The Billiard Factory sells more than its name suggests. In addition to pool tables, the company offers an extensive line of game room furnishings, including shuffleboards, bars and barstools, lighting, theater seating, even outdoor furniture. As such, delivering those delicate, bulky and oversized items to buyers’ homes can be a challenge.
The family-owned company was founded in Houston 45 years ago. Today, it operates stores in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, TX, as well as Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Fla.
“My job is to find innovative ways to wow our customers,” says Ken Santoro, sounding nothing like the I.T. director that he is. In fact, the company had been investing heavily in technology and was looking to divert a portion of that spend to operations. Yet some updating of systems was necessary.
There was a legacy scheduling system in place for assigning trucks to each job. Billiard Factory’s service requirements are intense: unlike many furniture companies, who might require a delivery window of half a day or more, it promises to show up within a two-hour time slot.
The old system did nothing but schedule the trucks. Santoro wanted more — the ability to provide complete visibility of deliveries. The company had been relying on the driver to call the customer to let it know a shipment was on its way. Even that minimal amount of notice wasn’t happening every time.
Billiard Factory also wanted faster feedback on how the delivery went, to ensure that the customer was satisfied with the experience. But none of those desired enhancements could be handled by the existing system, the source code for which had been written years before Santoro’s arrival at the company, and was no longer even available.
Surveying potential software vendors for a replacement, Santoro soon realized that there were few options that could meet Billiard Factory’s unique needs. When booking a delivery in advance, for instance, the company starts with the truck instead of the driver. The latter isn’t designated until the morning of the job, thereby assuring that the driver shows up, Santoro explains.
There weren’t many systems on the market that could easily accommodate that method. The exception was GetSwift, a specialist in delivery-management software. Santoro says he was further attracted by the vendor’s focus on the complete delivery experience, not just the scheduling of the truck.
GetSwift has customers in some 70 verticals, according to Kim Cercone, vice president of global service. Still, there were aspects of Billiard Factory’s operation that presented unique challenges. One was the emphasis on booking the truck before the driver. Another was the customer’s desire to record the actual delivery experience, including how long it took to install the equipment.
“We realized right away that scheduling was an internally focused piece of software, but delivery was what was going to actually wow our customers,” recalls Santoro. “It was a challenge to find a scheduling system that worked with us.”
GetSwift tweaked the system in line with Billiard Factory’s need to assign jobs to specific vehicles. In addition, drivers were given a button on their mobile phones which they could press to record the precise times of dropoff and completion of the job.
To test the new platform, Billiard Factory ran a three-month pilot with just one driver. Implementation consisted of little more than switching it on, Santoro says.
The hardest part was getting drivers to buy into the system. “We needed to assure them that we weren’t doing this to monitor their behavior,” Santoro says. “Once we put an app on their phones and made them turn on their GPS, they got a little hesitant.”
As it happens, Santoro has almost never activated the app just to find out where his drivers are. Once they realized that it was intended to garner instantaneous feedback from the customer, with the ability to document any service issues on the spot, “they embraced the system.”
The GetSwift platform provides total transparency to customers, Santoro says. “They get a text message and map showing where the driver is on the day of delivery, and the ETA. They’re thrilled that they can tell exactly where we’re at.” What’s more, immediate feedback about how the delivery went allows Billiard Factory to contact both manufacturer and customer in order to promptly rectify any service issues that might arise.
GetSwift continues to work with Billiard Factory on enhancing the platform to better serve the customer’s needs. One planned improvement is better tracking within rural areas, where cellular connections are less reliable. “Ken and his team have been great at helping us test out some of the new features,” Cercone says.
“The end result is that we have happy customers,” Santoro says. “We can put an exclamation point on the sales experience with our delivery team that we couldn’t before. We get transparency to customers, sales, management and the service team. It’s all there, wrapped up.”
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