Ronald C. Blum
Soma Technologies of Philadelphia
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103 USA
v: (215) 496-0303
f: (215) 496-0130
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Technology transfer; Local commitment to network-based activities; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
As a third party maintenance organization, being on the Internet has meant that we have been able to resolve our customer’s service needs directly. Many of our government customers place their service calls using a predetermined format which corresponds to government mandated protocols. In many cases educational institutions as well as large corporate accounts accessing The Internet are able to set up their internal help desk software to forward calls directly to us through the Internet. Messages received at our end are converted to a format which flows directly into our service management package. This eliminates the need for customers to wait for a telephone response to service calls. Customers are able to enter information describing system problems and failures with make and model of the machine. With this level of detail our help desk personnel are often able to respond immediately in chat mode, over the Internet. If appropriate, a voice response may be given, or, in the case of a hardware failure.
Having access to numerous newsgroups makes us aware of commonly occurring problems experienced by a wide range of user types. We can be prepared to resolve these problems, in many cases, before a failure occurs amongst our customer base. Frequently there are cases where a users group member has experienced the problem and frequently the “fix” is developed through dialogue of users that have worked on it together, over the Internet. Sometimes an amalgam of amateurs can come up with a better fixer than the manufacturer’s, by the book, solution.
The Internet provides a huge resource of data concerning new products, their anticipated pre-release impact on the user community, and after release de-bugging ideas.
In many cases complete technical manuals as well as bulletins are available for those who know how to access them. Users become self repairers and professional service organizations, such as ours, are able to stay on the cutting edge and up to date with the plethora of new products whose users have not yet developed self repair techniques.
University and scientific organizations on the Internet often have very sophisticated tools at their disposal. Digitized images of products with which there is a problem can be transmitted, file emulation scenarios created and received for download to users. Audio techniques, while not prevalent are appearing on occasion.
Finally, a friendly word to a frustrated user who is soliciting help from a newsgroup can lead to a “profitable” business relationship. When the word gets out that your company has the resources, knows its product, and queries its customer base, addressing its problems prior to the customer knowing that you are a resource available to them, business is bound to expand.
I believe that as other businesses explore the possibilities that the Internet provides for staying abreast of their customer’s needs and responding to them seamlessly the Internet and equivalent electronic information resources will make American businesses more competitive. The ability to monitor their customer’s needs in a non-interventional way, address customer issues with immediacy but transparency, view the customer base as synergistic, and develop strategy for address and redress of recurring as well as unusual needs will thrust American business into a 90’s and beyond mentality. This mentality, based on true awareness of customer need and competitiveness to satisfy that need rather than merely a response to a shrinking bottom line.
For us, The Internet puts the customer in the driver’s seat, makes us, the third party maintenance organization, a vehicle providing the services the client needs, as they are needed, in an expeditious manner.