How a network helped a travel firm's staff stay in close contact with the office
Specialist cruise tour operator, Norwegian Coastal Voyage had a problem: their sales executives were spending too much time on the road and not enough time dealing with their email. Thanks to Microsoft Small Business Server 2003, now they can stay in touch wherever they are.
"A couple of years ago we decided that we really needed to have a mobile solution for the company's senior management team and for sales executives who are on the road 95% of the time," explains John Smith, Head of Finance and IT at Norwegian Coastal Voyage.
The company employs 30 people in Hammersmith, London with a turnover of �15m annually. A niche specialist, they focus on selling cruises on ships belonging to their Norwegian parent companies. Voyages to the fjords and Northern Lights are particularly popular. One of their ships leaves Bergen every day and has done for the last 110 years.
"Our business used to be split 70 percent direct to the public and 30 percent through travel agents," says John. "Over the past two or three years we've invested heavily in the [travel agent] trade and now it's more 50:50." This means sales executives spending most of their time on the road.
As trade sales increased it became more and more important for sales executives to stay in touch. If a travel agent sends an email but doesn't get a reply for three days, it can mean a lost sale. John also worried about the burden of coming back from a long trip only to have days' worth of email waiting at the end of the journey.
Everything in one box
�You can put these devices into people's hands and they're up and running immediately.�
They installed Small Business Server 2003 (SBS) so they could take advantage of the built-in Exchange email server and its Outlook Mobile Access feature. This would enable employees to read and reply to email using laptop computers, pocket computers or even smart phones.
They equipped their sales force with a mixture of handheld PocketPCs and Smartphones. A Smartphone combines an email reader and other functions with a phone so that it has everything it needs to dial in to SBS 2003 in one box. Those with PocketPCs used a connection to their Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone to make the connection. It works just as well but they need to carry both devices.
Training wasn't a problem. "Everybody these days is au fait with Windows technology," says John, "so you can put these devices into people's hands and they're up and running immediately."
The results: sales executives can use the dead time in the day to deal with emails rather than waiting until they get back from a trip. John reckons that their productivity has increased by 10-15 percent.
More importantly, there's no risk of losing important business by not replying quickly enough to an email.
SBS 2003 has given Norwegian Coastal Voyage an edge. "To put it bluntly the travel industry, except the online players, really is backward in terms of embracing technology," says John. "I like to think that as a smaller player we look to technology as a competitive advantage."
Visit the Norwegian Coastal Voyage website to find out more about the company.