Buying a home is one of the most important financial decisions in most people's lives. And although they expect to encounter a few minor problems when they buy a new house, they also expect those problems to be dealt with quickly and effectively. Most home builders are in the business of building homes, selling them and then moving on to their next project. That's where Home Finishes comes in: resolving the problems that occur under warranty.

Home Finishes provides 24-hour emergency service for electrical, plumbing, heating and roofing problems. The company's services are sponsored by the home builder, meaning that covered warranty items and emergency repairs are performed at no cost to the homeowner. Based in the Silicon Valley area, Home Finishes has a large field services organization of more than 600 tradesmen working across California and Colorado.

Clearly, the higher the level of service that Home Finishes can provide, and the more efficiently it can operate, the more profitable its business will be. Because it serves a wide geographic area, most of Home Finishes' workforce is remote, working on-site to resolve customer problems. Hence, Home Finishes was looking for tools to improve productivity and reduce its workers' response times to homeowners' requests.

The Predicament: Fax-Based Communications

The Home Finishes work crew interfaces daily with the company's Customer Service Center (CSC) in Livermore for job schedules, new service requests from customers, and time and expense entry. The primary communication channel consists of Nextel phones, which are used exclusively for voice service but not for data communication. That is, work crews must call in to get schedules or submit expenses to a customer service rep, but they cannot access the Home Finishes computer applications themselves.

Home Finishes' back-office applications consist of three principal Windows-based client-server applications: a custom job-scheduling application; Nortel Networks' Clarify Clear Support, a custom time-and-expense application; and Timberline Software's ERP applications, which feed data into the other two. Timely communication between the CSC and the team members in the field is absolutely essential to Home Finishes' successful operations and needs to be reliable, accurate and fast.


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