to the Internet, no matter where they travel.

3G (abbreviation for third generation wireless): Everyday desktop computing, and beyond, for mobile, fixed and portable wireless communication devices.

PDA (abbreviation for Personal Digital Assistant): A small hand held device, also known as a palm top computer, which provides at least basic desktop computer functionality (i.e. store names and addresses, prepare to-do lists, schedule appointments, keep track of projects, organise income and expenditures, take notes, and do calculations).

WAP (acronym for Wireless Application Protocol): A set of protocols that standardize the way in which wireless devices access parts of the internet, by reducing the amount of data that needs to be transferred, and presenting it in the appropriate format for small screen. In other words, web pages for mobile devices using WML (Wireless Mark-up Language).

We will refer to these phones as smart phones, since they extend the functionality of the mobile phone to the sphere of data communications.

Smart phones are fully functional as an ordinary mobile phone.

Smart phones have PDA data features that are varied, but most of them can handle e-mail, messaging, web browsing, calendars, contacts, etc.

Smart phones can be integrated with almost all company information systems.

Smart phones can be customised to suit the particular needs of the user.

Access to data on a smart phone is immediate, due to a broad bandwidth, and high-speed connections. Thus, the data transfer rates are high. This bodes well for especially time-sensitive data, and data needed in order to meet deadlines. What it means is that the user is always in touch with his environment.

The smart phone is small and compact, and is easy accessible. It can be used whilst sitting down, or standing up, or on the move. It is easy to store. Thus it is perfectly suitable for the phenomenon that is the mobile worker.

To summarise, smart phones combine some of the functionality of notebook computers, all the functionality of PDA’s and ordinary mobile phones (2G and 2.5G) to produce a device that can be carried around, is a telephone, and has strong data communications capabilities.

Technical limitations, as opposed to a desktop or a notebook computer are the following:

A much smaller monitor and keyboard, although some models of the smart phone has a desktop touch pad integrated into it.

It has a smaller memory.

It has limited processing power.

The storage space (in other words, hard disk space) is also substantially less.

The graphics are not as clear.

Technological limitations are:

The information and training that is available to users in order to optimise the use of their smart phones. A recent survey found that almost a third of users had problems working out the full range of features that are available on their smart phones.

Inadequate support - there have been complaints that some 3G network operators, especially those with support service centres located in other countries, are not providing the support that the users expect when they signed up.

It has been suggested that there are not enough 3G networks around to host all the smart phones.

The smart phone might not have the memory or processing power that a desktop or a notebook computer has, but it is technically sound enough to facilitate computing efficiency. As far as data storage is concerned, there is always the possibility of transferring data from the smart phone to a bigger computer for backup purposes.

Documentation (user manuals, etc.) has always been a headache. Just think of the advent of the video machine. Ideally, the manufacturers of high technology, like smart phones, should provide better explanations as to ‘what their product can do’. In reality, struggling to come to grips with new technology is something we all do. And lucky for us, there are experts out there that can help us, whether it is the support centre of the manufacturer, or experts in the marketplace, or IT technology services.

There are quite a few 3G network operators already selling their services, so it is a question of shopping for the one that best suits your needs, taken into consideration where there support centres are located.

The lack of 3G networks seems to be a matter of perception, rather than based on real evidence.

It is, broadly speaking, a computer network, that utilize internet tools, techniques and technologies, to represent knowledge and information by way of web pages for sole use in the company, by the company’s employees, or clients of the organization who has the necessary authorization, it is better protected from interference from the outside because of the firewall that surrounds it.

It has been proven that intranets do:

Improve communications, in that communication between employees is more organised, and it is easier for employees to talk to each other, and to share information and knowledge.

Increase productivity: Employees spend less time in searching for information. Employees do not waste time by duplication of work. Employees can make informed decisions.

Manage information and knowledge better: Knowledge and information is centralized, and readily available. Paper manual, paper files and filing cabinets can be safely replaced. It also has the added advantage of restricted paper wastage, which can only be good for the environment. Knowledge and information are less likely to get lost.

According to the brief from Best Moves, the company already has a small local area network of PC’s, and all the computers are connected to the internet. Thus, it should not be very difficult to install an intranet for the company. Refer to the definition of an intranet above.

From the brief provided by Best Moves, the problem surrounding the drivers, vans and motorbikes can be adequately addressed by current smart phone technology, and issuing the drivers with these phones.

This will enable the drivers to contact the office regularly, to be kept up to date with the ‘current state of affairs’. Traffic conditions can be monitored and measures can be taken to avoid problem areas. Directions on the phones can consist of maps, and even computer instructions, by way of voice, on how to get there.

Also from the brief, the problems of the company can be solved with the installation of an intranet, and proper training on how to maximise the use of this intranet.

This will make it possible for the company to keep tabs on the whereabouts of their drivers at all time. It will also cut down significantly on inconsistent and incorrect information given to the to drivers, because office staff will have the facts right in front of them on the screen.

It is this researcher’s view that the potential of (a) the intranet and (b) mobile phone technology can be of great use and benefit to Best Moves.

An intranet is an internal internet that enhance the productivity of employees through better communication. Better productivity leads to more business. More business leads to more income for the company, and by the same token, more income and benefits for the employees. More business leads to job creation.

An intranet cuts down on paper. Applications for annual leave, self-certified sick leave, security passes, etc. can be submitted in e-document form, and expenses can be claimed via the intranet.

An intranet is flexible. It can be customised to suit the particular needs of the company and its users.

An intranet is not designed to replace employees. It is ostensibly a way of communicating better with each other, understanding the business better, getting more things done in less time, feeling more part of the company.

Books:

Graham Curtis – Business Information Systems, Third Edition, Addison-Wesley.

Articles:

Alister Burr - Phones on the move.

Mobilennium, the UMTS Forum newsletter - UMTS what, why, when and how …? in short

John Lettice – Wireless Web

Peter Ramsdale - Mobile Internet: making it a success

Internet:

New Scientist(http://www.newscientist.com)

Scientific America (http://www.sciam.com)

Byte magazine (http://www.byte.com)

PC Pro magazine (http://www.pcpro.co.uk)

UMTS (http://www.umts-forum.org)

Webopedia (www.webopedia.com)

bitpipe (http://www.bitpipe.com)

symbian (http://www.symbian.com)

Southbourne Internet (http://www.southbourne.com)

Intuwave (http://www.intuwave.com)

Net XS (http://www.netxs.com)

Intranets.com (http://www.intranets.com/default.asp)

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